Republicans cannot honestly argue that Mitt Romney is the only Republican capable of beating Obama in the general election any longer:
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, run neck-and-neck with President Obama in a general-election matchup, according to a new CBS News poll released late on Monday that shows the two front-runners in Tuesday’s New Hampshire GOP primary running stronger against the president than their fellow Republicans. Romney posts a two-point lead over Obama, 47 percent to 45 percent, within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points. He leads Obama, 45 percent to 39 percent, among independent voters.
Obama’s lead over Paul is just one point, 46 percent to 45 percent, as Paul leads among independents by 7 points.
Factor in the way in which more Republicans and libertarians are likely to stay home rather than vote for Romney, and it is clear that putting forward the more moderate candidate will lead to another Republican loss.
Remember, Reagan and George W. Bush were the more conservative candidates. (Bush ’43 wasn’t really conservative, but he was definitely perceived that way.) Both won two general elections. George H.W. Bush, Dole, and McCain were the less conservative candidates and Bush ’41 won one general election. However, I was at the Republican convention in 1988 and I can testify that he was being pushed as the natural heir to Reagan and billed as a True Conservative. By the end of his first term, everyone knew better.
But even if we include him as a moderate, this means that when Republicans have nominated the more conservative candidate, they have gone four for four. When they have nominated the more moderate candidate, they have gone one for four. Logic therefore dictates that Ron Paul has to be the nominee if the Republicans want to win in 2012. Of course, as I have often pointed out, the Republican establishment would much rather lose a presidential election than see a real conservative in office, much less a libertarian who respects the U.S. Constitution.