Jonathan Rauch tracks the Republican-leaning Independents, who are currently tilting to the GOP - but also demanding much more ideological purity:
In a span of only two years, independents went from leaning solidly Democratic on most issues to being scattered toward the middle and often leaning Republican. That was a significant rightward swerve.
But not on all issues ... What appears to be happening is that debranded Republicans are more economically than socially conservative. True, many of them may be both, but the issues that motivate them are primarily economic. Their flight from the Republican Party is pulling the average ideology of independents in a libertarian direction, a trend amplified by a milder tendency of non-leaning independents to move in the same direction.
That's great for 2010. But for the long run, it means that the GOP becomes more marinated in the right, while the Dems retain a pretty broad coalition:
If the GOP take an election victory this fall as evidence that bashing Muslims, illegal immigrants and declaring Obama a socialist while offering no actual specific spending cuts, they could alienate the middle some more. And if Obama, as I expect, pivots to debt reduction through his debt commission next year, fiscal conservatives, disgusted with the GOP and the Dems, could move back to the man they backed in 2008.
Austin Bramwell puts this more succinctly:
As a demographic matter, Republican constituencies are shrinking while Democratic constituencies are growing. At the same time, the Republican constituency is becoming increasingly conservative.
I see no Republican leaders prepared to walk slowly back to the center yet. Why would that change if they win in November? Advantage: Obama.