Who Will Rule the GOP?

After the elections, analysts debate the grassroots, libertarians, anti-Democrats, "regular people" and more

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In the wake of Tuesday's elections, when Republicans won two governor's races but lost both Congressional races, conservatives are evaluating the way forward. Already a beleaguered party following sweeping 2006 and 2008 races, the party's identity crisis hit a turning point with this week's mix of victories and defeats. Looking over the results, conservatives parse what worked, what didn't, and how to apply those lessons to the 2010 midterm elections and beyond.

  • Grassroots Conservatives  Conservative blogger Erick Erickson says the Republican loss in NY-23 was a warning to the GOP that the grassroots can't be ignored. "So we have demonstrated to the GOP that it must not take conservatives for granted. The GOP spent $900,000.00 on a Republican who dropped out and endorsed the Democrat. Were we to combine Scozzafava and Hoffman’s votes, Hoffman would have won," he writes. "I have said all along that the goal of activists must be to defeat Scozzafava. Doug Hoffman winning would just be gravy. A Hoffman win is not in the cards, but we did exactly what we set out to do — crush the establishment backed GOP candidate."
  • Economic Conservatives  The Atlantic's Megan McArdle insists economic issues will drive the future party. "Social conservatism just isn't the main issue there.  Abortion will be legal no matter what happens on the federal level, and a lot of local Republicans are perfectly fine with that.  Evolution will be taught in the schools.  What animates Republicans in the upstate is a deep economic conservatism," she writes. "As long as social issues dominate the Republican Party, they will continue losing their north--I had a lot of relatives who at least considered voting for Obama.  Ironically, I wonder if the tea parties won't help bring the two wings of the Republican party together:  guns and lower government spending are the two things all members can agree on."
  • Bob McDonnell Moderates  The Washington Post's Philip Rucker and Perry Bacon point to Bob McDonnell, who on Tuesday won the race to become Virginia's next governor. "Some Republicans said a successful blueprint may be the Virginia gubernatorial victory of Robert F. McDonnell, a social conservative who campaigned as a moderate and appealed to independent voters on kitchen-table issues such as the economy and jobs." The quote Chris Chocola, president of the conservative Club for Growth. "If the Republicans want to grow the tent, I think they should look at limited government, and then the candidates can reflect the social views of their districts," Chocola said.
  • 'Regular People'  Glenn Beck continues to champion Doug Hoffman's outsider, accountant persona. "Here's what the Republicans should learn. The tea party movement, if you think you're going to run people that are going to be, you know, ACORN wannabes and they're just part of the corruption, part of the system, if you're going to run those people, you can expect a tea party guy to come out, and the tea parties, they'll help you lose every single election," he says. "You might want to just say, 'Maybe we should go with the accountants. Maybe we should go with the regular people.'"
  • The Anti-Democrat Party  Republican strategist Alex Castellanos writes in the New York Times that it's all about running against Dems. "When only 20 percent of Americans self-identify as Republicans, it is not our brand voters are buying. It’s the other guy's brand they are rejecting. Republicans won, fundamentally, because President Obama and the Democratic leadership in Washington have rebranded themselves as the party of economic irresponsibility," he wrote. "Thanks for the opportunity, President Obama."
  • Ideological Purists, But Few of Them  Daily Kos chief Markos Moulitsas evaluates the effort to create ideological purity. "They'd rather lose general election races than make gains in Congress with (in their eyes) less-than-perfect Republicans. That's a weird way to build a majority. Only 30 percent of the country is in the South, and that kind of politics plays poorly anywhere that isn't Southern or Mormon. Time will tell if they've been effective. Maybe they've stumbled upon a brilliant 'addition by subtraction' political formula that allows them to win more races by kicking everyone out of their party."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.