Top presidential contenders are asking voters to excuse or ignore the stances they held a few years ago
In the 2012 Republican presidential race, love apparently means always having to say you're sorry.
On an array of issues, the field of GOP contenders is facing enormous pressure from an ascendant conservative base to renounce earlier positions that challenged orthodoxy on the right. Their response to those demands could cast a big shadow over not only next year's Republican primary but also the general-election contest against President Obama.
The emergence of these pressures testifies to a decisive shift in the GOP's balance of power. The ideas now drawing the most fire from conservative activists--including support for a cap-and-trade system to limit greenhouse-gas emissions, a mandate on individuals to purchase health insurance, and a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants--all flowered in Republican circles during the middle years of George W. Bush's presidency, especially among governors.
In different ways, each of these proposals embodied the common belief that Republicans had to broaden their message beyond a conventional conservative argument focused almost exclusively on reducing government spending, taxes, and regulation. Intellectually, these initiatives reflected an impulse to redefine conservatism in ways that accepted a role for government in empowering individuals or promoting market-based solutions. Politically, they reflected the belief that to build a lasting majority, Republicans needed to attract more minority voters, especially Hispanics, and to loosen the Democratic hold on blue states by reclaiming more suburban independents.