Why a moderate Republican nominee may inspire an especially immoderate campaign season
If Mitt Romney wins the Republican primary, as likely an outcome as any if polls are to be believed, he'll have done so despite opposition from talk radio hosts, a policy record that includes a prominent heresy on a controversial issue, and widespread questions about whether he'd excite the base enough to win a general election.
It's basically where Sen. John McCain found himself four years ago. Rush Limbaugh hated him. Rank and file Republicans could hardly bring themselves to stomach his record on immigration. And he judged himself to be so weak a candidate that he pondered two risky VP choices: Sen. Joe Lieberman, in order to burnish his support among independents, and Gov. Sarah Palin, expected to be a darling of the GOP base.
The rest is history.
Judging weakness with the base as the bigger concern, McCain brought Palin onto the ticket, the conservative movement rallied around her, talk radio focused on attacking Barack Obama, the McCain campaign increasingly employed Palin as part attack grizzly, part culture warrior, and the strategy backfired with swing voters.
Is history going to repeat itself?