Friday, October 30, 2015

A Player Program for the Republican Nomination Race

On Special Report last night Charles Krauthammer spoke of “two lanes” that define the Republican race. It seems odd to be continually disagreeing with him, but again I think this far too reductive analytic scheme and thereby misses too much. From my perspective, the Republican field can be placed into the following five lanes:

Establishment/Old-Guard Republicans – Bush, Kasich, Pataki

Young Guns/Reformers – Christie, Fiorina, Jindal, Perry, Rubio, Walker

Social Conservative/Populists – Huckabee, Santorum

Purists/Reform Radicals – Cruz, Paul

Outsiders-Outsiders – Carson, Trump

Doubtless there is room for disagreement as to the lines drawn and the placement but I think this is reasonably accurate looking at the candidates as a whole rather than one particular issue.

I would define the Establishment/Old Guard as the line of the party that can be most easily and comfortably traced to the Rockefeller-Ford wing and in its more recent aspect is the Bush-Bush-McCain-Romney succession. The other lanes are defined in a large sense in relation to their distinctiveness from the Establishment/Old Guard. Something of a continuum can be drawn from that starting point to Young Guns/Reformers > Purists/Reform Radicals > Outsiders with the Social Conservatives being out of place both in my schematic and to a large extent this election cycle. The weakness of the Young Guns is that they can be perceived as being part of the Establishment, while the weakness of the Purists and Outsiders is the possible/probable(?) reluctance on the part of the voters to completely throw caution aside.
Now if I’ve got this mostly right, then it is telling that of the consensus currently viable—Christie, Fiorina, Rubio, Cruz, Carson, and Trump--half occupy a position far from the Establishment/Old Guard. And the others are viable in large part because their time served isn't so extensive as to confirm that they've crossed the shadow-line. And this is why I think the emphasis on Bush’s campaign foibles, real as they are, miss the much larger point that there is almost no voter interest in picking someone from this lane except as a last resort in this election cycle.

Finally, I should note that of the above candidates Fiorina is the most difficult to place. She could be considered an outsider, but I think her running for office in California and evident policy chops exclude her. But there is probably no one in the field who has more positional flexibility in terms of which lane to conduct her campaign from than Fiorina, and that's an advantage in this race. 

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