According to an article on Christian Science Monitor, establishment GOP members are trying to reduce the power of the Tea Party for their upcoming Georgia senate race. These members feel that Tea Party influence was partly responsible for the defeats of two Republican senate candidates in Missouri and Indiana.
I know that in my home state of Indiana, Richard Mourdock’s comments concerning pregnancy and rape were repulsive to everybody, Republicans included. With a strong Democrat candidate, Michelle Nunn, emerging in Georgia, there is a growing belief that controversial statements from Republican candidates could lead to a similar outcome in what could be a tightly contested race.
But the most interesting thing to emerge from this article though is the fact that 54% of Republicans actually want their party to become more conservative. Only 40% believe that the party should become more moderate. This poll represents the situation that the Republican Party finds itself in.
Increasingly, the party is becoming split between primary and general elections. In primary elections, moderate candidates are having a tough time winning. Richard Lugar, who was defeated by Mourdock in the Republican primary, is one of the best examples of this. Primaries tend to have a more extreme base. It’s easier to mobilize behind candidates, and the result is that people like Mourdock are winning their primaries. But in a general election, a far right candidate is much more likely to struggle.
On a broader scale, this is the problem that Mitt Romney faced in the presidential race. During the Republican primary, it was clear that Romney was being forced to take positions that were far to the right of what he had previously believed. This was done out of the belief that the only way for him to win the primary was to appease the Tea Party voters.
But in the general election, those same stances helped lead to his defeat. He was faced with the option of being labeled a “flip-flopper” if he moved back towards the center. Or he could maintain positions that were almost unacceptable for the general election.
Faced with two unappealing options, Romney hung on to his beliefs until the very end of the campaign, when he attempted to move back. While he made some progress doing this, it proved to be too little, too late.
As races around the country continue to heat up, it will be interesting to monitor how the Republican Party adapts to the growing divide among their party.