For seven years, Conservatives like Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingram have been saying that the reason John McCain and Mitt Romney both lost to Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 is because they were too moderate. I disagree. I think the problem they both had was that instead of sticking to their guns, both McCain and Romney (especially Romney) ran for over a year trying to appease the conservative base and then made a pivot to the middle during the general election. Voters recognized this and we're confused by who they were getting.
The truth is, the 2008 election would've gone badly for Republicans regardless of who was their candidate. A Republican President, Geore W. Bush was residing over two seemingly endless and unpopular wars and both the house market and general economy began to crash in a scope not seen since the Grest Depression. Add to that, a young Barack Obama was touting hope and change, promising a better tomorrow in a way that energized and united Americans not seen in decades. John McCain was probably the only Repuvlican who not only would've done as well as he did but who had an actual shot at winning. Anyone else would've been in for an epic shallaking not seen since Reagan's re-election in 1984. Yet after McCain lost, Conservatives asserted that a "True Conservative" would've won instead of admitting that it was just going to be a brutal election for them.
2012, however, was different. The economy was in a sluggish recovery with most Americans still dissatisfied with the state of the country. Division in Washington was at it's worst, going contrary to Obama's campaign promise of uniting the country and setting aside politics. Obama was weak and Republicans had a shot at unseating him. Yet the Republican primary proved a circus with a revolving door of front runners who each couldn't justify their campaign for President besides "anyone but Obama". The eventual nominee, Mitt Romney, was a moderate Republican who served as governor in a very liberal state. He struggled throughout the primaries to win Conservatives who warned that he wasn't conservative enough. But to get the nomination, he took up far right positions which he then tried to turn back in the general election. He also faile to define himself and his candidacy and sell it to the American people. Through it all, Conservatives weren't sold on his candidacy either. Only when Romney obliterated Obama in the first Presidential debate did Conservatives fully embrace and accept him. Alas, come election night they were all disappointed once again. Obama handily own and the attack dogs were immediately turned on Romney as the same-old line of "a True Conservative would've won" was brushed off and used. The problem with Romney was the perception people had that he was an ultra-rich elitist with elevators for his cars who enjoyed firing people and who wrote off 47% of the country as never voting for Republicans because they enjoy their government hand outs. Ironically, Romney received roughly 47% of the vote. He could've and should've own but didn't not because he wasn't Conservative enough but because he tried having one foot in Conservative ground while also trying to claim the middle. People didn't buy it.
Which brings us to today. Another election is upon us and another Bush is ready to run for President. So far it appears that Jeb Bush doesn't plan to play to the Conservative base by taking up all their positions but instead intends to keep positions which are more moderate. This has led Conservative radio hosts to say that he's no better than Hillary Clinton and that he will lose if nominated. Truth be told, of the possible Republican candidates out there, Jeb Bush is the likeliest to win without pivoting to the right to get the party's nomination. And that frightens Conservatives.
If Bush loses, Conservatives will declare victory that they were right and that 2020 needs a True Conservative. But if Bush wins, he'll prove that a moderate Republican can win without playing to the Conservative base and thus render people like Limbaugh obsolete. Of course, in all likelihood if Bush wins then Conservatives will say they carried him over the finish line by rallying behind him. It was the line they had prepared on Election Day 2012.
The only way Conservatives will learn that their approach is detrimental to this country and ony increasing the divide within our government is for a True Conservative (someone like Ted Cruz) to lose the general election. This will prove them wrong and force the party back to the middle and hopefully help our government to work again.
Of course, chances are that if someone like Ted Cruz does lose, Conservatives won't learn a thing and will continue their pattern of insanity by doing the same thin over and over again to the same results.