Republicans: Nominate a Moderate or Lose the White House for a Generation

By Graham Glover


The Republican Party has a unique opportunity next year. It can win back the White House, keep control of Congress, and perhaps shape the Supreme Court for years to come. It can do these things and in so doing, significantly alter much of the political trajectory that President Obama and his administration has set America an during the past 7 years. On yes, the Republicans can win it all. They can have complete and total control of Washington DC, to complement their control of many statehouses and governorships. Whether or not they accomplish this political triumph may be entirely up to their primary voter.

For a Republican to be elected president, it must be a moderate. The GOP cannot nominate a rabid conservative. To win, it cannot hand the reins of its party to those on the farthest right of the American political spectrum. While I’m not sure any Republican can beat the Democratic nominee (Hillary), it will guarantee any hopes it has of regaining the White House are lost if it puts forth a staunch conservative. It may even lose the US Senate with a conservative at the top of the ticket.

For many party faithful, as well as some readers of this blog, I’m sure what I just wrote is tantamount to political heresy. “We don’t need to appease the moderates!” “Moderate Republicans never win the presidency!” “We are a party of principle, not pragmatics!” These are the cries of the hard right. These are the mantras that are popular during the primary. And if a majority of the Republican primary voters heed them, they will likely lose the White House for a generation.


First, let’s be honest about the American electorate. Americans are a moderate to moderate-left people. This isn’t to say there aren’t political conservatives out there. There are plenty. Some are social warriors, others fiscal hawks, and some who are both. But the average American voter is a left-leaning moderate, especially the undecided 10-20% that will ultimately decide who is elected president. With no more than 7 states truly in play, this election, like others, will be decided not by the party faithful, not even by how much the base turns out to vote, but by the 10-20% of those moderate-left Americans who may not be swayed until Election Day.

Second, social conservatism is a deal breaker of epic proportions for the Republicans. The GOP doesn’t need to abandon its social platforms, but it shouldn’t make those issues a centerpiece of their campaign. From Robertson to Buchanan, Huckabee to Santorum, social conservatives offer nothing to a national ticket. Placating the social warriors at the national convention and/or on the campaign trail may in fact hurt, more than help, the Republican campaign. With more and more voters becoming increasingly libertarian on social issues, a hard right conservative would be a disaster for the Republicans presidential hopes.

Third, the Republicans must make inroads with the Hispanic/Latino community if it wants to win on the national stage. It doesn’t need to win this vote (which it has zero chance of doing), but it has to perform better than Romney and McCain did. In fact, with an ever growing Hispanic/Latino population, it needs to surpass what George W. did in his two presidential wins (especially his first). But so far the message of the Party of Lincoln during this primary season has been to build walls, push immigrants out of the national discourse and future, and lay the blame of many social and economic woes on those who make up this voting bloc. A staunch conservative won’t reach out to this community, which will seal the deal on another Democrat winning the presidency.

GOP 2016 Debate

Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, Americans want to be inspired about the future. They want their president to be someone who casts a vision that speaks to the years to come, not the years that have passed. A conservative will likely harken to what they perceive as the glory of America’s past. They will speak of a time and place where they think America can/should return. But this vision does not win elections. This narrative does not inspire the undecided voter. Americans, whether you like it or not, look to the future – a future that is different and changing from today. Conservatism doesn’t appeal to this voter or this vision and if the Republicans make this the centerpiece of their campaign, they will see another presidential election pass them by.

It’s already going to be a stretch for the Republicans to win the Electoral College. If they nominate a conservative, the election will be over next summer. If they nominate a moderate, next November could be one of the most intriguing elections in my lifetime.

Don’t buy my political prognosis? Tell me why – not with your ideological passion, but with political realities that you think contradict my own.