The Democrats? They may be split into 42 factions or 63 or…well, I forget how many…but they stick together better at election time. The Republican split is simpler and much more complicated. On the one side you have the pure, orthodox conservatives – orthodox on guns, taxes, immigration, abortion - you name it. I think the last pure conservative to win the nomination was Barry Goldwater.
That was a long time ago and, as we older voters remember, he got clobbered in the general election. Republicans have had success since, of course, with a couple of guys named Bush and one named Reagan. More moderate, all. The difficulty is that as soon as the GOP nominates a moderate, someone whose conservatism is imperfect, the pure conservative voters may stay home. They certainly will start complaining.
That's the problem facing Mitt Romney as he seeks the nomination. It's the same one that faced his father a generation ago. So Romney finds himself trying to compromise on guns, on abortion, on other issues where plain conservatives don't want to compromise. They want their way. The result is a Romney who never seems able to emote full bore because he's checking the script to see if he's got his lines right. You can probably do this but it's certainly not easy. It's why you keep reading phrases like "presumed frontrunner" even "former frontrunner" about him. And it's why he sometimes bungles his lines and says things like "cheesy grits." The next big test is Illinois. Stay tuned.