Here’s what’s supposed to be happening: After losing two presidential elections, Republicans are supposed to be re-evaluating what their party stands for. Are they out of line with mainstream America? Does the party need to change?
The answer is yes. So the party moves to the center and searches for candidates with broader appeal. Republicans don’t need another spectacle like the 2012 primaries, where the contenders ran the gamut from a panderer to the right (Mitt Romney) to the far right (former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum) to the extreme right (Representative Michele Bachmann, Texas Governor Rick Perry) to the lunatic fringe (Herman Cain, Representative Ron Paul).
There was one moderate in 2012 — Jon Huntsman. Huntsman didn’t make it past New Hampshire, where he came in first among the tiny number of Democrats who voted in the Republican primary.
After conservative Senator Barry M. Goldwater lost in 1964, Republicans turned to Richard M. Nixon. Nixon had been defeated for president in 1960 and then for governor of California in 1962. He was politically dead — dead as Jacob Marley. But Republicans resurrected Nixon and dusted off his centrist credentials. Nixon won.
After liberal Senator George McGovern lost in 1972, Democrats turned to Jimmy Carter, a moderate Southern governor who had nominated Scoop Jackson for president at the 1972 Democratic convention. Carter won. In 1992, after three losses in a row, Democrats came up with another moderate Southern governor, Bill Clinton, who had been chairman of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. Clinton won.