Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Will It Play in Manchester?

John McCain and Mitt Romney might want to take notice of this study. The "small l" liberatarian vote is crucial if the the GOP wants to get back to its winning ways:

President Bush and the congressional Republicans left no libertarian button unpushed in the past six years: soaring spending, expansion of entitlements, federalization of education, cracking down on state medical marijuana initiatives, Sarbanes-Oxley, gay marriage bans, stem cell research restrictions, wiretapping, incarcerating U.S. citizens without a lawyer, unprecedented executive powers, and of course an unnecessary and apparently futile war. The striking thing may be that after all that, Democrats still looked worse to a majority of libertarians.

Because libertarians tend to be younger and better educated than the average voter, they're not going away. They're an appealing target for Democrats, but they are essential to future Republican successes. Republicans can win the South without libertarians. But this was the year that New Hampshire and the Mountain West turned purple if not blue, and libertarians played a big role there. New Hampshire may be the most libertarian state in the country; this year both the state's Republican congressmen lost.

Meanwhile, in the Goldwateresque, "leave us alone" Mountain West, Republicans not only lost the Montana Senate seat; they also lost the governorship of Colorado, two House seats in Arizona, and one in Colorado. They had close calls in the Arizona Senate race and House races in Idaho, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, and Dick Cheney's Wyoming. In libertarian Nevada, the Republican candidate for governor won less than a majority against a Democrat who promised to keep the government out of guns, abortion, and gay marriage. Arizona also became the first state to vote down a state constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

Presidential candidates might note that even in Iowa libertarians helped vote out a Republican congressman who championed the Internet gambling ban.

If Republicans can't win New Hampshire and the Mountain West, they can't win a national majority. And they can't win those states without libertarian votes. They're going to need to stop scaring libertarian, centrist, and independent voters with their social-conservative obsessions and become once again the party of fiscal responsibility. In a Newsweek poll just before the election, 47 percent of respondents said they trusted the Democrats more on "federal spending and the deficit," compared to just 31 percent who trusted the Republicans. That's not Ronald Reagan's Republican Party.

It's interesting that Mitt Romney is trying to be the social conservative candidate, when he probably would be more appealing if he was his old, libertarian self. Same goes for John McCain, who hasn't gone as far as Romney has, but is starting to piss off a lot of potential voters with his trying to pick up the Bush legacy (if you can call it that).

For the past six years, the GOP has followed the Karl Rove strategy of energizing the base and getting just enough moderates to win. The thing is, the Bushies and their allies in Congress got people so angry, that they lost the very moderates they needed to win. Romney and McCain, who are currently the frontrunners for the GOP nomination, are afraid of the power of the far right to do anything to lose those important primary votes. However, relying soley on the far right which resides in mostly in one Region of the country, the South, is not a winning strategy. Instead it's a nice way to become a regional party, playing second fiddle nationally to the Democrats.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan won with a coalition of religious conservatives, libertarians and Reagan Democrats. The Rovian strategy dismantled this coalition and we saw the results in 2004 and 2006: a narrow presidential victory (that was far from a mandate, if I may say so,) and "thumping" this year in Congress.

What the GOP needs is another Reagan, someone who is a coalition-builder. Dubya turned out to be nothing more than a lapdog to the far right and I fear that Romney and to a lesser extent McCain are following in those footsteps. If they do, it's a sure road to being a permanent minority.

h/t: Andrew Sullivan.


Anonymous said...

Firstly, "Dubya a tool of the far right,"?? Are you kidding me. George Bush is about as squishy Centrist Moderate as you could get.

At this point Giuliani seems to have the best shot of winning the libertarian vote, particularly us libertarian Republicans. He's fiscally conservative (against welfare and taxes), socially tolerant and Pro-Defense. That's "libertarian Republican."

You're right, Romney would have done much better pursuing this path instead of pandering to the religious conservatives. Reminds me of Steve Forbes in the 1990s. He was the emerging libertarian Republican hero, than he screwed the pooch by turning religious conservative.

Eric at

Anonymous said...

You're right, Romney screwed up by not pursuing the libertarian vote. Giuliani has the best shot now of reaching us libertarian Republicans.

Eric at