Whitman and Bostock: Free the GOP

Several readers emailed about this Washington Post column by By Christine Todd Whitman and Robert M. Bostock on a subject that’s been responsible for several highly contentious threads at LGF: Free the GOP. Subtitled: “The Party Won’t Win Back the Middle as Long As It’s Hostage to Social Fundamentalists.”

Four years ago … our central thesis was simple: The Republican Party had been taken hostage by “social fundamentalists,” the people who base their votes on such social issues as abortion, gay rights and stem cell research. Unless the GOP freed itself from their grip, we argued, it would so alienate itself from the broad center of the American electorate that it would become increasingly marginalized and find itself out of power.

At the time, this idea was roundly attacked by many who were convinced that holding on to the “base” at all costs was the way to go. A former speechwriter for President Bush, Matthew Scully, who went on to work for the McCain campaign this year, called the book “airy blather” and said its argument fell somewhere between “insufferable snobbery” and “complete cluelessness.” Gary Bauer suggested that the book sounded as if it came from a “Michael Moore radical.” National Review said its warnings were, “at best, counterintuitive,” and Ann Coulter said the book was “based on conventional wisdom that is now known to be false.” …

In seven of the nine states that switched this year from Republican to Democratic, Obama’s vote total exceeded the total won by President Bush four years ago. So even if McCain had equaled the president’s numbers from 2004 (and he did not), he still would have lost in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina and Virginia (81 total electoral votes) — and lost the election. McCain didn’t lose those states because he failed to hold the base. He lost them because Obama broadened his base.

Nor did the Republican ticket lose because “values voters” stayed home. On the contrary, according to exit polls, such voters made up a larger proportion of the electorate this year than in 2004 — 26 percent, up from 23 percent. Extrapolating from those data, McCain actually won more votes from self-identified white evangelical/born-again voters than Bush did four years ago — 1.8 million more. But that was not enough to offset the loss of so many moderates.

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