Not Your Father’s Republican Party
There is no doubt that Republicans are fragmented now as they move formally to try to choose a presidential nominee. Echoing Jim Rutenberg of The New York Times, the Pew Research Center’s 2011 typology of voters finds there are at least three G.O.P. and G.O.P.-leaning factions in the electorate, roughly equal in size: Staunch Conservatives, including many Tea Party types but also supporters of the core G.O.P. Wall Street establishment; Main Street Republicans, focused on a more populist and social conservatism; and Libertarians (many of who are Republican leaners).
What is most interesting about this division is that there is one previously vibrant group of Republicans who are not present, or represent an ineffectual element of the party: moderates and liberals. The Republican Party over the past decade especially has moved sharply to the right, and the divisions are old battles of the right, not the earlier ones that pitted major figures like Nelson Rockefeller or William Scranton against Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan, or even involved pragmatic centrists like Richard Nixon (whose domestic program included a guaranteed annual income as welfare reform and a health care plan more liberal than the Obama one). If a candidate ran today on Ronald Reagan’s record — which included tax increases every year of his presidency after the first one, an expansion of Medicare and Medicaid, and other serious compromises on spending — it is doubtful he could prevail in the new G.O.P.
But the fact that the Republican Party is now firmly, wholly rooted on the right does not mean it is in any way united. At one level, the line is drawn between two factions: Mitt and Not-Mitt, with Romney, viewed by many conservatives as both the embodiment of the old Wall Street establishment and also suspect as one without any ideological roots, able to capture only about 25 percent of rank-and-file Republican support, and Not-Mitt, the rest of the candidates, garnering the rest.