Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flikr / Wikimedia
With President Barack Obama’s poll numbers somewhere between bad and awful, Republicans are facing the decision of whether to nominate a candidate closer to the party’s ideological base, or one who can appeal to a broader electorate.Tea Party firebrand Rep. Michele Bachmann said that Republicans should not be forced to “settle” for a moderate candidate.
“Every four years, conservatives are told that we have to settle, and it’s anybody but Obama. That’s what we’re hearing this year,” she said during Thursday’s Google/Fox News debate, highlighting her own credentials as a ‘constitutional conservative.’ “I don’t think that’s true.”
But former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is taking the opposite approach, and telling the party base at today’s Florida Conservative Political Action Conference that Republicans need to open up their party to independents and Democrats — like Ronald Reagan once did.
Huntsman’s campaign rests on appealing to those same moderate voters in New Hampshire that are required to win a presidential election, and his speech bolsters his argument that electability needs to be of paramount concern for the Republican nominee.
“To win in 2012 and beyond, we must appeal to the tea party and to conservative Republicans. But we must also bring into the tent moderate Republicans, independents and yes, conservative Democrats,” he said. “President Obama’s only hope for reelection is if we fail to broaden our appeal and make that sale. We cannot let that happen.”
The two opposing strategies highlight what is happening more subtly between the front-runners Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Perry hasn’t done himself much good in proving that he could beat Obama in a head-to-head matchup by floundering in three debates and making some high-profile gaffes.
While Perry trumpets his conservative credentials, Romney has made inroads at convincing Republicans that he may be too extreme to be elected — and polls are showing that he may be right.
Despite leading in the race for the nomination, Perry trails or ties Obama in national surveys, while Romney leads, and more independents and Democrats would consider voting for Romney than the Texas governor.
As many have said, 2012 is shaping up to the GOP’s race to lose. Republican voters will have a choice next year whether to value electability over orthodoxy — and that choice will be a key factor in deciding whether Barack Obama will remain in the White House in January 2013.
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