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Jewish World Review
August 19, 2013/ 13 Elul, 5773
Pragmatic vs. ideological: What does the GOP want in a president?
CHATHAM, N.H. -- The Baldface Brook Trail runs through here. The Chandler Gorge Trail runs through here. The Slippery Brook Trail runs through here. The campaign trail to the White House runs through here.
On the surface right now, in our glorious, sunny midsummer passage, not much politically is running through New Hampshire. The other day former Gov. Mitt Romney spoke to a Republican fundraiser in Wolfeboro, on Lake Winnipesauke. The event was more celebrity than significance. A few days from now Sen. Ted Cruz will be the big guest at Knollwood Farm in Dublin, in the southwestern part of the state.
The visit of Mr. Cruz is far more significant than might seem on the surface. The Texas Republican is one of the leading dispensers of a strong brew of tea in Washington, a popular figure on the right, renowned for his refusal to cut his views to the fashions of the capital establishment.
Born in Canada, he may be ineligible for the presidency, much to the regret of his most ardent admirers. But his outlook -- specifically his conviction that Republicans prevail in presidential contests only when they nominate candidates who lean discernibly to the right rather than flop around in the middle -- is at the center of the most important struggle in American politics today.
Since the end of World War II, a group of political scientists and some commentators have argued that the Republican Party is composed of two sub-parties, a presidential party and a congressional party. This theory, often identified with David B. Truman, a Columbia professor who became the last male president of Mount Holyoke College, holds that the political figures who predominate in GOP presidential campaigns are different from those who pursue their efforts mainly on Capitol Hill -- and that there is an inherent struggle between them.
More than a half-century ago, this split took its form in differences between figures such as Gov. Thomas E. Dewey of New York and Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower on the one hand and Republicans such as Sens. Robert Taft of Ohio and Karl E. Mundt of South Dakota on the other. The former were internationalists and played to a broad audience, the later isolationists (or, in Mundt's case, strong anti-Communists) who played to local constituencies. The first accepted the principles of the New Deal, the second never gave up the notion of repealing the New Deal.
Once again the Republican Party seems to consist of two such groups, with some of the same characteristics of the dueling factions of the early 1950s, particularly on foreign affairs and on Obamacare, which House Republicans have voted 40 times to eliminate -- a gesture post-war congressional Republicans might have undertaken against New Deal programs had they the House majorities today's Republicans possess.
In the contemporary reckoning, the presidential Republicans include such figures as Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, and maybe Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, all potential White House candidates, plus two Ohioans who have not indicated presidential aspirations, Gov. John R. Kasich and Sen. Rob Portman. And to prove that Taft was not alone in being both a congressional Republican and a (three-time) presidential candidate, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, two White House aspirants, seem to fall into the congressional category.
The party itself seems to eschew the pragmatism associated with presidential Republicans. A summertime Marist College Institute for Public Opinion survey found that Republicans and independents who lean toward the GOP preferred, by a margin of more than two to one, a nominee with conservative views over one who can win. Some 70 percent of three groups of voters not traditionally associated with the Republican coalition favor the conservative-principle notion: voters under 45, voters earning less than $50,000 and female voters.
Much of the summer has been consumed with fighting among these GOP factions, the most inflammatory battle being the war of words -- reflecting a war on world views -- between Mr. Christie and Mr. Paul. Mr. Christie urged Republicans to abandon what he calls "these esoteric, intellectual debates." Mr. Paul, an especially skilled practitioner of such debates, was critical of Mr. Christie's open hands -- his "gimme" attitude -- on aid from Washington in the wake of last fall's devastating hurricane.
This dispute can be distilled to whether the GOP should be practical or strictly ideological -- and a Pew Research Center poll underlined how different are the supporters of both men, with 70 percent of tea-partiers viewing Mr. Paul favorably but only 48 percent viewing Mr. Christie the same way.
There is another important division that soon will come into play -- a debate over whether the party's 2014 House strategy, implicitly encouraging Republicans to play the conservative card in their home districts -- which tend to be homogeneous and right-leaning -- can be applied to the 2016 race. Presidential Republicans worry that such a strategy will undermine the party's White House hopes.
That's because the critical elements of the electorate will be different in 2016 than in 2014. The GOP likely will retain possession of the House next year and has a small chance of taking over the Senate, which would cheer Republicans starved for victory after a disappointing political experience last November. Then the Republicans will hold their nomination fight in 2016 among primary voters who will be substantially the same as the 2012 primary electorate.
But that won't change the national electoral picture, which will be even less white in 2016 than it was in 2012. The Republicans are engaged in a philosophic fight when their real battle is demographic. Right now former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would defeat any of the leading Republican presidential contenders, according to the Marist poll. Her margin is smallest against Mr. Christie (six percentage points) and Mr. Bush (eight points), with Mr. Paul and Mr. Rubio falling 12 points behind.
The hiking trails that wind through Evans Notch hereabouts are long and well-travelled--like the campaign trail. But Republicans, bitter after two losses to Barack Obama, are not eager to trek the same trail again. At this early stage, they are still deciding which way to go, and as a poet from this state once said, that will make all the difference. David M. Shribman is executive editor of the Post-Gazette (email@example.com, 412-263-1890.
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David Shribman, a Pulitzer Prize winner in journalism, is executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
08/12/13 A touch of greatness
08/05/13 Captured by the North Koreans, the Pueblo's crew members suffered terribly, and some are suffering still
07/29/13 Politicians, heal thyselves: The president's latest campaign for change has little hope of succeeding
07/22/13 Latest example of a one-term president whose reputation has flourished after leaving office
07/08/13 Watergate's lone unmastered lesson
07/01/13 Before and after Gettysburg
06/24/13 Your life in the age of Big Data
06/17/13 America slips its bonds: Project Mercury lifted off in a more innocent time, but inspires us still
06/13/13 As the World War II veterans depart
06/03/13 Capitol culture shock: The Old Guard of the Senate valued honor most of all, and see little of it today
05/27/13 Patience is a virtue --- and a political strategy
05/20/13 Crossing sacred lines in Washington
05/06/13 The limited power of presidents
04/29/13 Living history on display
04/22/13 Social Security, 21st-century style: Dems call Obama a traitor
04/15/13 49 years, four months, 25 days: Today's America is as far removed from JFK's era as his was from World War I
04/08/13 The Senate as it once was
04/01/13 Connections and coincidence: History is full of mysterious relationships, including clusters of greatness
03/25/13 Where portraits tell the story of America's greatest conflict
03/18/13 A former president's correspondence reveals the power of letters, and the powerlessness of aging
03/11/13 Outrageous spectacle lead to a rational resolution on the budget? A nation can dream, can't it?
02/25/13 The one big thing Democrats and Republicans can actually agree on
02/18/13 Obama is wrong to make young people think college is mainly about making a living
02/11/13 The war inside the GOP
02/04/13 Presidential politics, frozen in place
01/28/13 Speech invokes past for present and future
01/14/13 If Obama's inaugural address is to be remembered at all
01/21/13 Identity crisis in the GOP
01/07/13 History meets firearms
12/31/12 In search of our better angels
12/24/12 Wounded in war, Inouye just kept serving his country
12/10/12 President as change agent
12/10/12 Another overtime election
12/03/12 Defining the Obama presidency: Our re-elected chief executive has the whip hand now, but how will he use
11/19/12 New Hampshire 2016
11/12/12 Obama's second chance
11/05/12 America's first martyr to free speech
10/29/12 Making hay in Iowa
10/15/12 When two men confronted each other from afar as civilization hung in the balance
10/08/12 If you look at the election a certain way, things don't seem so terrible
10/01/12 Debating the debates
09/24/12 Pessimists R Us
08/20/12 Obama remains a puzzle even as he asks the American people for a second chance
08/13/12 With Ryan, Romney upends the conversation
08/06/12 The real Romney remains hidden behind other people's opinions
07/30/12 What summer is for: How August can matter, and how Romney might use it
07/23/12 The Independent son of independent Maine promises to shake up Washington
07/16/12 The Rambler American
07/09/12 The Telstar revolution: Fifty years ago, a 3-foot orb was sent aloft and spawned a new era in communications
07/02/12 It's got only four electoral votes, but Romney and Obama will be fighting for them
06/25/12 A little noted rebellion over a lonely stretch of land helps tell the American story
06/18/12 You're nothing special: Luck is what you make of it . . . and what it makes of you
06/11/12 Anybody can talk authoritatively about the presidential election. Here's how
06/04/12 Candidates love to ally themselves with admired presidents, in sometimes unexpected ways
05/29/12 Americans aren't in a new burst of patriotism but they are in a new burst of appreciation for the military
05/21/12 Inside out: Almost nothing about this year's presidential election conforms to conventional analysis
05/14/12 Lugar grew into an elder statesman, which is why he'll be leaving the Senate
05/07/12 50 years later, MacArthur's farewell to arms continues to inspire
04/30/12 The likability factor: We're going to find out how important it is in these troubled times
04/23/12 Romney's four battles: With the nomination essentially in hand, he must turn to new challenges
04/16/12 For GOPers, expect the frustration to build, not abate
04/09/12 The political battles you cannot see
04/02/12 Romney's roadmap: Doing better in Democratic states may complicate his fall campaign
03/26/12 Romney struggles with same GOP forces his father faced long ago
03/19/12 The writer and the president
03/12/12 Romney could learn from his rivals after Super Tuesday
03/05/12 The GOP race continues, and Republicans continue to grouse about their choices
02/27/12 The turnout threat: when voters vamoose
02/20/12 The Winter's Tale: Republicans are engaged in a 'problem play,' full of psychological, and real, drama
02/13/12 Which Ike to like?
02/08/12 A tale of two elections: Voters today are making their most profound choice since 1912
01/30/12 Whither the GOP establishment?
01/23/12 The Democratic coalition is breaking up
01/09/12 The verdict that wasn't
01/02/12 These are the keys to who will persist
12/19/11 Another Gingrich rebellion
12/12/11 A defining fight for the GOP
12/05/11 A distinct lack of enthusiasm
11/28/11 For GOPers, the winds are beginning to pick up, the horizon is darkening
11/21/11 Today's polarized politics . . . blame FDR and the political scientists
11/11/11The sporting life
11/07/11 Ron Paul, true believer
10/31/11 Why Cain isn't able
10/10/11 GOP starting over
10/03/11 The Forgotten War of 1812
09/26/11 The way we live now
09/19/11 The crisis this time
09/11/11 But what will it mean?
09/05/11 A horse race column: Who might win the GOP nomination and how it might unfold
08/29/11 The vacuum calls
08/22/11 Passion and politics: How Barack Obama and Mitt Romney got crowded into the same dangerous corner
08/15/11 Eleanor's little village
08/08/11 The agony of August
08/01/11 The politics of the impossible: What a country this might be if the political class served the broad interests of the majority
07/25/11 Pennant fever grips 'Burgh
07/18/11 Exemplar of an era
07/11/11 On summer
07/04/11 The soul of the party
06/27/11 What the Secretary said
06/20/11 Romney has big advantages over his rivals, but they will be coming after him
06/06/11 One question each
05/30/11 The 14-week challenge
05/23/11 Delay tactics
05/16/11 Republicans are waiting
05/09/11 Bin Laden is dead. What does it mean?
05/02/11 From nobodies to nominees
04/25/11 The founders left slavery for future generations to settle, and we still haven't fully come to terms with it
04/18/11 From audacious to cautious
04/11/11 Dreaming of space
12/12/10 The GOP takes control
12/06/10 DECEMBER 7
11/29/10 GOP presidential hopefuls already are lining up local supporters in what is now a red state
11/22/10 Burning down the House
11/15/10 Institutions of higher learning are finally beginning to teach important lifeskills
11/04/10 The war has just begun
11/01/10 Echoes of a speech 40 years ago this week still resonate today
10/25/10 50 years ago America chose between two men who were dramatically different --- and eerily similar
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