Whitman Makes Sense, But Only in the Communist North

by Mike on November 28, 2006

in Politics

Former New Jersey Christie Whitman, who by default is looking better every day, argues that the Republican party cannot win another national election unless the party moves to the political center. She cites numerous moderate Republicans who were wiped out in a national Democrat wave to support her argument. Whitman could not be more wrong.

It’s telling that Whitman cites a Vermont Republican as a specific example. Admittedly, Whitman’s centrism is the most viable strategy in certain states, such as New Jersey, Vermont and others in the northeast. In those states, Republicans must distinguish themselves from their party on at least a couple of issues or have a really poor opponent if they hope to win. Not every state is going to elect a Tom Coburn. However, on a national stage, Republicans typically must run as conservatives if they hope to win.

My theory that successful Republicans run from the right while successful Democrats run form the center is based on the direction those candidates move in order to get to the political center. The positions which attract the most attention when a centrist candidate emerges are the issues where the candidate distinguishes himself from his party. When a Republican moves to the center, he moves left in order to get there. The newsworthy positions are the liberal ones. On the other hand, centrist Democrats who run to the center must run to the right in order to get there. Therefore, someone like Bill Clinton looks reasonable when his newsworthy policy positions are middle class tax cuts, the harmful effects of rap music, and ending welfare as we know it.

A look into history seems to support this theory. Nationally, Republicans who move to the center typically lose. Bob Dole, George H.W. Bush in 1992, and Gerald Ford are perfect examples. Republicans who run as conservatives typically win. George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush in 1988, and Ronald Reagan are perfect examples. It’s true that Democrats can only win in the center on a national level. Bill Clinton did so twice. John Kerry, Michael Dukakis, and Walter Mondale didn’t do so well.

Republicans in New Jersey should pay attention to Governor Whitman. For Republicans in most states and for those who hope to win a national election, there’s nothing to see here.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Sal November 29, 2006 at 6:09 am

I can’t believe that I actually disagree with you on a subject. I don’t think that as a Republican you have to “move to the center” in New Jersey or any other state (with the possible exception of Vermont, home of the aged hippies) if you have a good candidate and a strong message. Rhode Island and Massachusetts, which are both more liberal than New Jersey in their electoral politics, have had Mitt Romney and Don Carcieri as Governors. Carcieri especially is a prime example of a conservative candidate who ran a good campaign. New Jersey has not had a good candidate in a while who has run a good campaign.

Frankly, I think the “Age of the Republican Moderate” is over. Republican so-called “Moderates” were defeated handily in this last election. If moving to the center in certain blue states is so critical, why did not Lincoln Chaffee, Tom Keane, and Mike DeWine not win their respective elections? New Jersey especially had a popular, moderate Keane run against an unpopular, scandal-ridden incumbent, and he still lost. I frankly don’t think a Christi Whitman would win again in New Jersey, but a real Conservative who ran a good campaign and didn’t hide away his conservatism might have a shot.

Finally, the only exception to the “end of Republican Moderates” statement above is Rudy Giuliani. He would have the energy and support necessary to win a national election due to his handling of 9/11 and revitalization of New York. However, I don’t think he can win a Republican primary, primarily to his social views.


Ryan November 29, 2006 at 10:15 am

Well, Sal, you delve into an even deeper point. I agree that conservatism is the way to go as a means to distinguish oneself from the Left and “moderate” Democrats, perhaps even in the Northeast, but I see Mike’s point too. However, Guiliani’s popularity and the moderate Republican legacy have something in common– security.

For good or for bad, the Republican party is the “security” party in my opinion. We’ve run on security since before 2000 and it has worked–even when we unfortunately dropped the limited gov’t platform in national policy, we still won national elections.

Back to the point, Guiliani does well right now because people think he will keep them safe, not because he condones partial-birth abortions. I believe that this “security” contributed to our loss this year– the Republicans clearly abandoned the borders and Bush hid in his cave on Iraq for 95% of the campaign. The Republicans were not viewed as a security party, hence they lost to a Democratic Party with no plan or direction. I beleive that inaction on the borders and illegals kept a lot of conservatives home. We’re a party that’s honest with itself, who doesn’t believe in power at any cost, so occassionally this happens to Republicans. The answer is to get back to conservative principles and ARTICULATE them as if the nation’s future depends on it.


Mike November 29, 2006 at 1:44 pm


Which conservatives without an unusually weak opponent have won in the northeast since Reagan? Although our ideas are winning ideas, but that’s not true in all 50 states. Some states are simply nuts.

Look around at the winners, Snowe, Collins, Jim Douglas, Jodi Rell, Lincoln Chafee (won more than he lost and only lost because of a foul mood with a conservative), Whitman, Pataki, Erlich. See a pattern? The two exceptions are Carieri but they fit the profile of conservatives with an unusually weak opponent. Look at those who lost: Schundler, Lazio, D’Amato, Forrester (not Coburn but more to the right than those mentioned above), Mike Steele (can’t say he was an inarticulate candidate), George Woodcock (lost to an unpopular Gov).

On a national level, we win. But we can’t kid ourselves that a conservative majority exists in all 50 states. These loony blue states are blue for a reason after all. Thankfully they’re outnumbered by the red ones.

As for your point about moderates losing, that’s what happens when party control flips, moderates in both parties lose. By your logic, southern moderate Dems should run as liberals. When we won, we knocked off southern moderates in 1994. We knocked off candidates running as moderates in NC and MO in 2002. In 2004, we did the same in NC, SC, GA, FL, and LA. This dynamic is even more skewed in House elections. The GOP targets red state dems to gain seats in elections. The Dems target blue state pubbies. It’s moderates who fall when party control switches because they tend to come from swing districts. They never would have won in the first place if they weren’t in the middle.

Recapturing our majority on a national level requires adherence to conservative principles. However, we do need to cut some moderates (not RINO scum like Chafee, but moderates) some slack. Pipe dreams of a conservative landslide with leaders like Rick Santorum coming out of New York, Maine, Vermont, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Connecticut isn’t going to help our cause.


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