In this column, Robert Shrum says sensible Republicans seeking to renew the viability of a conservative party that seems out of touch after a stinging defeat at the polls are being denounced as ‘heretics.’ Shrum says the party might never find its way back.
Later in the piece, Shrum says …
One of Limbaugh’s targets, Steve Schmidt, a veteran of Bush 2004, who managed Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2006 reelection and John McCain’s 2008 campaign, was at NYU’s post-election conference at Villa La Pietra in Florence. The Republicans and Democrats there, both analysts and leading actors in the Obama and Romney efforts, heard senior Romney adviser Kevin Madden, a convinced conservative, regret that his candidate had been pushed so far to the right during the primary season. Alex Castellanos, who worked for Romney four years ago, called for a “bottom up” conservatism relevant to middle-class voters, one that offered them clear and persuasive benefits. (He didn’t say “gifts.” He was focused on opportunity.)
Schmidt was blunt. The GOP had to abandon the ceaseless pursuit of the last white guy in Mississippi at the expense of alienating the mainstream. He argued a case in point: Republicans should be “a pro-life party,” but not “the anti-contraception” party, which is how Romney sometimes came across as he felt forced to match the über-purist Rick Santorum in the primaries. Castellanos mentioned that since Republicans believe in states’ rights, the answer on abortion might be to reverse Roe v. Wade but then leave the decision on the issue to each state.