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Who Best to Beat Hillary–Moderates or Tea Party?

Big business is stepping in to fund moderate Republican candidates ahead of the 2014 midterm elections in order to defeat Tea Party candidates in the primaries. I regard that as a welcome development, because it will force Tea Party candidates to step up their game. It will no longer be enough to be anti-establishment, but better than the establishment. So bring on those primary contests, and may the best candidates win.

There is, however, a strategic point that GOP moderates are missing (ironically, after lecturing Tea Party leaders about how mere outbursts of frustration do not add up to political victory). Given the likely 2016 nomination of Hillary Clinton by the Democrats, how will a more moderate party win more votes than a party fueled by an energized conservative base? Wouldn’t a choice between two moderate candidates favor Hillary?

The answer may depend on what you fear more. Theoretically, a more conservative GOP and a Tea Party presidential nominee could set up a repeat of the 1964 Democratic landslide (Hillary was a “Goldwater Girl” back then). On the other hand, moderate GOP candidates have lost the popular vote since 1992, except for 2004 (which was close). Without a clearer alternative to Clinton, the GOP could still be stuck in a rut.

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