A battle for the soul of the GOP

Conservatives have planned a gathering in Virginia to take place shortly after the election to “begin a conversation about their role in the GOP and how best to revive a party that may be out of power at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue next year,” according to the Washington, D.C., publication The Politico. One unnamed invitee quoted in the story said that while the conservative movement itself remains strong, “there’s a sense that the Republican Party is broken.”

The gathering will include a “who’s who of conservative leaders — economic, national security and social,” and will take place regardless of who wins the oval office next week. Either way, McCain’s nominee for vice president will feature prominently in the discussions:

If the Arizona senator wins, the discussion will feature much talk of, “How do we work with this administration?” said the attendee, an acknowledgement that conservatives won’t always have a reliable ally in the Oval Office.

Under this scenario, [Sarah] Palin would be seen as their conduit to power. “She would be the conservative in the White House,” is how the source put it.

Should McCain lose next Tuesday, the conversation will include who to groom as the next generation of conservative leaders – a list that will feature Palin at or near the top.

Apparently no one’s told this group that Palin’s current approval ratings don’t exactly make her look like a popular potential leader. According to poll-tracking Web site FiveThirtyEight, while she had a three- or four-week honeymoon after her selection, “Palin has not proven to have much staying power.” Her net favorable rating from a wide variety of polls averages out to +1, which the site calls “pretty much a disaster for a candidate who’s (sic) calling card is supposed to be her likability.”

Palin’s popularity with the group meeting in Virginia, though, does signal the strategy Republicans will likely pursue following what looks to be the second consecutive election with strong Democratic gains. The Politico story argues the party will not pursue a moderate agenda, but instead return to the core conservative values of “small government, a robust national security and unapologetic social conservatism.”

This could lead to a colossal struggle within the Republican Party between the moderate wing and conservatives. Tuesday the Colorado Independent broke a storyon former Colorado Republican U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis’ blaming his party’s move to the right for their expected losses in November. “Most of the races we’ve lost in the last six years are two reasons: one, money, and two, the candidates we put up,” McInnis said. “Generally, people in Colorado don’t like somebody who’s radically to the right or radically to the left.”

As Republicans prepare for 2010, one of these two sides will likely emerge victorious in their battle for the soul of the party. If McInnis is right, should those meeting in Virginia have their way it could prove disastrous for the GOP.

Colorado Independent’s blogumnist (blogger-columnist) Jeff Bridges has worked in Democratic politics for the last 10 years, serving as communications director for two congressional races in Colorado and two governors races in the Deep South. Bridges also worked as a legislative assistant in Washington, D.C., with a focus on military and small-business issues.

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