Republicans Don’t Understand Republicans

To answer Matt’s question, and to follow up on something I wrote yesterday, another interesting thing to ponder about the Deep South (and Alaska!) Governors considering turning down federal stimulus money is who, exactly, they think they’re playing to. It’s certainly true that the rump presence of the Congressional GOP is disproportionately right-wing, and Southern, but is there any indication that the national GOP is in the same boat? Well, not really.

Remember that the Republican Presidential primary, like the Democratic primry, consists of capturing delegates. But unlike the Democratic Party, the Republicans do not have a uniform standard for delegate allocation, favoring instead a system that yields an early end to the contest. This includes states that are winner-take-all, some that are proportional, and some that are a mix. It also, ironically, is one that favors big states, at least with the 2008 schedule. New York, New Jersey, and Florida are all winner take all contests, and California is winner take all by Congressional district. It was in these states, plus Arizona and Missouri, that John McCain won the nomination. In fact, he didn’t win a single Deep South contest, other than South Carolina. Mike Huckabee swept the rest…and was completely crushed in the delegate count by McCain. And with a Democratic incumbent in 2012, independents who want to vote in a primary election are going to flood into the GOP process, making it even more moderate than usual.

In other words, even if it weren’t the case that governors were largely judged on the basis of performance, and could get by with being ideological standard bearers, Jindal, Sanford, Palin, and Barbour are playing to an ideological base that has no power whatsoever even in the GOP primary process. It’s possible, of course, that the rules could drastically changes before 2012, but that seems like an awfully big thing to bet on now, doesn’t it?

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