By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country.
Ronald Reagan did it. George W. Bush did it. But lately, the Grand Old Party is having an awfully hard time finding candidates that can bring together the religious conservative and more business/centrist flanks of the party.
John McCain, for instance, never excited the party's religious conservative base. Sarah Palin did, but she turned off the party's more secular center. Remember the Palin denunciations from Peggy Noonan, David Frum, George Will, and a long list of other so-called mainstream Republicans?
The problem is that so many Republican figures of late are falling into either the religious conservative camp (think Mike Huckabee) or the more secular, socially centrist one (think Rudy Giuliani). Without leaders who can unite those two wings, the GOP is bound for ideological schizophrenia—and more losses at the polls.
The latest installment of this either/or drama arrived yesterday, when former Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell announced his candidacy for chairman of the Republican National Committee. Having helped spearhead Ohio's 2004 drive to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage and currently serving as a Senior Fellow for Family Empowerment at the Family Research Council, Blackwell is a dyed-in-the-wool religious conservative.
Now, he and aspiring RNC chairman Chip Saltsman, the campaign manager for Huckabee's 2008 presidential campaign, will duke it out for the votes of the RNC's religious conservative members. South Carolina Republican Party chairman Katon Dawson may have a dog in that fight, too.
The contest's other contenders, former Maryland Gov. Michael Steele, Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis, and current RNC Chairman Mike Duncan (an undeclared but expected entrant into the race) will be vying for the votes of the RNC's more secular, centrist members.
The problem for the GOP is that regardless of who wins, the party will have either a lot of ticked off religious conservatives or distraught establishment types. Where's the bridge candidate who can appeal to both sides?