KRISTOL CLEAR…. The Washington Post‘s Bill Kristol has some advice for his Republican allies. As he sees it, the key to electoral success in the near future is … you’ll never guess … being more conservative.

The GOP is going to be pretty unapologetically conservative. There aren’t going to be a lot of moderate Republican victories in intra-party skirmishes. And — with the caveat that the political world can, of course, change quickly — there will be a conservative Republican presidential nominee in 2012. […]

The center of gravity, I suspect, will instead lie with individuals such as Palin and Huckabee and Gingrich, media personalities like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, and activists at town halls and tea parties. Some will lament this — but over the past year, as those voices have dominated, conservatism has done pretty well in the body politic, and Republicans have narrowed the gap with Democrats in test ballots.

And to think, Time magazine and the New York Times let a brilliant political visionary like Kristol go. It’s hard to imagine.

To support his argument, Kristol relies on a Gallup poll released yesterday showing a 40% plurality of Americans consider themselves “conservative.” That, the columnist insists, is proof that Republicans need to move even further to the right going forward.

But there’s more than one way to look at the data. As Mori Dinauer explained, “This is as good a time as any to remind ourselves that when you let poll respondents self-select labels, those labels immediately lose precision as a way of defining political beliefs. It’s also worth noting that the data presented, going back to 1992, hasn’t actually changed all that much in those 17 years.”

It seems more interesting to note that, as Republicans have moved further and further to the right this year, their national support has deteriorated. Last week’s Washington Post/ABC News poll found that only 19% of the public has confidence that congressional Republicans can make the right decisions for the country’s future, and only 20% self-identify as Republican voters — the lowest single number in Post-ABC polls since 1983.

Also last week, a CNN poll found the Republican Party’s favorable rating at lowest level in 11 years.

Kristol seems to think the key to turning this around is for the GOP to go from the far-right to the even-further-right. Given his track record for prognostications — Kristol was confident McCain (173 electoral votes) would defeat Obama (365 electoral votes) last year — I suspect Democrats hope Republicans take his advice.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.