Even George Pataki Doesn’t Want Those Damn Moderates

As I noted yesterday, it says a lot about the continued rightward drift in the GOP that even in a 18-candidate presidential field everybody still wants to be the “true conservative.” We had a graphic illustration of that today with the announcement of George Pataki’s presidential candidacy. Here’s a guy stuck at way below one percent in the polls, who’s pro-choice and pro-gun control, staking everything on supposedly moderate New Hampshire, announcing his campaign’s big themes (per Politico‘s Topaz and Gass):

In his speech that lasted more than 20 minutes, Pataki railed against an “oppressive” government and Washington politics that have produced stringent regulations and high taxes on small businesses. He vowed to simplify the tax code with lower rates, repeal the Affordable Care Act and get rid of Common Core educational standards….

National security issues — the nuclear deal with Iran and the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — have played a central role in the campaign so far, and Pataki has harshly criticized the Obama administration on its foreign policy. He recently called for the U.S. to send in ground troops to Iraq to combat ISIL, a position many in the field haven’t taken, and on Thursday accused D.C. politicians of failing to confront the threat of “radical Islam.”

Yes, Pataki also mentioned his longstanding support for a lifetime lobbying ban on Members of Congress, but that’s hardly a grabber for most Republicans. The bottom line is that even with a wide-open opportunity to appeal directly to the GOP’s remaining self-identified moderates and liberals (just a few of them, but a vote’s a vote), and in the face of virtual extinction by being excluded from candidate debates unless he can quickly distinguish himself from everybody else–Pataki chose to sound like everybody else.

I cannot imagine a better field test for the lockstep ideological character of the GOP than this year’s nomination contest, and so far the results are even more uniform than in 2012. So much for the “lessons learned” from that year’s defeat.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.