Will Blue-State Republicans Nominate a “Moderate?”

The Cook Political Report‘s David Wasserman has a provocative piece up at FiveThirtyEight that commands some attention. It’s based on an entirely valid and under-discussed phenomenon: more “moderate” Republican voters in Democratic-majority states and districts are largely shut out of representation in Congress. But they do get to participate fully in nominating Republican presidential candidates.

Wasserman figures that gives more “moderate” candidates like Rubio, Fiorina and Bush a thumb-on-the-scales over hard-core conservatives like Trump, Carson and Cruz.

But there are a couple of planted axioms here that need to be questioned. First of all, “blue” states are more likely to go late in the presidential nominating contest calendar. You could say that gives them a decisive role, or you could say they will have to choose from the field left to them by the more conservative red-state contests, whose influence, of course, will be magnified by media coverage.

Second, there the whole matter of defining candidates as “moderate” or “conservative.” By many measurements, Donald Trump is more “moderate” than Jeb Bush or even John Kasich. And Bush and Rubio may be relatively attractive to self-identified party moderates, but they’re not about to call themselves anything of the sort, are they? So it’s a little unclear how these dynamics are supposed to work. Add in the fact that some blue-state Republican Parties are by no means “moderate”–Wisconsin, anybody?–and any reassurance you might have that the calendar will ensure a safe and sane nominee gets a little iffy.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.