Iowa Aftermath: The Republican Identity Crisis

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Robert G. Kaiser on the apparent collapse of the GOP big tent:

…The Reagan coalition is indeed fracturing, and the Republican Party is now certifiably in the midst of an [identity] crisis. This does NOT mean there is no hope for the Republican candidate next November, but it does mean that the Republican Party we have been living with since 1980 is on its way to the dust bin of history, to coin a phrase.

[…]

My thinking is this: Reagan brought together evangelicals, old-fashioned country-club Republicans, southern middle-class voters and the group that became known as “Reagan Democrats.” [Huckabee] wins Iowa without bringing together any broad coalition at all; he got evangelicals and a few others, it looks like. Other Republicans fractured in many directions.

I agree with the now-common commentary that there is no heir to Reagan now, or even to President Bush. Fred Thompson was, for ten minutes, the guy tapped to play that role. He did very poorly in Iowa tonight–14 percent.

I also confess to thinking for a couple of years now that the Republican coalition was in danger of fracturing. I may be looking tonight for evidence to support my own theory. But I don’t think so. I think it’s really happening.

More on how the Republican race is now “in disarray” from John F. Harris and Jonathan Martin, who note that “the weeks ahead will in some ways be a referendum on the identity of the Republican Party” and the results “could say much about what issues are paramount to a party in transition.”

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