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Posted by on Feb 19, 2009 in Politics | 0 comments

Save the GOP: Candidates with Large, Diverse, Urban Constituencies

For those who hope for the return of a robust, viable, inclusive GOP — a revitalized party that can more effectively counter today’s Democratic Party — take note of this story at Politico on the competing GOP factions represented by Florida Gov. Crist and South Carolina Gov. Sanford. The latter is old school; the former, more contemporary, more forward-looking.

The Politico story’s writers suggest that …

… the varying approaches adopted by Sanford and Crist reflect the unique political environments in which they operate. Sanford represents a heavily Republican state where his message has a resonance it wouldn’t have in Florida, where Crist must contend with a far more competitive two-party landscape and a budget shortfall that could lead to draconian cuts in services.

I’d expand that analysis to consider why Sanford’s state is “heavily Republican” and Crist’s has “a far more competitive two-party landscape.” And I suspect that analysis would reveal that Crist and Sanford are what they are because Crist’s Florida has a larger, more diverse, more urban constituency than Sanford’s South Carolina. The same could be said about Crist-like Gov. Schwarzenegger in California vs. Sanford-like Gov. Barbour in Mississippi.

Granted, the parallels don’t hold up universally. One notable exception is Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has a very large, diverse, and increasingly urban constituency — and yet he sits comfortably in the Sanford camp. Then again, as my friends who live in Texas frequently remind me: Their state is the exception to virtually every rule.

An exception like Texas notwithstanding, I still believe that those who seek GOP reform — specifically, those who seek to reverse the party’s slide into a marginalized, regional, Old-South-centric party — would be well advised to closely study Crist and Schwarzenegger and then initiate a systematic search/recruiting drive for more candidates like them, candidates who can run and win elections among large, diverse, urban populations — candidates who can win such elections because they understand the need to (and how to) moderate/soften/back down from the Old-South, hardline mentality, open their arms, and dance with voters who have a million-plus points of view.

There’s your future. Seize it.