In primary elections, nothing beats the advice of the old pro, Richard M. Nixon. The late president may have ended his political career in disgrace, but few had such a feel for national politics.
He said of the primaries that a Republican had to run like — well, heck — to the right in the primaries and then run to the center for the general election.
That is reflected in the LSU Public Policy Research Lab’s survey. The poll suggested that Republican Mitt Romney would gain the most by picking a “moderate” running mate and suffer the most political damage if he opts for a “religious conservative.”
The national survey thus somewhat channels the ghost of Tricky Dick, as Romney was at pains to portray himself in the primaries as “severely conservative.”
But the LSU poll is at variance with today’s political perceived wisdom that in general elections it is not wooing moderates, but exciting the “base voter” of each party to turn out.
With several recent elections being decided by close votes in major states — Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004, for example — the idea is that Romney should be focused on a more “severely conservative” running mate to help him with the party’s base.
As Aaron Blake wrote in a political blog for The Washington Post, the intensity of support from Republican or Democratic voters is a closely watched barometer by today’s political professionals.
“The question is which big motivating factor — personal affinity for Obama for Democrats and anti-Obama sentiment for Republicans — is more motivational come Election Day,” he said.
That Gov. Bobby Jindal is in consideration for the Romney ticket reflects two elements of these differing strategies. As a non-white nominee, a son of immigrants, he would presumably have some appeal to moderates; with a background of appealing to religious conservatives, he might be more exciting for the base.
Romney’s father was actually a competitor for a while against Nixon in 1968, and eventually took a consolation prize as a member of Nixon’s first Cabinet. But is the Nixonian analysis the one that Romney will follow now?