Game Over?
GOP life after South Carolina.


In the wake of the Nevada caucus and South Carolina Republican primary on Saturday, National Review Online asked a group of political experts: “Is it all over or has it only just begun? What should conservatives bear in mind as we head into the Florida primary and Super Tuesday?”

Kellyanne Conway
We’ve only just begun, folks. The only clear frontrunner in this race is the economy, and even that is new. With the exception of Nevada (which was not competitive), in each contest so far, the GOP winner has been rejected by a majority of voters participating in that Republican primary or caucus.

That should please conservatives, since it means free-market competition and not that silly fiction called “electability” (“he can/can’t win”) govern this race and that we, the consumers, eventually will decide which product on a crowded shelf of choices is superior. What a refreshing departure from the royalist party’s recent past.

Conservatives should not buy into this notion that the movement is so fractious and the party in such disarray that we must quickly coalesce behind a single man to show unity and start preparing for the general election. Why? The best preparation for the eventual nominee is a protracted primary contest where people are forced to present concrete plans, explain their ideas (and their past votes and actions), and demonstrate their differences. Beats the fluff and no-stuff of “hope,” “change,” and “optimism.”

And as for who best to unify the various constituencies of the Republican party, we’ve already found that candidate: Hillary Clinton.

 – Kellyanne Conway, is president and CEO of the polling company(tm), inc./WomanTrend.

Alvin S. Felzenberg

Well, it’s not over, but the Republican nomination for president may well be settled before the super-duper 20-state primary on February 5. The moment is at hand for conservatives to make an important decision. Do they want to continue the revolution Ronald Reagan started by reducing the size of government and bringing the nation’s enemies to their knees, or are they prepared to be shunted to the sidelines as a Democratic president and Congress raise taxes, stifle economic growth, and, in the name of making the United States “more popular” in the world, let down our guard in face of Islamic fanatics who wish to murder more of our fellow citizens and destroy our way of life?

In short, the moment is at hand to rally behind Senator John McCain and begin to help him plan for a successful campaign and administration. Like armies who always seem ready to fight the last war, conservative pundits and talking heads, with limited exceptions, have not been able to rise above past disagreements with the senator to see that he is the only Republican with the best chance of enacting their agenda.

No candidate can do that without winning. And to win, that candidate will need the votes not only of non-conservatives, but also of non-Republicans. McCain shows signs of going into the race without the personal baggage, ideological inconsistencies, and limited appeal of his rivals.

More importantly, McCain has passed the test worthy of a great president and the Democrats know it. During the bleakest moments of the Iraq war, with reporters belittling him day in and out, McCain stood his ground. While others opted to “wait and see,” McCain said that he would rather lose an election than a war. He may yet be the man who wins both.

By getting behind McCain now, conservatives can rekindle what was once a strong, vibrant, and effective movement — and with a strong, proven leader at its helm. They can begin funneling ideas and talent to McCain’s effort as he plans for what is certain to be a long and difficult campaign. Or they can continue to allow past and diminishing differences with him to push them into other camps, whose conservatives credentials are less established, and whose resolve to govern as conservatives are less certain.

More than 50 years have passed since Barry Goldwater stood before a Republican National Convention and told conservatives to “go to work.” This coming week is the time for conservatives of all stripes to do what conservative voters have done. They should “get over it,” “stop whining,” “go to work,” and, yes, do what is right for their country.

 – Alvin S. Felzenberg, a veteran of two Republican presidential administrations and an early supporter of Ronald Reagan, is author of the forthcoming, Leaders We Deserved and a Few We Didn’t: Rethinking the Presidential Rating Game. (Basic Books).

John Hood

For all its drama, its twists and turns, the pontificating and punditry and “whither the conservative movement” hand-wringing, the past three weeks of early-state voting hasn’t come close to picking a winner. It was the regular season. Five teams with plausible routes to the championship began the season in Iowa, along with a couple of entertaining long shots. Now, with Mitt Romney winning his third contest in Nevada and John McCain edging out Mike Huckabee for his second in South Carolina, the regular season is over.