The four leading Republican presidential contenders fall into one of two categories. The first category consists of Rudy Giuliani and John McCain. Both run pretty well against Hillary Clinton in head-to-head polls, but both deviate from the views of most conservatives on several major issues. The second category consists of Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson. Both espouse nearly all of the positions to which most conservatives subscribe, but neither runs close to Clinton is the polls.
It seems reasonable for conservatives trying to decide among these candidates to begin the selection process by determining whether to give priority to electability or ideology. We can then pick among the two candidates in the preferred category based on factors like experience, leadership, and demonstrated administrative ability. If the choice is between McCain and Giuliani, conservatives can also decide based on which deviations from conservative orthodoxy seem least offensive.
The drawbacks of selecting a candidate based on electability are well recognized. To begin with, voters who feel very strongly the issues, or even one issue such as abortion, are justifiably loath to allow political calculation to dictate their choice. Moreover, political calculation is sufficiently difficult that those who base their choice on it can easily outsmart themselves. Polls pitting Republican contenders against Hillary Clinton a year before the general election may not be reliable. For one thing, they likely overstate the gap between the electability of well-known candidates like Giuliani and lesser known candidates like Romney.
In addition, it
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