Is the GOP too splintered to succeed?

Centrists are at odds with social conservatives. Neocons clash with libertarians like Ron Paul. And the infighting threatens to become a huge problem

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) speaks during a rally in Tampa, Fla. Aug. 26
(Image credit: REUTERS/Joe Skipper)

In the run-up to election day, one of the big challenges for Mitt Romney will be taking charge of a Republican Party that has split into factions as it tries to forge a new identity, says Adam Nagourney in The New York Times. On one side are social conservatives — who pushed through hardline anti-abortion and anti-immigration platform planks — and stridently anti-Obama Tea Partiers. Meanwhile, centrists, such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and his father's vice president, Dan Quayle, argue that far-right stands are driving away the moderate voters that Republicans will need to win this (and future) elections. And then there are the Ron Paulites, who embrace a fiercely libertarian, non-interventionist agenda. In 2012 and beyond, will such divisions make it difficult for the GOP to come together and win national elections?

Yes. Conservatives are driving the GOP off a cliff: The right-wing of the Republican Party is boxing us all "into a corner of stubborn self-defeat," says Kathleen Parker at The Daily Beast. From Rep. Todd Akin's (R-Mo.) "legitimate rape" nonsense to the party's extreme anti-abortion platform plank to "laws attempting to require transvaginal probes for women seeking abortion," GOP hardliners are sending moderates, especially women, fleeing into the open arms of Democrats. The GOP is stampeding to the "edge of the precipice. Is extinction in its DNA?"

"What the *#@% is wrong with Republican men?!"

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Hold on. Republicans can still get it together: "Extinction seems to be a bit extreme," says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway. But clearly, the GOP is in for an intramural battle like the one "old-line Democrats" and the anti-war Left fought in the wake of the Vietnam War. That wasn't a good time for Democrats: Hubert Humphrey lost in 1968 after being nominated by "a badly fractured party." George McGovern, embraced by the "new Left," led the divided party "to one of its worst defeats in decades" in 1972. Then came the failed Carter years. Afterward, liberals pushed their party in 1984 and 1988 to nominate "candidates woefully out of step with the nation as a whole." The GOP can still avoid such a fate, but to do so, Romney will have to start by showing that he has wrested control from the faction of his party that is out of step with the mainstream on social issues.

"What the heck is wrong with the Republican Party?"

Huh? The GOP is in terrific shape: The GOP spent "four years in the wilderness" after losing Congress in 2006, says The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. But since then, the party, which had turned its focus to security after 9/11, has done some soul-searching, and emerged with a renewed "focus on government reform and economic revival." Far from being a problem, Tea Party activists have helped the GOP elect reformers and zero in on "themes of optimism and growth that appeal to most voters."

"The Tampa Republicans"

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