The Washington Examiner's David Drucker has an interesting read on the two conservative candidates running for U.S. Senate in Nebraska. Tea party groups and national conservatives have (mostly, with a few notable exceptions) coalesced around Ben Sasse, even though Shane Osborn has what many would consider solid conservative credentials.
So what makes one conservative more appealing than another? Speaking in general terms (actually, using a different hypothetical example), one GOP operative told Drucker the key difference is "not that they disagree on ideology but they have a different view of the world and how much trouble the country is in."
My theory: A voter who is temperamentally more conservative might favor a different candidate from someone who is temperamentally more radical. There's also the "zealotry of the convert" phenomenon, whereby new activists might be (ironically) more worried about America's situation than those who have been following conservative politics for years. Voters may think they apply policy or philosophical litmus tests to candidates, but I suspect it has more to do with style and "gut" than we'd care to admit.