The Blog


You May Not Know This, but the Media's Favorite Republicans Crashed and Burned in 1996

11:00 PM, Dec 1, 1996 • By FRED BARNES
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

But Zimmer caused himself a different problem. By softening his economic views and running away from Gingrich and congressional Republicans, Zimmer lost some of his Republican base. Rick Shaftan, a New Jersey pollster, says Zimmer's support eroded badly when he stressed his moderation. This is what Democratic consultant Bob Shrum calls the "internal contradiction" of being economically conservative and socially liberal. If you trim your conservatism, you stand to lose GOP support. The same may happen if you emphasize your social liberalism. Worse, socially liberal Republicans "appear insincere because they're all over the map," says Mellman. "They don't fit in a category."

Their admirers are not giving up, however. "Nothing happened on November 5 that leads me to believe that [being a socially liberal Republican] is a recipe for political death," says GOP consultant Jay Smith. To the extent these Republicans lost, says James Pinkerton, "it's unfortunate and it'll hurt the party." The GOP will be a minority party so long as its socially liberal wing atrophies, according to Pinkerton, one of the chief promoters of Weld-type Republicanism. I don't know about that. The burden of proof is not on Republicans in general, but on Weld and his ilk. They've got to succeed electorally to have a large role in the party. In 1996, they didn't.

By Fred Barnes