Unfortunately for conservatives, the one candidate who espouses those First Principles is the one who famously betrayed them four years ago. McCain thought big government worked just fine when he sponsored the BCRA (McCain-Feingold), which curtailed political speech and protected incumbents from attack ads in the guise of taking money out of politics. A conservative would never trade free political speech for a top-down solution to any ill, let alone political advertisements. Never. Anyone who does simply cannot be trusted to implement limited-government solutions to any problem, ever.Maybe we should pick up our marbles and go home.
Outside of Newt Gingrich, even the second-tier candidates offer nothing but the same kind of big-government Republicanism that has characterized the George Bush terms in office. Gingrich could make a comeback, but he has some unfortunate personal issues that will handicap him, and given what happened in the late Clinton years, there are questions about his tenacity on these First Principles as well. We have no Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater on the horizon, at least not yet, and the GOP is moving away from that direct at light speed in the new Congressional leadership races -- at least so far.
It may be time to take Mark Tapscott's advice, offered over the summer, and look outside the GOP for alternate methods of pursuing conservativism. All we find there is a nest of those who want to manipulate federal power as an engine for their own agendas, instead of reducing its reach and its intrusiveness. We have at least a year to see whether we can be more effective outside the party -- because the Republicans seem intent on proving that we have no place inside it any more. -- Cap'n Ed