Was a collective move by the entire party away from the right, back toward the center of the political spectrum. The fact that John McCain– he of campaign finance, climate change, and immigration reform– and Mitt Romney– a blue-state, health-care-mandating, formerly pro-choice, governor– are now the party’s two frontrunners is astonishing. Ben Smith and David Kuhn at The Politico have a smart piece up now about how Rudy Giuliani’s inability to ever gain traction in the race marks the end of 9/11 politics. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it the end– McCain and Romney have told their fair share of ghost stories over the past year– but its effectiveness has without doubt been diminished. But just as notable is the party’s rejection of Mike Huckabee. Maybe it had more to do with his baffling decision to trot out Chuck Norris at every campaign stop, even well after Huckabee had gotten the media’s attention. But the fact that a former baptist minister and the staunchest pro-life “defender of marriage” in the race couldn’t win in South Carolina over John McCain shows the likewise diminished influence of the religious right.
The fact is that neither John McCain nor Mitt Romney could have won the Republican Party nomination in either 2000 or 2004 (had there been no incumbent). Regardless of which of them wins the party’s nod in 2008, Republicans will see their domestic platforms in the general election shift noticably towards the center.