I don’t think anyone who looks at the platforms of Republicans running in the Northeast or even the Pacific West can say that the GOP generally refuses to run candidates who deviate from the party line on certain issues. In some respects, Rahm Emanuel is doing for Democrats what his party used to do and the Republicans have done for years in recognizing geographical and ideological diversity. Throughout the 1990s, Republicans like Rudy Giuliani and Bill Weld won in Democratic areas taking center-right positions on taxes, spending, welfare, and crime but reflecting the region’s liberalism on abortion, gay rights, and the environment. They’d have a hard time repeating that today. Democrats are now doing something similar in reddish areas of the country, putting places in play that otherwise wouldn’t be.
Trouble is, when the Republican Party’s national image is poor it is the candidates in these more liberal areas of the country who are going to suffer first no matter what positions they take on the issues. So Chris Shays and Lincoln Chafee lose their seats, just as the 1994 election saw a lot of conservative Democrats lose theirs. Rahm Emanuel’s more conservative recruits will be among the first Democrats to lose in the next Republican cycle. Sure, the occasional Susan Collins in Maine and Gene Taylor in Mississippi can buck the trend. But they’ll be outliers.
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