Democrats “Gingrich-Bush” Shield No Longer A Factor In Northeast
… the rise of southern/religious-based conservatism in 1994 — when Newt Gingrich and the GOP won control of Congress — triggered an immediate and enduring cultural backlash among swing voters in places like Massachusetts. Before ‘94, they still saw the GOP (generally) as a big tent party with room for moderate/social libertarian-types. But ‘94 disabused them of that notion and they stopped even listening to Republican candidates.
As Douthat explains, Kornacki dubs this the Gingrich-Bush shield, which, contra what you may initially think, protected Democrats in the northeast. Douthat observes:
Now, of course, both Bush and Gingrich are gone, taking the shield with them, and suddenly northeastern swing voters are willing to consider “voting for a Republican candidate as a way of expressing frustration with the ruling Democrats.” Thus Chris Christie in New Jersey; thus Scott Brown in Massachusetts; thus Pat Toomey’s small lead in the Pennsylvania polls.
Whether this Northeastern G.O.P. surge can be sustained will depend on a host of factors — but Kornacki’s right, I think, to imply that it will depend on whether the Republican Party can find leaders, for 2012 and beyond, who don’t make the party seem too Southern. On this front, though, I think that style and symbolism probably matter more than substance….What turns off Northeasterners, as Caldwell suggested a decade ago, is less a specific issue like abortion than “the broader cultural claims of those who put it forward” — the sense, that is, that a vote for the G.O.P. is a vote for the habits and mores of Alabama or Mississippi (or a caricature thereof), complete with guns in the cupboard and creationism in the schools….
But if you’re trying to be a national political party, you want your leadership to fall relatively close to the American mean culturally, even (or especially) if you’re going to govern from the right or left politically. That means that…if I were a Republican politician from New England, New Jersey or New York, I’d be hoping that the G.O.P. nominates a Mitch Daniels or a Tim Pawlenty in 2012 — so that Yankee voters can pull the “Republican” lever without worrying that they’re casting a vote for the Old Confederacy along the way.
Based on conversations I’ve had over the last decade with conservative-leaning independents who used to be Republicans, it always seems to boil down to this. It seems silly, but there it is. And, for most of ’em, the same attitude extends to Sarah Palin.