Doug Mataconis speculates again on the effects of a Romney loss:
If Romney does lose in November, then the future course for the Republican Party seems fairly certain….Conservatives will argue that, once again, the Republican Party lost because it nominated the moderate instead of the conservative candidate, and because it didn’t “take the fight” to President Obama, whatever that means. In reality, that will be untrue but it really won’t matter. The GOP Establishment will cower in the corner and the right will go on the war path. By 2016, the odds of a moderate candidate being about to pass muster with the base of the party will be somewhere between slim and none, and Rick Santorum will be one of the people best able to take advantage of all of this.
This seems plausible, but it isn’t right. Some Republicans will believe that Romney’s lack of credibility or zeal or purity was the reason for the defeat, but they will in all likelihood find themselves stymied once again in 2016. Remember how desperate most Republicans were to recapture the White House in 1999-2000. Now imagine how much greater the desire to have a Republican President will be if Obama is in office for another four years. That will cancel out the instinct to turn to a more conservative nominee. After eight years of the Obama administration, there will be more Republicans interested in simply winning the election than there are today. They will likely be ready to tolerate a nominee as compromised as Romney, or they might be willing to accept a nominee even less conservative than the current iteration of Romney pretends to be. After Dole’s loss in 1996, one might have expected that the next nominee would run to Dole’s right, but the opposite happened: Bush started off his campaign attacking his party from the left, and then McCain helped him to shore up his support with conservatives by running to Bush’s left. Assuming a Romney loss, the 2016 election will present us with something similar to that.