Earlier this month, Noah Millman considered the consequences of a Ron Paul victory in Iowa:
But if Paul wins Iowa, and does well in New Hampshire, he’ll have established that, in a post-9-11 world, there is room not to toe the line on foreign policy questions, room for someone with pragmatic views more like Dick Lugar’s (or Mitch Daniels’s) to run and not do what Romney and Huntsman have been doing. To a much lesser extent, I think the same thing can be said of civil liberties concerns.
Perhaps. If it proves that there is room for dissent on foreign policy, there are unfortunately not many indications that the “pragmatic” Republicans will take advantage of this. Millman mentions Lugar, so it’s worth noting that Lugar recently ridiculed Paul’s criticisms of U.S. foreign policy and more or less toed the line. That’s not really surprising given Lugar’s position as ranking member on the Senate FRC and his foreign policy record, but it’s worth remembering how big of a gap there is between Republican internationalists such as Lugar and conservative critics of U.S. foreign policy.
There are issues on which Lugar has been quite good, but when it comes to the main points of disagreement between Paul and the national party Lugar is usually on the side of the latter. We have no idea what Daniels’ views are, but given his close connections to Lugar it is fair to assume that he would agree with him most of the time, which suggests that he would probably be on the wrong side of a lot of contemporary debates. That brings me to the main point: Republicans with more “pragmatic” views have been and continue to be wrong on many of the major issues of the day, and aside from certain issues, such as arms control, the Lugars and Hagels of the world have consistently been supportive of military interventions and imposing sanctions on “rogue” states. For that reason, a future candidate with “pragmatic views” isn’t likely to do things all that differently from Huntsman, because this sort of Republican internationalist tends to support misguided and confrontational policies just as often as more ideological and hard-line Republicans.