It's a refrain you often hear from conservatives: This election wouldn't even be close if Republicans had a better standard-bearer going up against President Obama in this weak economy. But according to The New York Times Magazine's chief political correspondent Matt Bai, the GOP's problems are more deeply-rooted. In one of his recent articles, Bai examined the demographic headwinds facing the GOP and argued that the problem isn't with this cycle's nominee, but rather the fact that GOP presidential aspirants cannot simultaneously win the nomination while building the party outwards. As Bai writes, "You can channel the extremists, or you can lead your party toward modernity, but you really can’t do both."
On today's show, Bai predicted that a Romney loss -- despite a political climate as favorable as any in recent memory for a challenger -- would inevitably prompt conservatives to wonder: Is the problem him? Or is the problem us?
"Human nature tells you they will probably think it's him," Bai said, despite a whole host of demographic evidence to the contrary.
A Romney loss, he argued, would immediately shift the conversation to the party's much-heralded bench of 2016 candidates, namely: Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio and Bobby Jindal. The danger, Bai says, is that those candidates will face the same dilemma faced by Romney; While the country grows more and more diverse, the Republican Party is relying more and more on older, white, male voters.
"Those aspirants for 2016 may have better political instincts than Romney," Bai writes, "But the trap that awaits them is the same."
On the flip side, should Romney win on November 6th, he would still have to "to navigate between a bunch of factions, none of which are natural constituencies for him," Bai says. The Huffington Post's Sam Stein agrees: Romney is a "political survivalist who will do whatever it takes to win," Stein said. The downside of that for Romney is that once in the Oval Office, he'll find it difficult to corral members of his party into broad agreement on issues such as gay marriage.
Bai says that at the end of the day, it's hard to predict what direction the Republican Party will go, win or lose November 6th. "I'm severely confused about it," he admitted.