The annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) took place in Maryland last week, producing little heat and less light. Although some speakers acknowledged the need for the Republican Party to broaden its base, or to focus more on winning elections and less on ideology, concrete examples of either were in short supply. Given the sponsorship of the event, it is perhaps not surprising that stale pieties from the conservative canon were the carte du jour.
A more interesting picture of the Republican Party emerged from a February 25 article in The National Interest by Henry Olsen, “The Four Faces of the Republican Party.” Based on a detailed analysis of primary elections in the past several years, Mr. Olsen refuted the notion that the fate of the Republican Party will lie in a contest between the Tea Party and the “establishment.” Rather, according to Olsen, there are four major factions within the Republican Party. The largest faction, and the one most likely to yield the Party’s nominee, is “slightly conservative.” Mr. Olsen’s essay was sufficiently cogent that it has already been summarized in full columns by two major pundits: Dan Balz in The Washington Post and Ross Douthat in The New York Times. Because it provides a useful counterpoint to CPAC, it deserves some further mention here. […]