Every Republican presidential candidate who runs as an unabashed conservative has to put up with the Barry Goldwater question. Goldwater was a United States senator who, in 1964, ran on the right against then President Lyndon Johnson and was subsequently stomped in one of the greatest landslides of all-time. Since then, anyone who runs too far to the right gets compared to Goldwater, the implication being that he is unelectable. Ted Cruz, the fiery conservative senator from Texas, is the latest to get the Goldwater treatment.
However, David Limbaugh, a political and social commentator and brother to the more famous radio personality Rush Limbaugh, asks another question: what if the moderates are the ones who are unelectable and that conservatives in the modern era have the best chance of beating Democrats? His model is not Goldwater but Ronald Reagan, who defeated a sitting president, Jimmy Carter, in 1980 and then defeated Walter Mondale in 1984 in a 49 state blowout..
Limbaugh also listed a slew of supposedly safe, moderate, and electable Republicans such as John McCain and Mitt Romney, who, somehow, didn’t get elected. He may be on to something here.
Limbaugh did not touch on the other side of the electoral equation that distinguishes Goldwater from Reagan. Goldwater was running against Lyndon Johnson, a wildly popular president who had just succeeded the martyred John Kennedy at a time when big government liberalism had a lot of cache. Just 16 years later, Reagan ran against the wildly unpopular Jimmy Carter when the same political philosophy had been discredited.
Looking at it that way. Cruz, of whomever the Republicans run in 2016, has a great reason to hope. The Democrats have a choice between the morally and legally compromised Hillary Clinton and the socialist extremist Bernie Sanders. Moreover, the current president and his policies have been largely discredited. Cruz, were he to be nominated, has the best chance in a while to be the second coming of Ronald Reagan.