As John Sides and Lynn Vavreck show in their must-read 2012 postmortem “The Gamble,” polls suggest that Obama, not Mitt Romney, was the candidate less ideologically similar to the average voter, and Obama’s liberalism may have cost him several percentage points with independent voters.... in what the fundamentals suggest will be a very close race, running a more moderate Democrat in Clinton against a stridently more conservative Republican in Walker could provide [the necessary] difference.Nahhh. If Republicans lose with Walker (or Cruz, or Carson), they'll find all sorts of excuses to avoid blaming the candidate's strident conservatism. The evil Republican bosses made him pick a RINO as a running mate! Or if that doesn't happen: The evil Republican bosses deliberately threw the election because they felt threatened!
Furthermore, a losing Walker-led ticket would provide the best proof for the GOP base that the “our guy would have won if he was more conservative” argument is a myth. As much as outsiders rolled their eyes at post-election claims that Romney and John McCain “weren’t conservative,” it’s certainly true that they were on the more moderate side of their respective primary fields. It’d be impossible to claim that with Walker.... Maybe, just maybe, that will be enough to stop or at least stall the Republican Party’s sprint to the right and finally bring the GOP back to the bargaining table.
And, of course, all-powerful totalitarian liberalism will be at fault. The Clinton machine threatened people with death! Obama made his thug friends in ACORN and the New Black Panthers available to Hillary! The press had a slobbering love affair with Hillary! George Soros stole the election! Tom Steyer stole the election!
I used to think nothing but an LBJ-in-'64 shellacking would ever make Republicans see reason. Yes, that would help matters, but unless the GOP runs Cruz/Carson or a similarly fanatical ticket, it's unlikely to happen (and sorry, but it would be no more likely with Warren or Sanders as the nominee) -- and I don't think even that sort of blowout would matter much anymore. Republicans got shellacked in 2006 and 2008 congressional races and they just dug in their heels, working every lever they had available to them. They'd do the same thing after a presidential blowout in 2016, and they wouldn't modify their positions. They just can't bring themselves to do it. Republican Nation is a society within American society, and it's extremely averse to change. And Republicans have done too well in non-presidential elections to think they ever have to change.
And that's the key: Republicans have to suffer at the polls after 2016, and the suffering has to be sustained, in elections at every level of government. One presidential election isn't enough.