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Within GOP, Factions Continue to Battle Over Future

Within GOP, Factions Continue to Battle Over Future

By Scott Conroy - January 17, 2013

For Republican operatives who believe their party’s core has taken a self-destructive turn to the far right -- and that the GOP must recalibrate significantly in order to regain an electoral foothold -- the immediate future holds little cause for optimism.

On issues ranging from gun control to the debt ceiling, the behind-the-scenes advocates of moderation see a GOP Congress that remains as unyielding in its hard-line positions as it was before President Obama’s re-election.

And lacking an influential, centrist standard-bearer to promote effectively a new tack from inside the Beltway, GOP strategists like John Weaver have taken to social media to voice their frustrations.

Weaver’s Twitter handle -- @JWGOP -- pays homage to the Republican Party, under the banner of which he has served as chief strategist for two presidential candidates.

But in his online interactions, the former senior adviser to John McCain and Jon Huntsman often purposely veers far from party talking points, doling out frank and cutting criticism of what he views as the extremist elements that have taken over the GOP in Washington.

“In our party, intolerance can no longer be tolerated,” Weaver tweeted shortly after Mitt Romney went down to defeat on Election Day.

“How do some of these gun advocates get out of the asylum to do cable shows?” he asked on Wednesday.

Weaver is eager to use social media to engage with fellow Republicans who agree with him that the party needs to change dramatically if it hopes to address the reasons its candidates have lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections.

He also does not shy from dialogue with those who consider him a turncoat, someone hopelessly out of step with the conservative orthodoxy that has prevailed within the GOP of recent years.

But while the Texas native remains engaged in promoting his message, he is not particularly hopeful that party moderates of his ilk are on the verge of initiating a new insurrection anywhere near the size and scope of the Tea Party movement, which reshaped Republican politics four years ago.

“We’re kidding ourselves if we think we’re actually going to see a significant effort to change the way the party looks at issues in Washington,” Weaver said in an interview with RCP. “The first thing you have to do is accept the reality demographically of where the country is, and I don’t think our party yet has done that. And unfortunately, the votes on gun safety or immigration or anything else are not going to be indicative of how the whole party feels.”

Weaver points to Republican governors such as New Jersey’s Chris Christie, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, and Michigan’s Rick Snyder as examples of conservatives who have successfully reached across the aisle and expanded their appeal to a larger swath of voters.

But he believes that gerrymandering of congressional districts (and the resulting fear of primary challenges from the right) means the next real opportunity to change the course of the party might not come until the 2016 presidential race -- if then.

Weaver sees worrisome parallels between the Republican Party of 2013 and the Democratic Party of the late ’60s and early ’70s.

“Either this election served as a wake-up call, or if you go back in history, perhaps Romney was our Humphrey, and we still have a McGovern to go through,” he said. “I hope it was our wake-up call, but maybe we have to get shellacked again.”

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Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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