Dan Balz lays out the GOP's central predicament:
The shifting allegiances of Republican voters suggest not only a vote of no confidence in many of the candidates but also unresolved divisions within the party. The next nominee will have to bridge that divide. Republicans are united on many policy issues, but the tea party’s influence has pushed all the presidential candidates to the right.
To the far and generally unacceptable right, it would seem; and for the GOP, I don't see any way out. Not within a few months, anyway, since the Republican primaries, in what could be prolonged and grueling warfare, will keep the candidates pinned to the far right's wall.
The inevitable Mitt Romney, I'm sure, long ago wished to slip into yet another political metamorphosis, gravely intoning that he never meant to question the human contribution to global warming, and that he never meant to portray corporations in such a Shakespearean way -- Do they not bleed when they're pricked? -- and that he never meant to throw into doubt the historic profundities of his Massachusetts healthcare law.
All of this backpedaling -- and much, much more -- I'm sure Romney has had on the tip of his opportunistic tongue for months, since independent voters will think him quite mad should he persist otherwise. Yet he must persist; indeed he must mutate even madder, if he's to engender any enthusiasm among the GOP's motivated base.
In the process he's filling a vault of imperishable lunacies that President Obama's reelection team is undoubtedly viewing like grade-A porn. Is this as good as it gets? No, no, it's going to get even better, as Mitt Romney panders like a preening gigolo to the bluehairs and mossbacks who've already done bought their tickets for this here far-right freak show.
Can Romney afford to alienate them between now and next November? Nope. He'd then be without a base on which to build, yet he cannot build on the base he hopes to secure, poor devil, since it itself is eerily alienating.
Balz is correct: There's an enormous divide. But no bridge.