“‘We want a conservative nominee because that’s our best chance of winning. Look at the races in the last 30 years, we nominated a moderate: [John] McCain, [Bob] Dole, Gerald Ford. When George [H.W.] Bush ran for re-election back in 1992, after raising taxes and increasing spending. They all ran as moderates. We all lost,’ Santorum said.

“‘Every time we’ve run as a conservative, we’ve won,’ the candidate continued. ‘Why? Because Americans want a choice. If it’s a difference between somebody, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, you know what, this country is going to probably going to stick with the person they know. We need to have a sharp contrast. Someone who paints a very different vision for America.'”

***

“‘I have the perfect candidate — Jeb Bush. But he’s not running,’ former George W. Bush chief of staff Andy Card told Charlie Rose on CBS on Wednesday, echoing the sentiments of many in his party.

“‘What Democrat would not worry about a popular leader from a critical state who sounds pretty moderate and can rescue the GOP from its anti-Latino death grip?’ asked former Bill Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry, who said he’s yet to find a Democratic elder who thinks the GOP is truly ‘unhinged’ enough to consider ditching Romney for Bush…

“‘Don’t buy the bulls—- about us not being worried about Jeb,’ added a veteran Democratic operative. ‘He’s a tough matchup even if his last name is Bush.'”

***

“But beyond being one of Poppy’s boys, the actual Jeb Bush would have another problem as a candidate. The party has marched inexorably to the right in a way that leaves him decidedly out of step

“When a Republican says he ‘used to be a conservative,’ he means he doesn’t much like the party’s rightward lurch. Are angry primary voters who have given Rick Santorum a series of victories (and a near-miss in Mitt Romney’s home state of Michigan) going to flock to a candidate who talks like that?

“Then there is Bush’s somewhat moderate approach to immigration. Jeb is fluent in Spanish and married to a Mexican-born woman; that would seem an ideal profile for a party that badly needs to attract Hispanics. But Jeb opposed Arizona’s harsh law cracking down on those here illegally and similar efforts in other states.”

***

“Let’s be honest, the marriage between the Republican Party and the tea party has always been a marriage of convenience — and an uncomfortable marriage of convenience at best. Unfortunately, this marriage is no longer working and it is time for both sides to move on. Call it irreconcilable differences…

“Moderate talking heads like David Brooks and David Frum, along with their ideological soul mates on the Hill, attacked the tea party as ‘radical’ and ridiculed tea party activists as politically naïve.

“Both the moderate and the conservative establishment types feared that the dirty, unwashed masses of the tea party might actually change how things are done in Washington — leaving them and their K Street buddies out of power and out of work…

“Now, unfortunately, the tea party is seen as just another Republican Party interest group. Another interest group to be used for fundraising and to turn out votes on Election Day, and then to be ignored when the politicians get back to doing the work of Washington.”

***

“‘We spend a lot of time talking about other countries, particularly the Middle East and places where there’s a lot of religious excessive demand,’ Mr. Kerry said. ‘But here in our own country, we have our own fundamentalists and we have our own excesses of demand today, and expectation with respect to towing the line.’…

“‘Why are we stuck? Why is this the way it is? Why does Olympia Snowe leave? Why are we gridlocked?’ he asked rhetorically. ‘Well, I’ll tell you in very simple terms; certain people in the leadership of the United States Congress have made a decision that their primary objective is not fixing the economy, it is defeating this president. And they have decided to do everything possible to gridlock everything in order that we all look bad and then people throw everybody out and they’ll come into power.’…

“‘It’s the most depressingly small minded, venal unpatriotic thing I’ve ever seen in my life,’ he said.”

***

“In a politically diverse nation, only by finding that common ground can we achieve results for the common good. That is not happening today and, frankly, I do not see it happening in the near future.

“For change to occur, our leaders must understand that there is not only strength in compromise, courage in conciliation and honor in consensus-building — but also a political reward for following these tenets. That reward will be real only if the people demonstrate their desire for politicians to come together after the planks in their respective party platforms do not prevail.

“I certainly don’t have all the answers, and reversing the corrosive trend of winner-take-all politics will take time. But as I enter a new chapter in my life, I see a critical need to engender public support for the political center, for our democracy to flourish and to find solutions that unite rather than divide us.

“I do not believe that, in the near term, the Senate can correct itself from within. It is by nature a political entity and, therefore, there must be a benefit to working across the aisle.”

***

“Among the biases of the mainstream political media, the most absurd is the adoration of the ‘moderate.’ When Maine’s Olympia Snowe, the most liberal Senate Republican, announced her retirement Tuesday, it sparked an avalanche of lamentation and praise of this ‘dying breed’ of moderate…

“New York Times columnist David Brooks blames the Tea Partiers and other grassroots conservatives (‘wingers,’ he calls them) for making the GOP “more and more insular, more and more rigid” and being too intolerant of compromise. Someone should show Brooks the GOP presidential field. The ever-changing policy views of front-runner Mitt Romney can be derided in many ways, but never as ‘rigid.’ Nor can the mercurial Newt Gingrich be pinned down as unbending…

“Moderates are as guilty as anyone of being intolerant when faced with conflicts within the GOP. Frum blasted as ‘Unpatriotic’ those conservatives who failed to support George W. Bush’s ill-considered invasion of Iraq, and urged all conservatives to “turn [their] backs” on these heretics. Brooks himself draws some pretty rigid boundaries of permissible dissent, excoriating as ‘nihilists’ those who opposed the unprecedented and unfair Troubled Asset Relief Program in 2008…

“Frum’s attempted purges, Specter’s naked self-preservation, and Tauzin’s and Bayh’s self-enrichment show moderates are no more tolerant or altruistic than the ‘wingers’ Brooks fears. Moderates in both parties may be a dying breed, but maybe not one worth saving.”

***

“In the real world, Republican members of Congress who scoffed at ideology spent decades cutting corrupt deals, buying votes with pork barrel spending, and expanding government to unsustainable levels while sweeping our nation’s long-term problems under the rug.

“Traditionally, Republicans would complain about big government while collaborating with Democrats to augment its size and scope. Yet last year, the House of Representatives passed the first serious plan to reform entitlements and balance the long-term budget, with all but four Republicans voting for Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposal…

“If it were up to Obama and ‘responsible’ moderates, the debt ceiling would have been raised without much fanfare, like business as usual. But the Tea Party protesters forced the issue, and that’s the only reason Obama has budget savings to tout.

“Despite how the fairy tale goes, in reality the backslapping Republican moderates are the ones who helped bring this nation to the brink of financial ruin. And only bold and principled conservative leadership can save us.”