Break out either the champagne or the sharpened stones, because it’s well past time that we found some sort of consensus on a question which has been chomping at our collective heels for the last two presidential election cycles. And with a bit of focus, we might actually come to some conclusions as to how we handle this before the Hillary/Christie Show sucks up all of the Nielson ratings. I speak, of course, of the now seemingly eternal battle over the GOP primary battle and the unending complaints that the party’s voters seem to keep electing squishy moderates when a true conservative could have carried the day.

One half of this theory now has a two season track record of proving true; both John McCain and Mitt Romney were widely lambasted in conservative circles – including significant portions of the tight-knit group of the Hot Air commentariat – as being far too weak on conservative doctrine as defined in one or more of the three legs of the conservative stool. (i.e. fiscal conservatives, so-cons and foreign policy hawks.) There’s not much room to argue with proponents of this theory, given the notable lack of President McCain and President Romney memorial libraries being planned across the land.

But what if 2008 had produced a nominee of Huckabee or Brownback? In the battle of 2012, would history have been playing out in a vastly different fashion if Santorum or Cain had carried the banner? Barring the invention of some sort of alternate universe, parallel time machine, we’re never going to know. But maybe… just maybe… the theory can finally be put to the test.

My own views on this are no secret to long time readers, coming from the let’s not go embracing the crazy and alienating the middle crowd, but it’s not as if I’ve suggested a viable alternative either. With things looking more and more like an inevitable Hillary nomination for 2016, this may be the time to see if the metal hardened in the fires of the true conservative belly can stand up to the test. What’s the worst that could happen? We lose? That’s becoming something of a habit lately anyway.

Is it too early to have this fight? Of course it is. But the early bird gets the Iowa worm, and both the media and the “establishment” icons aren’t sitting on their thumbs. The great Liberal television bastion is already on board with defining Ted Cruz as either stupid, evil or crazy. The aforementioned not-president Romney is helpfully dispensing advice about not nominating conservatives who just can’t win.

Watching the early responses from the most conservative bastions on the web, a mad rush to nominate Christie would just be round three of losing fight and the next chapter in the collapse of the GOP. Rubio is all ganged up and went soft on immigration. Rand Paul is still popular in many quarters, but he’s got that whole “crazy dad and no use of the military” thing going. And I’m sure Bobby Jindal must have done something disappointing by now.

So what say we conduct the experiment that could – and I emphasize could here – finally settle the question once and for all. Let’s just nominate somebody who has welded on all three legs of the stool and leaves not a sliver of daylight for the squishiness question. A nominee who will state without ambiguity that we’re going to bomb the crap out of anyone who is actively working against our interests. One who flatly proclaims that there will be no abortions for anyone and new Supreme Court justices will be inclined to overturn Roe v Wade. They will solemnly aver that we will slash both taxes and spending in a serious fashion, consequences be damned, and that any money spent on immigration reform will go toward arresting and deporting illegals while massively strengthening the borders. And if the only path available to deal with argumentative Democrats is to shut the government down, then By God they will personally be the one to turn out the lights as the last one out the door.

But who is left to fill the bill? As I indicated at the top – with apologies to any of your other favorites – we should narrow it down to people who have the name recognition to at least launch a viable campaign and have actively indicated at least some interest in running. Sounds like Ted Cruz or Peter King to me. And, yes, let’s toss in Sarah Palin who is far from past her prime and has never entirely ruled out the possibility, while clearly meeting all of the criteria above. (I really want to include Rick Santorum as well, but we already gave him a turn. Besides, Dr. Joyner said he can’t win.) I’m not saying anyone else should be barred from participating in the democratic process if they wish to grab for the brass ring here. But if the seemingly divided Republican electorate is really and truly interested in settling this question (rather than just having another excuse to carp at each other endlessly to the end of time) then the opportune moment for this experiment has surely come. We tried it one way in 2008 and 2012, and it’s only fair to give the other side a chance to walk the walk, so let’s get everyone from both sides on board.

And while we’re at it, let’s take a page from Ed’s book in terms of the debates. Leave them off the networks entirely and take them out of the hands of the media experts who have no interest beyond spurring infighting highlight reel clips. I’m not saying to pitch them softball questions, but keep them honest on policy issues which matter to primary voters. Hold the debates online. Those who really want to fairly evaluate the candidates will find them and the networks will still air clips from them to fill the vacuum.

Then, in November of 2016, we should know one of two things. If the uber-conservative candidate racks up a 300ish plus electoral vote victory similar to Obama’s last outing, the critics will be vindicated and can authoritatively tell the RINOs to STFU and STFD. Just be happy with the win, accept the new paradigm and everyone can move on with their lives.

But what if they wind up taking a worse beating than Romney at the hands of Hillary? (Or whoever the Democrats nominate, assuming there is somebody out there besides the Candidate of Destiny Part Two.) Then the opposite would be true, the RINOs can happily keep up their fight to win over the middle and the debate will be settled once and for all.

But, of course, there is a third and possibly worse potential outcome.

What if the candidate in question lost the popular vote by 4 or 5 percent, essentially running up the same score in the same states that Mitt did? What sort of message does that send? The reason it might be the worst possible outcome is that we’d be left with the prospect of a nation which has simply drifted too far away from the entire idea of conservatism and the GOP to deliver a win at the national level for any candidate. All of these “establishment v True Conservative” arguments would have been for nothing, since it never really mattered anyway.

It would be an interesting test run to say the least, and I’m not just positing this as some sort of caustic thought experiment. If you get one of them to the top of the stack in a primary race, I’ll be on board. I really want to know the answer to this one.

UPDATE: (Jazz) Doug Mataconis weighs in with one possibility I didn’t consider, and I don’t see this as the likely outcome.

The one flaw I see in the whole strategy of letting the hard-right pick whatever nominee they want in 2016 and seeing the chips fall where they may, is that I think its unlikely that strident conservatives are going to admit defeat even when its presented to them on a silver platter. Much as they blame the GOP’s losses in 2012 and 2008 on the alleged fact that the candidates in question weren’t conservative enough, they’d find a way to blame a 2016 loss on something other than a failure of conservative ideology. The so-called “mainstream media” is always a convenient target, and would likely be one in the wake of a 2016 loss as well. They’ll argue that the so-called Establishment GOP abandoned their candidate and failed to get behind him or her during the campaign. If necessary, they’ll blame the candidate him or herself. At no point will they actually admit that the candidate lost because they dragged the party too far to the right.