Does all this mean that the GOP has re-embraced its Nelson Rockefeller roots? Of course not.
But it does hint that this year’s primary season won’t be a replay of the dreadful 2008 debates in which the candidates auditioned to play the part of Ronald Reagan in the school play.
It also suggests that the front-runners — a group that includes former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty — might be ahead of the rank and file of the GOP.
Come November, it is very unlikely that conservative voters will stay home. So, barring a truly fringe GOP nominee, they will vote against Obama no matter what. Already, the conversation on the right is moving toward the all-important question of “electability” — i.e., which candidate can peel off the handful of moderates and independents needed to win in an election that will be a referendum on Obama and his record.