Rethinking the 2016 GOP nomination contest

Olsen argues that there are four factions that play a role in the nomination process. And Olsen says, as have other analysts, that the most important is the one often overlooked. The most conservative wing generally gets the most attention, but the voters who count most in the GOP nomination process are those who say they are “somewhat conservative.”

This is the largest group nationally and is consistently a big presence in all the states, unlike some of the other factions. “They are not very vocal but they form the bedrock base of the Republican Party,” Olsen writes. “They also have a significant distinction: they always back the winner.”

They backed then-senator Robert Dole in 1996, then-Texas governor George W. Bush in 2000, Arizona Sen. John McCain in 2008 and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in 2012. Olsen says these voters like candidates with governing experience, who have conservative values but do not push radical policies and are optimistic about the country. They reject culture warriors.

There are three other groups who make up the rest of the party. Surprisingly, the biggest after the “very conservative” group are moderates and liberals. Thought to be a dying breed, they account for about a quarter of the party.