The Left can run anybody reasonably qualified and count on, say, 46 to 48 percent of the vote. That’s the size of the combination of coastal elites, single professional women, young voters, environmentalists, minorities, and union activists that is in tune with the popular-media culture. Culturally, this is no longer Ronald Reagan’s America, which is why Reagan-like landslides are unlikely for Republican presidential nominees any time soon.
The question then becomes how to cobble together a majority by “running the table,” as it were, among the 52 to 54 percent of the country that remains at least open to conservative principles of limited government, strong defense, and traditional values. The numbers fully on board with these principles are considerably lower than a majority; the majority is available only to a candidate who can both inspire those fully on board and make the principles attractive to a floating 10 to 14 percent who just want to feel they are heard, understood, and appreciated.