Jill Lawrence makes a fascinating point in her column today, writing that “Pat Toomey — the diehard conservative who drove Arlen Specter out of the Republican Party — seems almost middle of the road compared with his fellow Republican Senate nominees.”

If her theory is true — and I believe it is — then it implies that the shrewdest move conservatives can make is to field more conservative candidates.

Think of it as a negotiation. A smart negotiator will always ask for more than he is willing to settle for.

In political terms, this means that if you start off a negotiation by asking for, say, a Sen. Christine O’Donnell, you will likely be able to settle for a Senator Toomey. (You do this, knowing Toomey is really who you want, as he would be a major improvement over Specter).