With CPAC's recent refusal to invite the most popular conservative politician in Christendom, one wonders if the Republicans really do care about winning another national election or if they have decided the role of rabble rousing outsiders is more there cup of tea.
Chris Christie, despite some obvious obstacles, has managed to successfully create a blue print for how a modern conservative leader can stay relevant and popular whilst seeing through real conservative policies.
His reforms in New Jersey to pensions and education are startlingly in there boldness and how he has managed to bring onside supposed arch enemies to his reforms. This cosy chat with The President of The American Federation of Teachers is quite astonishing when you consider the venom and bile of his Town Hall debates with individual teachers.
Whilst many Republicans talk a good game about public sector reform, Christie is one of the few Governors who have actually delivered tangible results whilst not alienating the centre ground. Whereas Rick Scott in Florida was forced to abandon or water down many of his flagship reforms and Scott Walker in Wisconsin faced a recall election. Christie has fought his way through the storm of controversy and found himself on the other side with a number of flagship conservative achievements which all Republicans should be pleased to see.
Yet CPAC and the conservative entertainment complex has decided to make Christie a pariah and all for something that was completely out of his control. Super storm Sandy and Christie's response to the aftermath has redefined his image in the minds of many dogmatic conservatives from hero of the right to poodle of Obama and the liberal media.
The head of CPAC, Al Cardenas, came out after the furore of Christie's non-invite first broke and reasoned Christie's criticism of Republican speaker of the house John Boehner and his insistence on the Sandy Relief Bill being passed in a timely fashion somehow made him unsuitable to attend this year's conference. He was however gracious enough to say the door remained open for next year but only if Christie behaved like a good little conservative should.
Now there is a perfectly reasonable point to be made about how openly Christie embraced Obama immediately after the storm. You can look at how Mayor Bloomberg in New York was much less keen to have Obama tour New York in the immediate aftermath as an example of how Christie could have reacted differently whilst still getting the federal support that was needed.
Even so Super storm Sandy wrecked a level of destruction on New Jersey that no one had seen in their lifetime. The sheer uniqueness of the event meant all normal partisan politics was appropriately put to one side as the people of his state had the right to expect. When you're governor of a state where thousands of people are homeless and without basic amenities, you know the people expect a fierce relief response and if having the President of the United States fly in makes that response a fraction quicker then you're going to take it unquestioningly.
On top of this Christie had the 'gall' to expect the same level of federal aid to rebuild his state as was offered after similar natural disasters like Katrina and in the same time frame. John Boehner and the House GOP then decided to hold up the bill on purely political grounds as they were deep into the fiscal cliff negotiations with the White House. Later many of the House GOP, not from the north east, stated the excessive pork barrel spending in the relief bill was the reason it was held up. Many of these same House members were from southern coastal states who campaigned vigorously for similar federal relief aid in the aftermath of Katrina.
The hypocrisy on show was quite rightly outed by Christie in his famous press conference where he delivered a quite remarkable smack down to John Boehner. This public airing of private disagreements with fellow Republicans whilst boosting his standing in New Jersey obviously created a serious level of bitterness with Washington Republicans.
This justified criticism of the house Republicans also antagonised the conservative entertainment complex which in turn fed its anger at Christie down to grassroots tea party activists. The criticism of Christie's actions on all these three fronts was clearly behind CPAC's decision to not invite him. They were obviously paranoid that his brand of reasonable, problem solving conservatism wouldn't wash well with the hard line conservative ideologists that attend the conference.
A few clear thinking Republicans like Rep. Peter King have tried to downplay the significance of the CPAC snub. Unfortunately the selective hearing of the far right, which now has a stranglehold on the Republican party, just does not pick up these rare voices of sanity. Ideological purity has now trumped the idea of actually winning national elections.
The far right's grip on the selection of Republican candidates, in state and national elections, means these organisations like CPAC have been given more and more undeserved influence by Republican politicians cow towing to their desire for ideologically pure candidates. This is creating a circle of defeat and the squeezing out of all but a few select groups of people. If you're white, rich and Christian then come on in, otherwise you'll have the door slammed in your face by the sheer extremeness of their policy positions on everything from immigration to social issues.
The fact that a Republican like Christie who has managed to garner a 74% approval rating in a blue state like New Jersey is being shunned, shows just how little many conservatives want to actually win a national election. There is a dangerous belief that the only way you can stick to your political beliefs is by staying in opposition. Actually being in power is viewed as a grubby practice where constant compromising means you can never be a true conservative.
Christie has shown this not to be true. His battling reform agenda is conservative to the core and he's even pro life in a state where they haven't had a pro life governor in decades. What more is the guy supposed to do to get the backing of these idiots in the conservative movement. Well actually I know the answer. They want him to go down in flames espousing all the hard right conservative ideology that they advocate, because really they will always be suspicious of any Republican who can win in a Democratic heartland like New Jersey.
Many conservatives have given up on the idea of winning 50 states. They view it as a compromise too far and are happy to just concentrate on a few counties in Ohio and Florida. This narrow minded approach may have worked a decade ago but their supposed firewall of the south has now been breached in successive presidential elections. The loss of Virginia, for example, in 2008 and again in 2012 shows the Republicans have to reach out beyond their core vote if they've any chance of winning another national election. They have to at the very least push back against the Democrats in solid blue states. Lay the ground work for growth in places the Republicans haven't won since the eighties.
The issue still remains if there is the will on the part of moderate reasonable Republicans to fight back against the stupidity that is so prevalent in opinion formers of the conservative movement. Make no mistake if a group do decide to fight back it will be bloody and messy. Talk radio and certain sections of fox news will resist and will attempt to snuff out a significant change of direction before it can gain momentum.
This is where heavy weights like Christie need to front up and lead the transformation of the party. Alternative groups need to be formed to counter the influence of the likes of CPAC and the conservative entertainment complex needs to be pushed to the sidelines. Republicans need to re-engage with the mainstream media in a sensible way. Simply banging on about liberal bias in the media whilst on fox news doesn't achieve anything and only creates an unhealthy defensive attitude in the minds of conservatives.
Whether anything will change before 2016 remains to be seen and it could well be that the nadir of the Republican party has not yet been reached. It took the Conservative Party in Britain three successive election hammerings to start realising they needed to branch out beyond their core vote and even now the calls from inside the party to leave the centre ground are loud and vociferous.
Democrats of course can't believe their luck and are quite happy to camp out in the centre ground and lap up all the key voting demographics. Hillary Clinton will most likely wrap up the Democratic nomination with ease and sail into 2016 with a united, confident, big tent party firmly behind her.
In what shape the Republicans will meet her is completely down to them and whether they care about giving her a serious contest. If they decide to stick with the same tried and failed policies then I'm guessing they've decided it would be too ungentlemanly to get in the way of the first woman President. That's the only reason I can think of that makes any sense for carrying on the way they are.