Ross Douthat has a column in today's New York Times under the headline "The G.O.P.'s empty stage," likening the situation in the Republican presidential race to that preceding 1996. The column concludes as follows:
Fifteen years ago, in the wake of the 1994 Republican revolution, conservatives were in a similar position — fresh from a midterm victory but politically overextended, struggling to persuade a wary public to embrace limited government in practice as well as theory.
Out of a mediocre primary field, they ended up with Bob Dole as their standard-bearer. Their cause did not soon recover.
Actually, it recovered four years later, when the Republicans nominated George W. Bush, who won. One could argue that George W. Bush wasn't exactly a limited-government president, but in 2000, he ran on a platform of a big tax cut and school choice. There are elements of the current presidential and political dynamic that do remind me of the run-up to 1996, so I don't think Mr. Douthat has it entirely wrong, but I think he overstates the negative consequences to the Republicans of Mr. Dole's loss in 1996.