There is an assumption that the GOP is making a mistake when it shift to the right. I'm not so sure, in the short term, based on my travels and work this year. I've been from Florida to California, Minnesota to Texas. What I hear is a shift, a sharp shift, to conservative fiscal views -- and a deep anti-union, anti-corporation, anti-politician sentiment.
From Pew (July 16, 2010):
"In assessing their own political views, 40% of voters describe their own political views as conservative (either conservative or very conservative), 36% as moderate, and 22% as liberal (including very liberal). There are substantial differences in the way that Republican and Democratic voters describe their political views."
Working with colleagues analyzing local views, we find a substantial "blue collar" shift to the right. Even in New Jersey, we find that 40% of "likely voter" union households support the policies of Gov. Christie.
When asked which party most closely reflects their views, not how they are registered, 29% of voters respond Republicans, 32% Democrats. That leaves a huge number of unaffiliated voters. However, when asked which party is more extreme, a strange thing is happening: more people are likely to call the Democrats "too liberal" than to describe Republicans as "too conservative." Tea Party approval remains around 38% as well. That's a significant finding and hard to ignore in this climate.
In the long term, I think both parties are losing the center. But, the GOP is following the voters -- not the other way around.