At the New York Times Magazine, Matt Bai offers his take on what will happen within the Republican Party should Mitt Romney lose:
[A]ttention will instantly shift toward the new generation of potential messengers: Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio, Chris Christie and Bobby Jindal. And there will immediately be, as there was on Romney, enormous pressure to soothe and placate the activist base before making a bid to redefine conservatism for the broad center of the electorate. Already Rush Limbaugh has hinted darkly at the creation of a reactionary third party should Romney lose (as if somehow his losing could be laid on the centrists whose advice Romney has almost uniformly ignored).
Those aspirants for 2016 may well have better political instincts than Romney, but the trap that awaits them is the same. Romney spent the last few years trying to ingratiate himself to primary voters, the idea being, presumably, that he would have six months to chart his own, more moderate path after he claimed the nomination. He hasn’t. Nor does he seem to have given any deep thought to what a more pragmatic and inclusive agenda might actually entail. But that may have less to do with Romney’s erratic campaign than with the unreconcilable dilemma facing anyone who wants to lead Republicans after November. You can channel the extremists, or you can lead your party toward modernity, but you really can’t do both.
In other words, win or lose the ship of the Republican Party will continue to be perilously steered, much of the time, by its old-time religion faction. Only by crashing into fast-shifting demographic realities will the party ever likely right its course to the center.
That would make Mitt Romney this year’s Odysseus. Romney, as the Republican ship’s captain, is attempting to navigate between Scylla and Charybdis. In Greek myth, Scylla and Charybdis are sea monsters situated to either side of the Strait of Messina (between the Italian mainland and Sicily). If Romney goes too far to the left or right, he’ll find himself eaten by one of them on election day.
Here’s Johann Heinrich Fussli’s depiction of the sea monsters (via Wikipedia Commons). That would be Mitt Romney with his ass exposed. My prediction is that Mitt Romney won’t successfully navigate this strait and the result, after he loses the election, will be a full-blown civil war within the Republican Party over how to proceed in the face of America’s new demographic realities.