The contest for the presidency turns on external events as much as—or more than—internal party politics. George W. Bush’s team believed that the last-minute revelation of a 1976 drunk-driving arrest cost him the popular vote in the 2000 election. Jimmy Carter blamed his 1980 defeat on the debacle of the attempted rescue of American hostages in Iran. So anything can happen. But that does not mean anything will happen. Barring shocks, presidential elections turn on the fundamentals of economics, demography, and ideology.
The puzzle for the monied leaders of the Republican Party is: What now? And what next after that? None of the options facing the GOP elite is entirely congenial. But there appear to be four paths the elite could follow, for this campaign season and beyond.
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