I believe that Robert Stacy McCain(no relation to the Senator) hits it out of the park in his most recent piece in the American Spectator in which he noted that even though a Republican might have lost the 2008 election, the conservative movement is far from being washed. Here's a sample of McCain's argument on why the Republican party lost and not the conservative movement:
Perhaps the most important statistic for conservatives to keep in mind today -- as pundits pore over and pour out exit-poll data to tell us What It Means -- is this: 53 percent of Republican primary voters did not vote for John McCain.
While the Democratic struggle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton captured all the headlines during the primary season, few pundits noticed the massive Republican resistance to McCain's nomination.
For example, on Super Tuesday, Feb. 5, McCain got 33 percent of the primary vote in Missouri, 32 percent in Tennessee and Georgia; in caucuses that day, he got 22 percent in the Minnesota and 19 percent in Colorado. McCain's share of the total Republican primary vote through Super Tuesday was only 39 percent.
Nor did the resistance end after McCain's most formidable rival, Mitt Romney, called it quits Feb. 7. As late as May 20 -- by which time McCain had been the de facto nominee for more than two months -- 28 percent of voters in the Kentucky GOP primary cast their ballots for other candidates or voted "uncommitted."
Conservatives who sought to prevent McCain's nomination cannot be blamed for his defeat. And it is his defeat, not yours.
Ideologues tend to see election results in ideological terms. Right now, "progressives" are congratulating themselves on the triumph of progressivism. But Obama will be the next president because millions of non-ideological "swing" voters -- those I call the Ordinary Americans -- saw him as the superior candidate. A vote for him was not, in the eyes of those key voters, an endorsement of any ideology.
Yes, "Bush fatigue" was part of what happened Tuesday. Yes, Republican "brand damage" is a real phenomenon. But if you've ever talked to a true independent voter, you know their mantra: "I don't vote for the party. I vote for the man."
Good candidates win elections, and bad candidates lose. John McCain was a bad candidate and he lost. Those who try to put an ideological spin on this election will miss that basic point.
The whole point is that the party's standard bearer strayed too far from the conservative movement with his forays into campaign finance reform, comprehensive immigration reform, his populist denunciations of "greed". Even more, the shear ineptitude of the campaign to articulate a pro growth, free market program that actually offered the voters a choice. You can have all the policy papers and web pages listing you economic policies that you want, but if you don't create and articulate a narrative about what your policies are then you fall prey to your opponent and allow him room to paint you and your policies the way they want to. So conservatives don't let your heart be troubled and remember that whenever Republicans drift away from their conservative moorings(At least since the founding of the modern conservative movement in 1955) and float into the squishy shoals of the moderate Eisenhower/Rockefeller/Ford wing of the party they are destined to lose to a Democrat who clefts to the center and has a clear message. Let this be a lesson for Republicans and their selection of candidates in 2010 and 2012.