Looking at the current political debate, it was evident in our focus group discussions that the divide between conservative Republicans and even the most conservative-leaning independents remains very, very wide. Independents harbor doubts about Obama’s health care reform but are desperate to see some version of health care reform pass this year; the conservative Republicans view any health care reform as a victory for Obama and are militantly opposed. The language they use further reflects this divide. Conservative Republicans fully embrace the ‘socialism’ attacks on Obama and believe it is the best, most accurate way to describe him and his agenda. Independents largely dismiss these attacks as partisan rhetoric detracting from a legitimate debate about what many of them do see as excessive government control and spending.Matt Yglesias made the point that this fits in with this post that describes how Republicans are missing an opportunity to really pin the Democrats with successful criticism because they are letting their loony media personalities dominate the discussion.
For my money, I'm not sure how you separate the two camps at this point. I know there are plenty of reasonable Republicans out there who probably have very excellent points and are likely very frustrated. But they have allowed the fringe to dominate for such a long time, that I don't know how they escape being tied to the sinking ship as well.