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What Are The Republican Elites Thinking?

I've always had a lot of respect for the Republican elite, by which I mean respect for their ability to evaluate candidates and pick the best one available. I really don't understand what they're thinking right now, though, and I raise the issue in a column for the New York Times magazine:

The Republican Party’s presidential-nominating process has always been run by elites. Oh, the voters have their brief moments of triumph, hoisting up an unelectable right-winger (i.e., Pat Buchanan) or an uncontrollable moderate (John McCain, the circa-2000 version). But the establishment always wins. Meeting in their K Street offices and communicating through organs like George Will’s column and National Review, the main financers and organizers settle upon a useful frontman, a reliable vessel for the party’s agenda who — and this is the crucial part — is blessed with the requisite political talent. Democrats have been known to mess that last part up and nominate a dweeb, but Republicans have generally understood that an agenda tilted toward the desires of the powerful requires a skilled frontman who can pitch Middle America. Favorite character types include jocks, movie stars, folksy Texans and war heroes.
The hidden hand of the G.O.P. establishment is once again at work. Dissatisfied with a presidential field consisting of boring retreads (Mitt RomneyMike Huckabee) and Tea Party-endorsed outsiders (Michele BachmannSarah Palin), various elites have been trying to coalesce around a candidate of their own.
Now here is where the story gets strange. The candidates they are recruiting make Michael Dukakis look like John F. Kennedy. They are qualified enough to serve as president, but wildly unqualified to run for president. One way to put this is that most powerful people in the G.O.P. have suddenly gone idealistic. Another way to put it is that they’ve lost their minds.

You may or may not need to subscribe to read it, depending on how often you read the Times. If you need to subscribe, you should. It's a good newspaper.