Which is a pretty appropriate description of members of that party
in the grassroots right now, because so many people who would otherwise
seem aligned in principles and values have splintered into smaller
groups that are turning their backs on one candidate or another of
their party….or all but their own candidate. And it seems
that whatever backing (no pun intended) they have for any particular
candidate is, by and large, uneasy at best. Terribly uneasy.

We’re hearing the word “angst” an awful lot right now. It’s become a
buzzword in this campaign the way “gravitas” did back in 2000 when
George Bush chose Dick Cheney as his running mate (But does he have enough gravitas, the press wondered constantly.)

So why angst? Or….is it truly angst among the conservative electorate, or just the media saying so?

It’s truly angst. The media have written off Mike Huckabee and they
never let Ron Paul in to begin with. Yet both have a tremendously
hopeful (but nervous) base who see them as the truest pro-life and most
consistently moral candidates in the race. This race is by no means
over and Super Tuesday will count the votes of 22 states, nearly half
of the nation. The nervous base of both men are trying to mobilize
supporters to disregard media punditry (which is increasingly easy to
do) and get out the vote.

Here’s one take on a party at odds with itself, Peggy Noonan’s insight.

If you go by the Florida returns, maybe this year
positions aren’t everything. Republicans on the ground think the
conservative is the one who suffered 5½ years in the Hanoi Hilton.
Republicans on the ground think the conservative is the one who has
endured a lifetime in the rounds in Washington and survived as
antispending, antiabortion and pro-military. Republicans on the ground
think the conservative is the old fighter jock who’ll keep the country
safe in a rocky time ahead. And maybe Republicans on the ground are
saying: He earned it.

The conventional wisdom is Mr. Romney can’t win it while Mike
Huckabee’s in it. If Mr. Huckabee dropped out, Mr. Romney might pick up
his conservatives. But Mr. Huckabee seems very happy running, and
perhaps happy thinking of his future as the Mitt slayer in the party of
John.

Mr. McCain seems to me to have two immediate problems, both of which
he might address. One is that he doesn’t seem to much like
conservatives, and never has. They can’t help admire him, but they’ve
disagreed with him on so many issues, and when they bring this up his
demeanor tends to morph into the second problem: He radiates, he
telegraphs, a certain indignation at being questioned by people who’ve
never had to vote in Congress and make a deal.

And that indignation is getting more pronounced. It was very evident
in the debate this week at the Reagan Library, especially unleashed on
Romney.

Couple of particular points in this column bear highlighting. One,
McCain is “not getting even close to half the vote, as the presumptive
nominee should.”

And two, “the great unruly base may be doing some redefining.” If nothing else is clear, that is.

The Republican party and the conservative movement in America are
trying to find themselves, and in the process are forced to define who
they are and what are the principles on which they stand. The pro-life
plank is the beam that has supported the Republican platform. It came
loose when the party flirted with Rudy Giuliani. If they don’t nail it
down now, it won’t hold the party, and they will have to begin to build
again.

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Cnn photo

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....