Political question: winning or idealogical?

Political activists in both major parties are divided over whether candidates should be pure or electable.

Columnist George Will wrote about two Minnesota presidential candidates, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann: “He would be much easier to elect than to nominate; regarding her, reverse that.”

Those in the right wing of the Republican Party and left wing of the Democratic Party are more likely to attend caucuses, be elected to conventions and vote in primaries than those more toward to middle. So, as Will says, GOP conservatives hold more power in nominating the party’s presidential candidate than the more moderate segment.

And when political extremes pick candidates, moderates often have no place to go. An example is last year’s Minnesota governor race, where Republican Tom Emmer and Democrat Mark Dayton represented the two sides.

The debate about whether it is wise to pick someone who sticks closely to an ideological extreme fits into the Iowa caucus presidential campaign.

“One of the big debates within your party is winning vs. principles,” radio talk show host Steve Deace said recently before a southern Iowa Bachmann appearance.

The conservative talker, who was fired from the state’s most prominent radio station, said he thinks right-wing principles can win an election.

Try as he might to sound ultra conservative, most people do not think Pawlenty is as far right as Bachmann. He is trying to turn that into a plus in the Iowa campaign by saying he is more electable than other candidates.

The first sign of whether that is working comes in a few days when a major straw poll is held in Ames, Iowa, with Pawlenty and Bachmann the two most-followed candidates.

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