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In Washington they made it official when the House passed another, father-right version of Paul Ryan's budget. And at that moment, the party signed itself up for another difficult pitch for the support of more than half the country.
Ryan's budget -- and, if he runs in 2016, Ryan himself -- remains the policy benchmark for GOP presidential hopefuls. In that emerging field his budget is probably the left-most agenda a contender can proffer. You've gotta imagine that's why Jindal tried to lay claim to something different but even more austere. His effort failed, obviously, and for the same reason it failed, it's hard to imagine a GOP governor with designs on the White House passing anything similar in a different state. But as far as articulating principles goes, it's easy to imagine all of the eventual candidates leapfrogging each other toward the most ideologically pure position on the right.
That means the eventual nominee will once again be locked to a familiar but rejected worldview: that taxes on the rich are too high, taxes on the middle class should be higher, social welfare programs are too generous, big business is too highly regulated, and Obamacare should be repealed. Even if Republicans get better at not calling half the country moochers in public or semi-public fora, their policies will reflect that belief. And barring unpredictable events, its hard to imagine the GOP doing anything between now and then to make these sought-after voters look past what is now the defining character of modern conservatism.