So we have the beginnings of what I referred to today on the Chris Matthews’ Show: an anti-war, socially conservative surge in the Republican party. Now all you have to do is add economic populism to that mix, and you’ve got yourself a powerful electoral combination. ~Andrew Sullivan

I don’t know why it’s hard for Sullivan to get basic things right, but he has a terrible time of it here.  First he cites Noam Scheiber’s note about the AP/Ipsos numbers that purport to show that 60% of evangelicals and 56% of self-described conservatives oppose the “surge” (which seems like a more and more questionable number the more other polls I see showing 60-70% Republican support for the proposal) and misinterprets this as an “antiwar” position.  This follows his mistake late last week of believing that Brownback’s opposition to the “surge,” which is notable because of his ambitions and because of how rare it is for a red state Republican Senator to oppose the policy, was a harbinger of general GOP backlash against the “surge.”  That would be interesting, except that Sen. Brownback does not represent the mood of today’s GOP–I believe that mood is better expressed by Quin Hillyer, who finds Brownback’s anti-”surge” view (and the timing of his statement about it) to be “perfidy.” 

Of course, to be against the “surge” is not necessarily to be against the war, though all antiwar people are against the “surge.”  To be against the “surge” simply shows a certain degree of common sense and a refusal to throw more Americans into the fire to try to achieve unrealistic goals.  If these same evangelicals and conservatives are polled about their support for the war, what do you think the numbers would be?  I would bet good money that majorities of both groups, perhaps large majorities, would say that they support the war and, by extension, they would not accept the obvious alternative to “surging,” which is withdrawal.  I would love to believe that after nearly four years the groups that have shown the most die-hard support for Mr. Bush’s War have abandoned his policy and have turned against the war, but I realise that this is improbable.  I would love to think that the entirety of the 30-odd percent of Republicans who oppose the “surge” come disproportionately from evangelical and avowedly conservative quarters where there is now strong antiwar sentiment, but it actually doesn’t match the trends of their views on this war at all.  If these people are against the “surge,” it is still a very different thing from being against the war.  The antiwar candidate who thinks his natural base is made up of evangelicals and self-described conservatives will, I’m sorry, be horribly disappointed.  Whether that should be the case is an entirely different question that relates to what old fundamentalists and almost all conservatives used to think about insane “God wants us to make the world democratic” foreign policy.

As for the appeal of an antiwar, socially conservative and economically populist candidate, it might very well be strong in certain parts of the country (it would probably be dynamite in the Plains states and the Midwest), but at least one of those three is a deal-breaker for both parties’ core voters and financial supporters.  If Brownback did want to pursue such a Buchananite path (which would be so contrary to his record and so out of character for him that it makes me laugh that his name is mentioned in the same breath with some of these positions), he would have a tremendously difficult time getting anywhere againt the GOP establishment.  Indeed, that combination almost perfectly fits a Jim Webb (he is fairly socially conservative, but not enough for most social conservatives).  Except for Ron Paul, whose candidacy I will gladly and enthusiastically support if he decides to go forward with a run, there are no Republican antiwar candidates.  Brownback’s opposition to the “surge” does not begin to make him one, and evangelical and conservative opposition to the “surge” does not the beginnings of an antiwar voting bloc make.