The New Jersey governor’s race is the polar opposite of Virginia’s gubernatorial contest. In New Jersey, right-wingers have nothing nice to say about Republican Gov. Chris Christie, but he leads in the race by over 30 points in the latest Quinnipiac poll, has no gender gap, leads among independents and is more popular with those making under $50,000. Oh, and he gets about 30 percent of Democrats and 30 percent of the African American vote. Plainly, Christie is in tune with New Jersey voters and right-wingers are not.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (Mel Evans/Associated Press)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (Mel Evans/Associated Press)

Meanwhile, right-wing darling Ken Cuccinelli, as we noted earlier, is losing with a huge gender gap, dreadful numbers among non-white voters and a deficit with independents. Once again the right wing has a state and candidate pegged incorrectly.

Now consider who is the “better” conservative: the guy about to be elected twice or the guy who is losing to Terry McAuliffe? Christie pushed through tax cuts, school reform, balanced budgets and criminal justice reform. Losers get none of their agenda passed. Repeatedly, Republican hard-liners are choosing to lose either legislatively or at the polls by being “uncompromising,” “standing up for principles” and being the “true” conservative. If they keep it up, there will be many more Democratic governors in states like Virginia, another Clinton in the White House and virtually a permanent Democratic majority in the Senate. The conservative agenda will go nowhere, although right-wingers can pat themselves on the pat for their ideological purity.

The nose for the wrong guy and the aversion to the winners have plagued the hard right for multiple elections, most especially in the Senate. But Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Mitt Romney lost! C’mon. the alternative to McCain on the right was Romney in 2008 and few if any non-hard-liners think Herman Cain or Newt Gingrich or any other of the declared candidates would have done any better in 2012 (and in all likelihood a whole lot worse).

Maybe hard-liners should start listening to actual voters rather than trying to foist their ideal conservative on an unwilling public. That means eschewing closed conventions like the one that nominated Cuccinelli and rethinking their crusade against incumbents who fail the right-wing purity test. It also means taking another look at what qualities and policies make Republicans electable.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.