The pragmatic wing of the Republican Party believes Mitt Romney, despite his flaws, is the best candidate to defeat Barack Obama and that the ticket to victory is the economy. Most Democratic insiders have long shared this view and have found the other party’s lack of consensus and flirtation with various disasters such as Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum to be puzzling and entertaining but nevertheless resulting in a Romney nomination.

Still, it’s worth noting again just how divided the Republican Party is and how strong its new Tea Party conservative base is becoming. Romney has outspent his opponents to an unprecedented degree — $90,000 per delegate — and he still can’t close the deal.

It may be that the party’s rift is similar to 1964 and 1976. In ’64, the GOP succumbed to its conservative base and nominated Barry Goldwater. In ‘76 it went with the establishment candidate, Jerry Ford. Interestingly, both candidates lost, partly because their candidacies were weakened by the deep divisions within their party. It seems clear to me that if Rick Santorum were a better candidate, he would win the nomination. His problem is that he is a deeply pessimistic, Old Testament-style conservative. What the party really wants is a sunny, optimistic conservative vision, which was once embodied by Ronald Reagan.