The question that has hung over the Republican race for the past few months is whether the party is on the path to producing another historic loser by nominating an unelectable candidate, like Donald Trump or Ben Carson, or whether Republican voters, many of whom don’t make up their minds until the final days before a caucus or primary, will settle down with a more traditional—and electable—candidate, such as Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, John Kasich, or even the voluble Ted Cruz.
The most important of these groups is the one most journalists don’t understand and ignore: the somewhat conservative voters. This group is the most numerous nationally and in most states, comprising 35–40 percent of the national G.O.P. electorate. While the numbers of moderates, very conservative and evangelical voters vary significantly by state, somewhat conservative voters are found in similar proportions in every state. They are not very vocal, but they form the bedrock base of the Republican Party.
They also have a significant distinction: they always back the winner. The candidate who garners their favor has won each of the last four open races....They like even-keeled men with substantial governing experience. They like people who express conservative values on the economy or social issues, but who do not espouse radical change.