"The conservatives are coming! The conservatives are coming!!" Tom Humphrey tells how the social conservatives are not only taking over the state GOP but also the state legislature and the state in its entirety.
moderate Mitt Romney facing conservatives split between Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, dramatically outspending them and backed by the state's Republican establishment, led by Haslam. (The governor, incidentally, has used the slogans "new normal" and "believe in better" in slightly different contexts.)
But it was not to be. Santorum swept 37 percent of the vote, 10 points ahead of Romney, and Gingrich came in with about 24 percent.
The social conservatives collectively had such a substantial margin over the moderates that, even when split, they prevailed in the statewide voting. Gingrich and Santorum together had 61 percent of the vote. Throw in Ron Paul, and it's close to 70 percent.
This contrasts with the Haslam and Corker elections, wherein the competing conservatives were splitting up a much more narrow majority. This would indicate that, in the new normal, social conservatives now have very strong voting control of the Tennessee Republican party on a statewide basis.
While that is something of a milestone marker, or maybe a high-water mark, it's not exactly a shocking development. The trend toward social conservatism has been apparent for some time in the Legislature, where it's a general rule of thumb — there are exceptions — that the less seniority a Republican legislator has, the more socially conservative he or she is.