There's always endless chatter during every primary season about which candidate represents which wing of the party, which corner of the party's big tent each of them occupy and who will be the standard bearer for each constituency. In the case of the GOP the question is who will represent the Evangelicals, the 'Rockefeller Republicans', the Libertarians, the National Security Hawks, and this year the slightly amorphous group known as the Tea Party.
Here's a memo to aspiring presidents: You have to appeal to all your bases and only a conservative can do that. This is the easy bit, getting your party behind you. The tough part is getting everyone else to vote for you.
There are too many candidates who think they can lock in their base within a base, and then get the rest to follow once they have knocked out their opponents. Ron Paul has the Libertarians, but that's a base within a base. Rick Santorum has Evangelicals, for now at least, that's a base within a base.
Then you have candidates who think they can dip into all the bases, although not too deeply for fear of upsetting one of them. Almost like showing your face at several New Year's parties but not being at any of them when the clock strikes midnight.
It sounds simple but if you are an authentic conservative without political baggage you can bring all these GOP bases together, you just need the right candidate to pull it off.
There will be plenty of speculation in the coming weeks about the Establishment versus grassroots activists. There are candidates who can bring these together wings together. 2012 has been marked by the absence of anyone with the ability to perform this task.
What winners like Nixon, Reagan and George W. Bush managed to do was to get everyone on board, and get everyone energised. Being conservative will not alienate any of your base supporters if you stick to that mantra. Conservatives get elected as long as they have a wider appeal and can take America with them.
Just look at 'moderates' like George H.W. Bush, John McCain, Bob Dole or Gerald Ford. Wishy-washy moderates don't cut it, they lose.
Romney will probably go the same way even if he chooses a die-hard conservative or a party superstar as his running mate.
We'll hear lots as we approach New Hampshire and South Carolina about the need for the GOP to focus on 'electability'. Primary voters should be cautious about what that means. If history is anything to go by general election voters prefer presidential candidates, at least from the GOP, who are unashamed conservatives and not those who distance themselves from their base.
America is a conservative leaning country which means Democrats need to nominate someone who is closer to the centre ground on social and economic issues. Rightly or wrongly, 'liberal' and 'progressive' are often pejorative terms in US elections, 'conservative' is not.
Republicans have the luxury of selecting someone who is a 'true' conservative, provided they can appeal to a wider constituency not by cow-towing to them, but by being a leader who they trust on the economy and national defence. America doesn't really trust Republicans who are not trusted by their own supporters.
To be President, you need to have a united party behind you and be credible presidential material. And you need to be trusted as the chief economist and the commander-in-chief. For the Republicans only a conservative can achieve this status. Unfortunately for them no serious conservative contender entered this year's race.