EDITORIAL:  GOP's Betty Ireland is Yesterday's Republican

Former Secretary of State Betty Ireland announced yesterday that she is officially entering the GOP Primary for Governor.  This announcement, made in Charleston, puzzled some people.

They wondered why Ireland thought it necessary to announce anything before we know whether the state will have elections or party conventions for this next gubernatorial primary.

Undeterred and always ambitious, Ireland plowed on, even though her campaign website is just a placeholder page.

But this is precisely the problem with Ireland's entire effort.  Ireland has always seemed to push herself forward without an intelligible rationale.  Vaguely pro-business, with only electronic voting machines as a talking point from her four years as Secretary of State, Ireland needs to come up with a more compelling reason for people to rally around her candidacy.

And let's face it, with all the problems some West Virginia counties have had with electronic voting machines, does Ireland really want to remind everyone that she helped put them in? 

So what does Ireland talk about that is a subject uniquely hers to own? In the past, she hasn't talked much about the issues of importance to the grassroots social conservatives with their pro-life, pro-gun, pro-family sensitivities. How about the economy?  But everyone in both parties is talking about that. 

At age 66, Betty Ireland seems like yesterday's Republican.  Before Ronald Reagan swept across the American landscape, capturing the 1980 Presidential GOP primary from more moderate Republicans, the Party of Lincoln looked a lot like Ireland, stressing individual candidacies rather than shared conservative principles. 

Yesterday's Republican leaders were inherently moderate, even liberal on some issues, with little interest in the social issues that conservative grassroots Republicans embraced.  Such moderates held conservatives like that in disdain.

Reagan changed all that.  While moderates were still welcome in his refashioned Republican Party, conservatives ever since have been in the majority and have developed the party's issues.  Now Republicans and conservative Democrats will first ask of any candidate, "What does she stand for?" Since their specialty is knowing the nuances of economic and social policy, conservatives have become rather good at sniffing out a genuine conservative from a play actor who is just trying to get their votes. In short, they know what questions to ask.

Conservatives have been betrayed before by moderates who hide their real issues. They are within their rights to not want to be used again, only to be forgotten the day after Election Day.  They have learned to be careful about whom they support.

As a result, conservatives want someone with a track record they can inspect in order to determine whether a candidate is truly one of them or not.

Few can remember a talk given by Ireland on a specifically social conservative subject in all of her years of public life.  She will have some catching up to do, explaining where she is on all those conservative values that most Republicans want in their Governor.

So the silence you heard following Ireland's official campaign announcement in Charleston yesterday was that of the great majority of Republicans in West Virginia sitting on their hands, waiting and seeing who else may get into this race.  Ireland may be in the hunt officially now, but only time will tell if she is truly one of the hounds or the fox herself.