Republicans — divided as they are between traditional mainstream Republicans and the more conservative wing of the party — run the risk of alienating crucial blocs of voters over the immigration issue and other issues that are in turn deal-breakers with Tea Party voters who would otherwise be predisposed to vote Republican.
So if the internal party mechanisms and machinations are still designed to protect and promote mainstream candidates in both the Democrat and Republican parties — think Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush — then one would assume that after a rowdy primary season both major parties will coalesce around centrist candidates with broad appeal.
For Democrats, that may be a plausible strategy if one expects Clinton to emerge as the eventual nominee — as I do. But for Republicans, the chance that the long-term primary process and the convention produces a split decision is one that appears very real.
Iowa has produced a real challenge for Republicans. Should that pattern hold through the primaries, the prospects of a third-party candidate emerging on the ultra-conservative side of the GOP becomes more real and more of an assurance that the GOP split ultimately underwrites a Democratic victory in November.