To all the delusional conservatives who believe the GOP is one the verge of a historic defeat because it strayed from its free-market principles, Ramesh Ponnuru has some bad news:

[A] lot of the debate about the Republican future has been dominated by people who believe that Bush took the party off track by embracing big government—that had he not busted the budget and otherwise departed from the conservative path, the party would be in better shape. It seems to me that it is these folks who have failed to grapple with important elements of our political situation: 1) the circumstances that led Bush, along with many other conservatives—including Steve Forbes, the most free-market contender in 2000—to abandon the idea of a direct assault on big government; and 2) the fact that Bush's departures from small-government conservatism have frequently been more popular than his instances of adherence to it.

The beauty of delusional conservatives, however, is that they're delusional. And so, fortunately for Democrats, they will almost certainly ignore Ramesh's analysis and dig themselves an even deeper hole over the next few years. As McCain likes to say, it's always darkest before it goes black...

--Noam Scheiber