THE BLOG
09/29/2015 05:00 pm ET Updated Sep 29, 2016

In Boehner's Resignation, An Opportunity for a Smart GOP Candidate to Steal This Election

There is evidence of flowing water on Mars; the U.S. hosted the President of China, the Prime Minister of India and the Pope -- all just in the last few days.

The Chinese Premier agreed to a historic cap-and-trade accord to help arrest the catastrophic impact of climate change, and offered up $3 billion to help emerging economies as well. Prime Minister Modi struck powerful ties with global business leaders who are literally creating the world of tomorrow. And the Pope transcended any one religion and urged us all to be more considerate of those less fortunate and more mindful of the planet that gives us life.

Meanwhile, in the GOP alternate universe, Kim Davis was given an award and the sitting House Speaker resigned his leadership because of the "false prophets" in his own party.

Sitting atop the GOP polls is a reality TV star who claims he has seen a child become autistic after a receiving a vaccine, a failed business leader who apparently lied about non-existent videos on national TV only to see her numbers climb, and a former brain surgeon who garners support so the GOP base can show it isn't anti-science, even though this particular surgeon doesn't understand evolution or high school physics for that matter.

The GOP is in tatters.

Increasingly, GOP candidates and leaders are destroyed by infighting rather than opposition. Republican Peter King said Boehner's resignation means the "crazies have taken over" about his own leadership. Ten GOP Congressmen broke from the party line on climate change because science is like gravity. The thud you make when you fall doesn't hurt any less because you deny its existence, which is to say nothing of the fact that serious GOP candidates have spent precious time and money defending themselves against insane ideas and personal attacks from the "outsiders" who will surely fade by the time fall TV premieres give way to spring rerun season.

There is no greater proof of the GOP's fractious state than the fact that "outsiders" are leading the polls. What does it say about a party when the candidates it produces are utterly uninteresting to its base? The same thing it says when you realize that two living, breathing former GOP Presidents are ignored while candidates trip over themselves to claim they are most like Reagan.

Reagan has the same appeal the outsiders do -- they can be made into anything the base wants to believe they are. A pro-abortion TV star as an authentic conservative? Sure, why not. A woman who has publicly wrecked two iconic American brands as a pro-business candidate? Cool.

No doubt, the GOP brought this on itself by giving credence to an extremist base that is as implacable as it is irrelevant. The "base" should have no influence because it alone cannot win a national election for the GOP anymore. That math is as clear as climate science, no matter how vociferously the right wing media may deny it.

Additionally, the conservative "base" has created a limbo stick of extremism so far to the right, any credible candidate will be branded "liberal" by comparison. John Boehner was too liberal for this GOP. So is the Pope. To the so-called "Christian right" in America, the Vicar of Christ himself is a liberal propagandist.

And therein lies a unique opportunity for a smart GOP candidate. Stop trying to win a loud but inconsequential group of un-winnable voters by embracing widely popular ideas and winning the centrist voters who do determine election outcomes.

Ideas like universal background checks for gun buying. Like saying climate change is real and we have to deal with it in a way that creates economic opportunity. Like admitting that not having to invade Iran is a really good thing. Like stating that Obamacare isn't perfect and we can make it better together. And that we will never deport 11 million people and their U.S.-born children so immigration reform is probably a good idea.

Just those moves would vault any GOP candidate to serious national contention across party lines. In this election more than any other, because the Democrats are weak. Hillary isn't the authentic article, and Bernie Sanders is a great orator and a passionate American, but Americans don't want a socialist in the White House.

If a candidate like Jeb Bush -- who is most likely to get the GOP nomination -- were to grab John Kasich has his running mate and boldly move to the center, this election becomes a winnable horse race for the GOP. What is more, as soon as Jeb (or another GOP candidate) did that, legions of GOP leaders at the local, state and federal level come out of the woodwork and embrace a credible leader rather than cowering in the fear of being outted by base as anything less than reactionary.

As far as we may seemingly be from a functioning government with two legitimate parties debating how to best serve Americans, the GOP had to hit rock bottom before its climb back to relevance. With the resignation of Boehner, I think we just did. The time for a smart GOP candidate has never been better.