John Harwood has an interesting column in which he compares the problem the Republicans face in taking back the White House to what Clinton and the Democratic Leadership Council did in 1992. As BooMan points out though, Harwood basically talked to a couple of Washington insiders who suggested that a Republican candidate can simply appease the lunatics in the primaries and change course in the general election. Isn't that what Romney tried to do in 2012? Anyone remember Romnesia?
But the truth is that Democrats faced a totally different kind of problem in 1992. At that point, the Republicans were sweeping in corporate campaign dollars and the DLC was created to go after some of that money. At first, they were pretty inept at it - fueling a few scandals during Clinton's first term (i.e., Lincoln bedroom). But eventually they got it down. Then along came Barack Obama. He shattered the whole premise by out-raising the Clinton machine via small donors (with a BIG assist from developing technology). Now grassroots organizing is taking off and we see that big corporate money isn't always the deciding factor in either the Democratic or Republican party.
I would suggest that the challenge the Republicans face today is unique to this era. It has been created by three factors. First of all, the Bush/Cheney years decimated support for their bread-and-butter policies. Whether we're talking interventionist military adventures abroad or deregulation at home, it all ended in disaster. Americans tend to have short memories, but between Iraq and the Great Recession, we haven't totally forgotten it all yet.
Secondly, the GOP's embrace of obstruction as a primary strategy against President Obama means that they have ceded all of the pragmatic middle ground to him. That's why they have proposed no alternatives to Obamacare, immigration reform, or climate change. Anything that would actually work would wind up mirroring the President's proposals. At this point, to moderate toward the middle is to join forces with the Kenyan soshulist. So that's not going to happen.
Finally - and perhaps most importantly - is the role played by conservative media. Personalities like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly carry a lot more weight with Republican voters than their candidates do. The day those folks quit ginning up the rage and start talking about moderation is the day they lose their ratings. Not likely.
In the end, the Republicans are in a bit of a pickle (its actually much more serious than that - but I like the phrase). The more they pursue policies that satisfy their base, the more voters they lose. Current demographics suggest its only going to get worse for them. I don't know how all this ends. I don't think anyone does. But hang on to your hats, its likely to get worse before it gets better.