It's a question we may think we know the answer to, which explains why so few are asking it.
It's a question the party itself probably doesn't want you to ask, because of what it reveals about its current internal state.
In the aftermath of trauma, individuals will often repeat familiar rituals that once provided them with reassurance, even though their new circumstances may have changed dramatically. They do they this to bring the reassuring past into the fearful present.
Even if its only pretend.
If you squint hard, and I mean hard, it's almost possible to see the outline of Ronald Reagan standing behind Mitt Romney. From a distance it's 1980 all over again.
A smiling throwback of a man who you underestimated at your peril, Reagan looked like 1950 in 1980, and that turned out to be exactly what the public wanted. They wanted rituals and figureheads that provided reassurance, they wanted yesterday, they wanted daddy. Baby boomers voted for Reagan in a landslide.
Romney's supporters, and will you be surprised to hear there aren't that many off them in the GOP, are going that a bit of the Gipper's charisma will animate their pick. But the desire is in itself a proof of their desperation, not their strength.
If you squint Romney has all the surface similarities, but it's as though all the juice has been squeezed out, all the charm, all the twinkle, all the wisdom and life experience of Ronald Reagan, seems missing. Romney is zombie Reagan. It's what the race has come to.
That's not enough to win. But goodness does it tell us a lot about the current condition of the party that reluctantly picked him.