Ohio Governor John Kasich once conceded that climate change was a problem but has more recently hewed to the standard Republican canard that, notwithstanding the overwhelming consensus of the relevant scientific community, “we don’t want to destroy people’s jobs, based on some theory that is not proven.” Virtually the entire field either denies outright that climate change is happening or refuses to believe that it is caused by human activity. Jeb! takes the relatively more moderate position among the GOP candidates which is to admit that man-made climate change exists but insist that the government do nothing about it. He believes that climate change will be solved miraculously by American ingenuity alone and, disregarding clear Supreme Court precedent, asserts that environmental regulations aimed at curbing carbon emissions are unconstitutional. Doing nothing about climate change is not a moderate position.
All of the Republican candidates oppose abortion rights. Several have staked out the extreme position that abortion should be prohibited even in cases of rape or incest or where the health of the mother is at stake. This would include at least Rubio, Walker and Huckabee. And so, the relatively more moderate position taken by the rest of the field is allowing for the aforementioned exceptions. (Of course, they would all defund Planned Parenthood.) This may be a moderate position for the Republican Party, but not for a majority of Americans.
Rick Santorum compares the Supreme Court's Obergefell ruling that the Constitution guarantees same sex couples the right to marry to the Dred Scott decision. Mike Huckabee has urged people to "resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat." The less extreme Republican position is accepting the principle that the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Constitution is the law of the land -- a view that, it should go without saying, should be a given for any public official. This purportedly moderate stance on same sex marriage, however, also includes supporting a "religious liberty" bill that would prevent the federal government from penalizing businesses that discriminate against same-sex married couples. John Kasich -- who as governor supported a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and supported appealing a ruling that found it unconstitutional -- is purportedly the outlier because he revealed a glimmer of humanity during the first GOP debate, admitting that although personally opposed to gay marriage, he went to a gay wedding and would still love his daughter if, hypothetically, she were a lesbian. That, I suppose, is the best they can do.
Donald Trump has gotten a lot of attention for his offensive, racist statements regarding immigrants and immigration. His most recent proposals include building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, abolishing birthright citizenship for children born to undocumented immigrants, freezing green card applications and mass deportation. Outrageous, you say? Well, so-called serious candidate Scott Walker not only agrees but insists that he came up with these ideas first. Governors Christie and Jindal like the idea of ending birthright citizenship too. The more moderate position is to not support amending the Constitution to end birthright citizenship but to build a wall to keep immigrants out while, magnanimously, agreeing not to deport those law-abiding, God-fearing immigrants who are already here.
On most other issues the Republican candidates pander to the extreme right wing of their party -- refusing to rule out torture for terrorism suspects, supporting the repeal of Obamacare, proposing block grants for entitlement programs, opposing federal minimum wage. And on and on.
The more polished, less overtly wacko Republican candidates supported by the pragmatic, so-called establishment wing of the GOP are treated by the media as if they are well within the mainstream. But none of them can be considered moderate unless you compare them to their utterly bat-shit crazy cohorts. This will be important to keep in mind when the eventual Republican nominee begins moving towards the center during the general election campaign and the media's selective amnesia portrays him or her as sane, reasonable and, of course, moderate.