There are a lot of right leaning media types who believe, like Senator Ted Cruz, that the next Republican nominee for president should be solidly conservative and not center right; otherwise they will lose in 2016. In support of that argument, they point to the past losses by moderates such as John McCain and Mitt Romney. But, this chart from Gallup says that the country is becoming more and more moderate:
The chart above represents the averages for each given year. What Gallup found by taking 2013 in isolation follows in this remarkable chart:
Because of this, each party will have to appeal to the middle in 2016. While, at the same time, not offend its remaining base which may not come out to vote if the party platform is too moderate. That's quite the challenge for any politician.
The worst thing that Republicans could do is to try to appeal to their ever marginalized and more extreme base while ignoring the growing number of Independents. For that reason, I think the conservative media types are wrong with their assessment that the next nominee for the Republican party should be staunchly conservative.
Gallup: Record-High 42% of Americans Identify as Independents: http://www.gallup.com/poll/166763/record-high-americans-identify-independents.aspx
Ted Cruz in South Carolina: Nominate a conservative in 2016, or Democrats will win: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jan/19/ted-cruz-south-carolina-nominate-conservative-2016/?