To me the phrase conservative "thought leaders" has devolved into an oxymoron since the passing of Bill Buckley and the recent reticence of a seemingly cloistered George Will. The track record of the GOP reveals a virtual 'Who's Who' in bad to very bad judgment with presidents & candidates going back to Richard Nixon...and yes...I include Reagan in the Bad Presidents HOF. (I'm not a big fan of "The World According To Ronnie")
This past round-up of Republican candidates for national office was such a grim self-parody that, IMHO, it confirms the dynamic at work in 'tickle down conservatism' and/or 'softer gentler conservatism' and/or 'neocon'...or whatever unimaginative new iteration that this anally retentive, regressive party wants to call its rapacious ideology today.
And that's it in a nutshell. Aside from the irony that they loudly proclaim abiding love for America yet cannot stand Americans, the problem with Republican conservatism is it only works if you're among those 'a-skeered' of going forward...forward into American modernity's new challenges and demographics. Therein lies the root of the very bad judgment of the thinning, small tent ranks of today's GOP