The "Buckley Rule" (from my website) began with a 1967 interview:
18 April 1967, Miami (FL) News, “A Trip Into Idea Land With Bill Buckley” by Bill Barry, pg. 6A, col. 5:
He (William F. Buckley, Jr.—ed.) was asked who would be the wisest Republican choice.
He said: “The wisest choice would be the one who would win. No sense running Mona Lisa in a beauty contest. I’d be for the most right, viable candidate who could win. If you could convince me that Barry Goldwater could win, I’d vote for him.”
Richard Nixon, he said, would be the strongest GOP candidate.
Buckley adds pragmatism to conservatism. For example, what good is it to nominate a conservative for mayor of New York when that candidate can't win? It's better to elect John Lindsay or Michael Bloomberg.
Bloomberg, to my mind, is the perfect example of the Buckley Rule. You nominate Bloomberg because he's the richest man in New York City and he's spending his own money and he can be elected (or re-elected). On the downside, he's a complete putz.
Today, there comes a new Limbaugh Rule:
The Limbaugh Rule: Vote for Most Conservative Candidate in Primary
September 14, 2010
We still have people who think that professional Washington politicians are the way to fix this, and clearly it isn’t. Some of these people are citing the Buckley Rule. Now, I can honestly say that I know what the Buckley Rule is. I can honestly say I knew William F. Buckley and Buckley was a friend of mine. The Buckley Rule is, ostensibly, that you vote for the most electable conservative option against a Democrat in November. You vote for the Republican, slash, conservative who can win. To me, this requires clairvoyance, as is being currently applied in the Mike Castle-Christine O’Donnell race in Delaware, to use an example. The polling data is that Castle will win big and O’Donnell will lose big. If she gets the Republican nomination today, if she wins the election she’ll lose big. The polls say she’ll lose by 25 points; that Castle will win by 20 points. But who knows this? The election’s a long time off. In a year like this, it seems to me that Americanism versus socialism can make up 25 points. Why the hell not try to? Is what I don’t understand. Why not try to make up the 25 points?
RUSH: Let me expand a little bit here on the Limbaugh Rule, which needs to take over from the Buckley Rule. You know, some of these people on our side—who all of a sudden now—lovingly invoke the Buckley Rule are the same people who told us, “The era of Reagan is over.” Well, Bill Buckley and Ronald Reagan were inseparably good friends. Isn’t the era of Buckley over? Isn’t it amazing how selectively these people call up some of our heroes and use little slivers of what they’ve said or believed? Buckley ran against a RINO Republican for mayor of New York knowing full well he had no chance of winning. He violated his own rule then! “Buckley says you vote for the Republican most likely to win.”
I'll have more to say on the Buckley Rule vs. the Limbaugh Rule when I see the Delaware general election results in November.