I have seen a recent trend of libertarians becoming more powerful and influential in the Republican party. It seems that over the years libertarians have become more and more frustrated with voting for libertarians and getting virtually nothing in return. In doing so they have seemingly downplayed the socially liberal aspect of their philosophy to forward the free market part of their goals. I don’t believe all libertarians have taken this route but it seems clear that the forwarding of a free market philosophy is so important to them that they are willing to partner with the more socially conservative religious right to achieve their ends.
On the other hand the more socially liberal libertarians have not embraced the democratic party with quite the same fervor. It is my opinion that they cannot bring themselves to vote for candidates whom they feel are creating a nanny state. These are rugged individualists who feel the democrats are soft and fiscally irresponsible.
The sum total of this apparent shift in voting habits is that the Republican base is growing while the Democrats base remains pretty much the same. This trend is slowly evening out the political bases, which for many years has favored Democrats.
One reason for this change could be the influx of lots of cash into American politics by very wealthy Libertarians such as the Koch Brothers. In their fanatic and highly successful push to advance a free market philosophy the Kochs have poured millions of dollars into organizations such as Americans for Prosperity to drum up support for their ideas. The Tea Party has been a major recipient of these propaganda efforts. Tea party advocates, who nominally claim to be independents, hate Democrats and voted primarily Republican in the last cycle. Perhaps this explains the shift of Libertarian voters to the dark side.
On the whole I find this fascinating, if not rather scary.