For Obama, it’s the gift that keeps on giving – why the Republicans may keep slicing each other up for some time yet

Posted: March 7, 2012 in Political musings
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republican candidates for president 2012

And then there were four. And four. And four ... Amazed it took them this long to get down to four from that lot of mugs. But even so, it may go on for some time yet.

So it’s Super Tuesday, when Romney would hope to deliver a knockout blow to the other three remaining candidates in the Republican primaries.

Here’s an excellent article by leading Democratic strategist Donna Brazile  on why the Republicans may continue to bloodlet for some time yet after tonight – especially as, as I notice now, the night kicks off with Gingrich having secured a win in Georgia, possibly vindicating his “southern states” focus, and Santorum has won Oklahoma with Gingrich neck and neck with Romney. Ohio seems split down the middle between Santorum and Romney. Santorum seems to have won Tennessee well, which would hurt Romney badly by making him look like just a “northern”candidate. It appears that Romney has also done poorly in Virginia and Vermont, despite winning the states.

So in all likelihood, no one is going to die tonight – except perhaps Ron Paul, and he never expected to win anything anyway – and he is only in the race to force his libetarian philosophy to the centre of the GOP’s deliberations. Or as Wolf Blitzer has just remarked on CNN some hours after I originally posted this article “This race is going to go on, and on, and on.”

Given that Donna is coming from a particular political perspective, and that the article was published on CNN which the right loves to hate – so some degree of bias is present, obviously – nevertheless her nous in these matters is impressive, and I suspect she is spot on in her analysis.

What is most telling, I feel, is the points she makes about grassroots Republicans not warming to any of their very poor group of candidates – the stuff about turnouts which I have been noticing for some time now – and just makes me even more certain Obama will be re-elected in November. It is fearsomely difficult to unseat incumbents at the best of times, and these are definitely not the best of times for Republicans, despite America’s ongoing financial difficulties. The simple fact is, the people are not stupid. Not book-learned, perhaps, but not stupid. They know this bunch of GOP candidates is fearsomely unimpressive, and they will stick with a President who’s first term has been very much a curate’s egg, albeit unenthusiastically.

Although this is a long shot, and I haven’t seen it suggested elsewhere,I am still not sure that yet another Republican candidate may still arise, at an unenthusiastic or deadlocked convention, for example, before this circus is all done … and the thought of Paul, Palin, Perry, Gingrich and Santorum and others trying to agree on who to be kingmaker for is hilarious …

Certainly the American people deserve better than the choice they are being offered at the moment – just as Australians deserve better than the “hold your nose” choice between Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott.

Article begins:

It’s probably better to be the default candidate than the noncandidate, but it’s a position that usually has too many gaps to fill. That seems to be the position of Mitt Romney, and it says a lot about the current state of the Republican Party.

When the Seattle Times came out for Romney ahead of the Washington caucus, the editors stopped short of a real endorsement, calling him the “practical choice” and “the only option in a weak field.” They wrote that he “does not excite voters and is a suspect choice, except for all the others.”

Several candidates created political earthquakes, only to sink beneath their own aftershocks. One might argue that Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain and Rick Perry represented the usual “froth” that appears every four years, and now the Republican Party has gotten down to the serious business of nominating a candidate. But the track records of Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum suggest otherwise.

CNN Contributor Donna Brazile

Of the three remaining candidates, Santorum had the best chance to make a run at Romney. He’s emerged as the strongest anti-Romney choice. But Santorum has problems other than what may be called a narrow appeal. (He does best among the evangelical Christians, the less-educated and rural voters, which do not not even constitute a majority of Republicans.) On Super Tuesday, Santorum may lose more than a quarter of the delegates in Ohio even if he wins, because he didn’t file full delegate slates in all 16 congressional districts.

But as long as some billionaire is paying the bills — and pulling the strings — a candidate can and will stay in the race. Sheldon Adelson has propped up Newt Gingrich. Peter Thiel supports Ron Paul, and Santorum’s got “not tonight, I’ve got a headache” billionaire Foster Friess.

The Republican nomination may go to the highest bidder. Romney’s spent almost as much as Gingrich, Paul and Santorum combined. But in some ways the process seems more like a circus than an auction — or a poorly rehearsed skit of “Who’s on first?”

Of the 13 states that have chosen delegates, there’s been a counting controversy in two of them. (Of course, when it comes to counting votes, the Republicans have perfected the “fuzzy math” approach.) Iowa flipped from Romney to Santorum, and Maine is going to recount its votes. Romney had to scramble to win Michigan, his home state, which should have been a no-brainer. And probably was.

If this race stays close into the late spring, the candidates will look for reasons to raise questions about how delegates are being allocated and counted. Such confusion calls into question their competency. If the Republicans can’t trust themselves to count to 1,144 — the number of delegates needed to with the nomination — without messing up the numbers, how can the country trust them to honestly manage bigger numbers?

This brings us back to Romney, the apparent nominee-by-default. He’s the leading candidate, and the Republicans just aren’t excited. GOP turnout has dropped in five of the 13 states that have voted. (Colorado dropped 6%, Missouri 57%; Florida, Nevada and Minnesota dropped in double digits.) Compared with four years ago, Romney’s numbers dropped in six of the 13 states (only 1% in Iowa but 46% in Colorado, 63% in Missouri and 68% in Minnesota). Ironically, the only state with a significant increase in GOP turnout was South Carolina, where Republicans voted against Romney in a landslide: He got just 28% of the vote.

GOP turnout in 2012 is even worse when compared with Democratic primary turnout in 2008, despite population growth. Except for South Carolina, turnout is lower in every state that has voted — and by significant numbers. Turnout is down by 69% in Missouri, 72% in Nevada, 77% in Minnesota and 86% in Maine. In those four states combined, the average drop of turnout is more than 75%. Those numbers don’t bode well for the nominee or the party, no matter how much fuzzy math they use come November.

One reason for GOP indifference may be, ironically, Romney’s strength: He’s a fighter. But he fights with negatives. While he succeeds in soiling his opponents, he also sullies himself. He has a very high unfavorable rating among independents, and even among Republicans he doesn’t match where John McCain was at this point four years ago. When Romney’s not negative, he appears unfocused and becomes like a gaffe machine on steroids: “Cadillacs,” “Blunt amendment,” “firing people,” “not worried about the poor,” etc.

So what’s ahead? A desperate race and a war of attrition. Santorum, Paul and Gingrich have no incentive to exit the race, because they’re being paid to stay in and they’re getting just enough delegates. Therefore, what we’ve seen is what we’ll get: a negative arc; shrill attacks against other candidates; hysterical hyperventilation against Obama; the language of fear, war and doublespeak; and a social issue feeding frenzy, with fainting spells when women’s health is mentioned and panic over immigration. And the media lapping it up.

It’s going to be a long, hot spring.

  1. […] For Obama, it’s the gift that keeps on giving – why the Republicans may keep slicing eac… ( […]


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