GOP Primaries: A Presidential Dogfight
After securing several key states’ delegates on Tuesday, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said to an ecstatic crowd in Boston, “What a great night.” And why wouldn’t he think so? The Republican front-runner, after a series of disappointing primaries and lackluster polls, finally won status as top dog. However, this week’s series of Republican presidential primaries, also known as “Super Tuesday” due to the amount of delegates at stake, resembled a little league baseball game in the sense that everybody ‘won’.
Romney took home the lion’s share, winning six states, including a close win in Ohio over Rick Santorum, who took home three states of his own and remains firmly in second place. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul rounded out the competition, with Gingrich winning Georgia by a wide margin, and Paul winning none.
Despite Romney’s victories, his wins are not strong enough to slow down this tumultuous primary season, which has no end in sight.
“We’ve won the West, the Midwest and the South, and we’re ready to win across this country,” Santorum said in a speech in Steubenville, Ohio last night, cementing his resolve to fight until Republican National Convention in June, where the final nominee will be selected.
Both Gingrich and Paul plan on continuing, despite their small chances of winning the nomination.
Romney, a consistent front-runner since Day One, has had trouble securing the collective support of the Republican party. His relatively moderate platform will help him if he reaches the general election, but until them, far-right conservatives have looked elsewhere for their contender.
Enter Santorum. After a series of surging frontrunners -- including Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann – fading into obscurity, the far-right finally settled on the fervently religious former Pennsylvania senator with a blue-collar image.
The extended primary season is supported, partly by the advent of Super PACs – independent fundraising committees that can raise unlimited amounts of money.
These committees, funded mostly by corporations and wealthy individuals, have taken over the duty of advertising for candidates. According to a New York Times report, a Super PAC backing Romney, Restore Our Future, has spent over $7 million in the past month alone on radio and television advertising.
The advertising has taken on a mostly negative and vicious tone. With the sheer volume of money floating around, the airwaves of key states like Ohio have been saturated with hard-hitting attack ads from all candidates.
Some critics say the overall negative tone of this primary season takes attention away from important issues like the volatile economy, giving more attention to personal attacks and blame games.
At a Monday conference in Dallas, former first lady Barbara Bush – no stranger to dirty politics – called the race “the worst campaign I’ve ever seen in my life.” [r1] To return to the Little League analogy, these teammates are taking their bats to each other’s heads instead of the ball.
The truth is that if Republicans want to have any chance of defeating incumbent president Barack Obama, they need to get their act together and back a single candidate – quickly.
According to a recent poll from the Pew Research Center, 52% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents describe the current nominees as “fair or poor,” while 49% of Democrats have seen their opinion of President Obama improve after observing the primary season.
The numbers suggest that the prolonged primary season is having the unintended consequence of fragmenting the Republican base while strengthening the Democrats’ resolve. This Democratic confidence may be a product of the schism between moderate Republicans and the far-right.
Whether targetting Romney’s flip-flopping on important issues or Santorum’s alleged corruption, Obama’s work will already be done for him once the general election kicks into gear. These accusations have already been ingrained in voters’ minds through countless attack ads. And with Obama highlighting his accomplishments – such as ‘saving’ the auto industry and killing Osama Bin Laden – with his natural charisma and eloquence, the Republicans will need every break they can get come November.
However, with gas prices soaring, the economy still licking its wounds, and tensions overseas boiling over, the Republicans are not the only ones sweating about the next election. Eight months is more than enough time for either Romney or Santorum to reverse their fortunes and unite the party enough to claim the White House in November.
While the clock is ticking for Republicans to get their act together, do not count them out by any means.