[Krystal Ball’s Provocation; Artur Davis’ Rebuttal #1; Jeff Smith’s Rebuttal #2; Ron Granieri’s Rebuttal #3; The RP’s Rebuttal #4; Ron Granieri’s First Response; Rod Jetton’s Rebuttal #5; The RP’s First Response]
This is my first post, and first contribution to The Recovering Politician. I believe having run for office and taking the time to step back and examine our experiences, gives us a unique and significant insight into how politics really works. Thank you for allowing me to be part of this with all of you.
On to the debate!
As a Democrat, I can’t say I would mind if a drawn-out primary helped our party in the general election. Yet objectively, I do see potential advantages for the GOP. The Obama campaign might be happy about this right now, but they would be committing political malpractice if they don’t anticipate possible advantages for the GOP, and prepare for them. So here are some points to consider:
1. The eventual frontrunner will have powerful operations ready for the general election in many swing states.
In 2008, the extended battle between Obama and Clinton forced them to build strong operations in swing states that proved extremely valuable for the Obama team in the general election. The Republicans watched with glee as the 2008 Obama-Clinton battle dragged on. They weren’t so happy in the general election when they faced the ground operation the Obama team was forced to build in the primary. The Obama campaign should not forget this lesson.
The GOP primary may look good to Democrats now, but we cannot ignore what’s happening on the ground. It’s hard not to recognize that the recent competition in Florida forced Romney’s team to whip it’s ground operation into fighting shape and engage key voting blocks there. The Obama team is not taking anything for granted and is fortifying its ground game in those states. Still, it’s not quite the same as being forced to compete again.
2. The GOP frontrunner does have opportunities to appeal to independents.
It may seem counterintuitive, but candidates in a presidential primary do have opportunities to appeal to independent voters. Yes, they are in a competition to court the base, but as we’ve seen in recent years, many primary voters care about “electability” and there are significant portions of primary voters who are less conservative.
When Romney is forced to defend some of his more centrist positions, it really can help him with independent voters. For example, earlier on Romney defended Social Security in debates with Rick Perry. There is the potential for Romney to have exchanges like that with a more engaged audience as the primary goes on. Even in 1992, Bill Clinton’s proposal for a middle class tax cut was criticized from the left by his primary opponents, but it helped his appeal to independents.
As that 1992 primary played out, Bill Clinton looked better and better to independents as he stood on stage with Jerry Brown. It’s hard not to see how Gingrich and Santorum also play foils for Romney with the average American voter.
3. Extensive coverage of the GOP primary includes extensive attacks on President Obama
While these numerous primary debates display infighting and potential lines of attack for the general election, they still have one underlying theme: that one of these candidates should replace President Obama. The Republican candidates on stage are constantly one-upping each other to criticize the Obama administration, all on primetime television with highlights looped into the cable news cycle.
In order to stay above the fray, Obama’s team rarely responds to these attacks. That doesn’t mean the cumulative effect won’t eventually take its toll.
4. Trial by fire will prepare the eventual GOP nominee
The gauntlet of debates and grilling from Romney’s opponents have forced him to hone his responses to potential lines of attack.
I’m still surprised Romney has been able to do as well as he has given Republican opposition to Health Care, but he’s somehow responded effectively enough to remain the frontrunner.
I’m not sure how much of an obstacle Romney’s Bain record will be in the general election, but the primary has forced him and his team to prepare and address it early.
Make no mistake, like many former candidates, I’ve been through a primary. It was exhausting and I would have rather saved time and resources for the general election. I don’t envy the rough road these candidates are traveling. However, in presidential races there are potential advantages to an extended primary that the Obama campaign would be ill-advised to discount.