Start your engines: Will we have a better choice of drivers in 2012?Nicholas Kronos -- Monday, January 31, 2011 -- 05:44:24 PM
The 2012 presidential campaign--you know it's coming and starting already. Will anyone run we can actually be excited about?This thread is tagged:
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I bet I've watched this election as closely as anyone. Drudge was headlining the other day that this Arizona debate was the 20th of the campaign season. I've seen all but two of them. And I wouldn't wager serious money against Romney getting the nomination unless you gave me twenty to one.
But I was also the guy who thought John McCain couldn't come back and win the GOP nomination in 2008, so I can get these things really wrong.
There seems to be a growing desire on the part of many establishment Republicans to wrap up the primaries early so the party can immediately get behind a nominee and start taking on Obama.
What's the hurry? Is there any proof that finishing the primaries quickly and decisively gives a party an advantage in the general election?
If so, I don't see it. And I think I know the modern history of presidential elections as well as or better than most political junkies.
Put aside the obvious exceptions of incumbent presidents who are challenged in the primaries by determined and resilient political foes. I think most people would agree that Carter/Kennedy in 1980 and even Bush/Buchanan in 1992 are a strikingly different phenomena from what we see in this year's Republican primary. In those elections, sitting presidents were being challenged by a member of their party because their presidencies were widely perceived as failures. In this year's GOP primary, several candidates of more or less equal stature are vying for the opportunity to represent the party.
To simplify things, let's look at the other primaries in one of two ways. We'll classify them as "seriously contested" or "not seriously contested". Seriously contested means that the nominee was still in reasonable doubt just before Super Tuesday (or early March).
Thus, the 1976 GOP primary between Ford and Reagan would be seriously contested, but not the 1996 GOP primary between Bob Dole and Pat Buchanan/Steve Forbes. On the Democratic side, the 2008 contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would be seriously contested, but not the 2000 primary between Al Gore and Bill Bradley.
On the Democratic side, there's definitely no correlation between finishing the primaries early and having success in the general election. The seriously contested primaries in 1972, 1984, and 1988 certainly gave no joy that November for Democrats. But they were more successful in 1976, 1992, and 2008, even though those primaries were also seriously contested.
In the two years Democrats lined up behind a nominee early (2000 and 2004), they lost both general elections by close margins.
Republicans tend to make up their minds more quickly than Democrats. They are less likely to tarry before lining up behind a nominee. Until this year, only one modern election was seriously contested, and that was the 1976 campaign between Ford and Reagan. Even so, Ford lost that year's general election by a very close margin, and was even leading Carter in some polls before his Poland gaffe in the second presidential debate. So it doesn't appear he was crippled by the long primary season.
The only other possible primary campaign which might be called extended would be the one in 2008, but even that contest was considered over by most serious observers when McCain won Florida's primary on January 29th.
All the other modern GOP primaries were over fairly quickly, with the eventual GOP nominee winning at least forty primaries and caucuses in 1980, 1988, 1996, and 2000. Republicans won three out of those four general elections, but one of the victories was skin-tight.
So I don't see it. Wrapping up the nomination early can mean you're a Bob Dole or John Kerry. Taking your time to wrap it up can mean you're a Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter. There doesn't seem to be any reason to believe that finishing the primaries early is helpful to a nominee's success in the general election. It appears to be nothing more than an urban legend of political elites who are fussed over some unimportant aspect of an election they perceive as too messy.
BTW, for these kinds of comparisons, I never consider Gerald Ford to be an incumbent since he was appointed, not elected, to the presidency.
The only thing I will say is that all the infighting tends to burn through a lot of money. And Obama has a reputation as a fund-raising superhuman. So perhaps part of the fear is that the Republican winner will be so poor that Obama will crush him.
I wonder if the money issue is a non-issue at this point. Kerry finished with cash on hand. The candidates will be able to get as much as is necessary for them to win.
As for the length of the race, it can only assist the eventual nominee in terms of prep, and it keeps a focus on the GOP, but it also means that the eventual nominee can do something stupid fending off challengers. Like giving a speech in Ford Field when it had a puppet-show sized crowd.
That said, the president is unopposed and in a week, he gave the GOP the gifts of "algae" as an energy policy and multiple apologies to the psychotics for the burning of their terror manual.
I don't think it's about money. The Republican elite tends to care about what the press thinks, and the press presents this ongoing primary as a bad thing. They did in 08, too.
I get a feeling of relief and smugness from the lefties I associate with. And it appears to be because of the extended fighting between the nominees. I know that democrats tend to regard a long nomination process as damaging, and this extends to the press - god knows why. If the election is too long and you're attacking the opponent, it can reach a point where it goes on too long.
When has one of the major party candidates ever lost a general election for lack of money? Name one.
When a candidate has a huge money advantage going into an election (Reagan in 84; Obama in 08). it's because their election is seen as inevitable. Politics is awash in money when the need arises, and a candidate is seen as competitive.
The election, if it's close, will come down to ad spending in perhaps a dozen states. Having that money for ads will be a necessary but not sufficient ingredient for victory. The notion that Romney won't have enough money to spend in those states in September because Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich made him spend it in March and April is absurd.
If Romney doesn't have money, it will be because the election got away from him for other reasons.
The president is not unopposed. He has four guys running at him every day on a national platform that gives them unparalleled media access they otherwise would not have.
If Romney's nomination was in the bag, do you think he could have highlighted the Catholic Church health care issue with as much passion and skill as Rick Santorum has?
If Romney had knocked Gingrich out of the race in Iowa, do you think the governor would have been clever enough to coin the phrase "The food stamp president" that the Speaker used to such devastating effect and which noticeably got under Obama's skin?
The GOP candidates are not just running against each other. They are running against Obama.
By the way, Obama is having money problems of his own. His campaign is flush with cash, but his supporters still felt the need to start up a Super PAC and that organization has not been successful in raising much money.
Bad polling data for Obama.
Politico/GWU/Battleground has a poll out showing Obama up by ten among likely voters, but that poll usually runs in favor of Obama.
Michigan and Arizona's primaries are tomorrow. Polls have Romney up comfortably in Arizona, but the former MA governor is ahead of Santorum in Michigan by less than the margin of error.
Even if Romney wins both primaries, the race will go on. Ten states are voting on Super Tuesday, and several of the larger states are not friendly territory for Romney.
Here are the ten states voting in order of the number of delegates they have up for grabs. I have also put which candidate(s) I think is likely to win the state in parentheses.
1. Georgia - 76 (Most likely Gingrich; possibly Santorum)
2. Ohio - 66 (Toss-up between Santorum and Romney)
3. Tennessee - 58 (Most likely Santorum; possibly Gingrich)
4. Virginia - 49 (Romney -- Santorum and Gingrich not on ballot)
5. Oklahoma - 43 (Santorum)
6. Massachusetts - 41 (Romney)
7. Idaho - 32 (Toss-up between Romney, Santorum and possibly Paul)
8. North Dakota - 28 (Toss-up between Romney, Santorum and possibly Paul)
9. Alaska - 27 (Toss-up between Romney, Santorum and possibly Paul)
10. Vermont - 17 (Romney)
Alaska, North Dakota, and Idaho are all holding caucuses, so it's harder to guess which way they'll turn on Super Tuesday. I'm pretty sure, however, that Gingrich has no chance in any of them.
Romney has generally done pretty well in the caucuses up to now, winning Nevada and Maine, and coming in a close second in Colorado and Iowa.
Rick Santorum has also done pretty well in the caucuses. He won Iowa, Colorado, and Minnesota.
Ron Paul has done less well. He has no victories and only a couple of close finishes in Iowa and Maine. But given the energy and quality of Paul's organization, I don't think he can be counted out yet of any of the caucuses.