The toll that the length of the GOP Presidential primary is taking on the eventual nominee can certainly be argued.
Some say the eventual nominee in being weakened by being forced to spend too many resources and that the process is souring the opinion of independent voters. Others would claim having the candidates and their opinions in the news throughout the year takes attention away from the President and provides free publicity for the GOP.
However, there is one byproduct of the length of the GOP primary that is hard to argue as beneficial to eventual nominee.
By having to focus on his fellow GOP contenders, each candidate is failing to discover and present a cohesive plan of what they want to do with the White House if they were somehow able to take it from President Obama.
The primary has certainly shown that each candidate feels that President Obama must be defeated in the fall. And they all have made clear that they want to repeal President Obama’s health care plan. But besides that, have any of the candidates presented any cohesive goals or plans that have any shot of getting through Congress?
The simple answer is, no.
We have either heard them try to “out-conservative” each other, or a list of Obama policies that they wish to change. Other than that, plans and over arching goals have been in short supply.
That tendency in a primary race isn’t uncommon. However, usually by this point, the list of candidates have been winnowed enough to provide room in the campaign for focused plans on what candidates would do with the position they are seeking.
But it’s not just the length and competitiveness of the race that is prohibiting the kind of focus that will be required to garner the unaffiliated vote. The other problem is that Republicans can’t agree on the one line of action on which they would like to see their candidate proceed.
So essentially, with a party not able to focus on a platform, candidates have not been able to arrive at a plan of action themselves. It isn’t as if candidates do not want to focus. But with the need to still out-conservative each other, and with a party who is still unsure what they want, candidates are unable to commit to a plan.
In 2008, Democrats were still fighting over Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama at this stage of the game. However, the party was unified on a platform that was against the wars and focused on health care. It didn’t matter that they were still fighting over a candidate because once they finally nominated one; they knew what they wanted the nominee to do.
Today’s Republican Party does not have that luxury. If Mitt Romney is the eventual nominee, there are still deep divisions over exactly what Republicans want him to do first. Social conservatives want an entirely different agenda than the libertarians that Ron Paul is bringing to the table. And Tea Party activists represent a completely other wing. Without the party centering on a platform, the candidates have little hope of doing it themselves.
Defeating Barack Obama might be a good enough goal to get votes in the primary season, but once the GOP nominee gets into the general election, that argument will fall flat with voters. John Kerry tried the, “anyone but the current President” line of thinking and he failed miserably.
The GOP would be wise to learn that lesson and do something about it quickly. If they don’t, the 2012 Republican nominee will almost certainly repeat Kerry’s feat.
About The Blogger
- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.