GOP field not likely to change

March 5, 2012


— So it continues.

Mitt Romney’s daily-double followed Rick Santorum’s trifecta, and now the contest moves here to Massachusetts and to nine other states that together, in a Super Tuesday rush for delegates, probably won’t resolve the Republican presidential race any more than the last two rounds did.

But just because the race isn’t resolved doesn’t mean it isn’t clarified. In the muddle, some things are clearer than ever.

One is that there will be a lengthy Republican race. Another is that the Republicans have class divisions that mirror the ones the Democrats have been contending with for two generations. A third is that the party best positioned in a quarter-century to recapture the White House is itself so divided that a weak president grows in strength day by day.

This will be a Super Tuesday like few others. The term arose after Southern Democrats, impatient with the leftward drift of a party that seemed congenitally unable to win a national election, clustered the primaries of the Old Confederacy so as to create a regional battle that would work to the advantage of a moderate, business-oriented candidate.

But this is a contest of an entirely different character, mixing the old industrial heartland (and agricultural bounty) of Ohio with the high-tech suburbs of Massachusetts, the granola reaches of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, the energy environs of North Dakota and Oklahoma and the country-music ballad lands of Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia. Each of the contenders has a stronghold to defend and dangerous territory to explore.

As they do so — as they speed from Idaho to the South, and then gird for the ground war in Ohio — these questions grow in importance:

l What value do Republicans place on party unity?

On the surface, that question focuses on the fissures that two months of hard campaigning have laid bare: between conservatives and moderates, between those who oppose big government and those who aim more at big business, between candidates who play down religion and those who emphasize it.

The Michigan exit polls by Edison Research make these divisions clear. Romney prevailed among those who said they considered themselves somewhat conservative or moderate to liberal; Santorum was the clear winner among those who said they were conservative. Romney showed strength among those with incomes over $100,000, Santorum with those far less well-off. Voters who considered abortion the top issue went with Santorum; those who emphasized the budget and the economy with Romney.

But in some ways that is the least interesting, and surely the least surprising, element of the party unity question.

Santorum found himself in the middle of an illuminating contretemps last month when he admitted he “took one for the team” in supporting the No Child Left Behind legislation. Romney’s forces pilloried him for compromising, the very venal act that Santorum has accused his rival of performing repeatedly.

All this raises questions, unanswered by both men, of whether a candidate seeking to lead the country should be open to the sort of compromise that created the Constitution they would vow to protect and defend. That’s a debate worth having.

l Are the Republicans hurt by this ever-lengthening campaign?

The usual answer is that a long fight strengthens the eventual nominee, but this is not a usual campaign and there are signs this battle is not strengthening anybody but the president. The two principal candidates, plus Rep. Ron Paul and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, are drifting rightward as the calendar turns, even though the conventional formula calls for candidates to drift toward the center as the general election nears.

It is a long time till November, though, and in 1960, when Richard M. Nixon won the nomination, the Republicans hadn’t even voted in their first primary until later this week. But Republican leaders are worried. They’d rather have a short, crisp race than a lengthy, messy one.

They will have to settle for the latter, and for the consequences. The Republican nominee will have to play the role of the king’s horses in Humpty Dumpty, though in this race hardly anyone is sitting on a wall.

Some Republicans worry they are reliving the 1964 Republican race, when Barry Goldwater lost 44 states. They ought to worry instead about whether they are replaying the 1968 Democratic race, when their rivals tore themselves up in the primaries and in a bloody convention and then lost a narrow contest.

l Might it come down to the Pennsylvania primary, and if it does, is Santorum sunk?

It might, and he probably isn’t. All the political pros know Santorum was routed in his 2006 re-election battle, losing Pennsylvania by 18 points. But that is a rare example of a meaningless truth.

Many Pennsylvania voters do have strong, negative feelings about Santorum, sometimes expressing them with unusual hostility. Almost none of those people will vote in the Republican primary April 24.

Santorum likely will be the strong favorite in Pennsylvania, though the state’s primary sets up as Santorum’s version of the Romney defensive play in Michigan. Just as Romney would have been seriously wounded had he lost Michigan, Santorum would be lunch meat if he loses Pennsylvania.

l Is Paul LePage right?

Paul LePage is the injury-prone governor of Maine, known for his attacks on a state labor mural and his willingness to tell the president of the United States to “go to hell.” But for all his stumbles, LePage may have stumbled on an inconvenient truth the other day when he suggested that the Republicans need a fresh face in the presidential race.

That is like saying that a hungry child needs a hearty meal. He may not get it — and the Republicans may not get that fresh face.

It is awfully late in the contest, even though it is only early March, and the Republicans are surfeited with reluctant warriors, the 21st-century versions of Thomas Paine’s summer soldiers and sunshine patriots. The remaining candidates have been saying of themselves: What you see is what you get. Increasingly it’s clear that they’re saying that of the Republican field as well.

— David M. Shribman is executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


Richard Heckler 5 years, 9 months ago

The GOP agenda has not changed in 32 years:

  1. Character assassinations

  2. Put millions upon millions more out of work for the third time

  3. Kill the economy again for the third time

  4. Monster real estate finance fraud for the third time

  5. More war for oil control

  6. More big government as always

  7. More Reaganomics aka Wreckanomics

  8. More tax cut legislation for the 1% that has never created new industry thus no new jobs

  9. Less and less money for public education in favor of turning OUR tax dollars over to private industry

  10. NEW Debt that goes beyond reality...

By the time the second Bush left office, the national debt had grown to $12.1 trillion:

  • ENTITLEMENT - Over half of that amount had been created by Bush’s tax cuts for the very wealthy.

  • ENTITLEMENT - Another 30% of the national debt had been created by the tax cuts for the wealthy under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

• ENTITLEMENT - Fully 81% of the national debt was created by just these three Republican Presidents. http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2010/0111orr.html

headdoctor 5 years, 9 months ago

Hate to ruin a perfectly good rant Merrill but all Presidents from Reagan clear up through Obama were and are NeoLiberals. So Democrat or Republican choices are the same poop just different piles as a matter of basics. The rest of the consideration is if you want to deal with the religious right/tea bagger crazy or do you want someone who might be a little more liberal on social programs.

Paul R Getto 5 years, 9 months ago

Good point. As Pat Buchanan says, "The neocons rafted over from the D's to the R's when the D's decided they were getting too radical for their tastes." "In March 2003, Buchanan wrote an American Conservative cover story arguing that neoconservatives want "to ensnare our country in a series of wars that are not in America's interest."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_positions_of_Pat_Buchanan#Neoconservatism === At least the neocons accomplished that goal......two bs wars at once as we speak.

Getaroom 5 years, 9 months ago

Obama will continue as President thankfully. Such a huge waste of resources given the GOP offerings battling it out to"prove" who amongst them is the best, most ultra conservative Christian (like that is any kind of credential), and all while wasting all these precious heart beats and breaths.

Thanks Merrill - rant on. You too "Snappy_ _, the Cereal poster" better get on the stick, the morning is ticking away !!

RogueThrill 5 years, 9 months ago

They also waste a lot of rich peoples money, which is good. Millions of ad dollars dropped into economic wastelands like Michigan are good for the economy.

And, while they are wasting time, we get to hear them say more and more ridiculous things. So, we're entertained and they boost local economies.

littlexav 5 years, 9 months ago

Not really - most "local" stations are owned by national (or at least super-regional) conglomerates. Very few dollars are actually "trickling down," proving yet again the fallacy of horse-and-sparrow economics. I mean "supply side" economics. See how little we've learned in 130 years?

jaywalker 5 years, 9 months ago

The only Republican I can think of who could jump in the race now with a chance to beat the President is Marco Rubio, and he only has a year in the Senate. My guess is it's four more years and Rubio is the nominee come '16.

Getaroom 5 years, 9 months ago

Interesting post FHNC: perhaps you may want to reconsider the specifics, if not your intent to deceive.

"Guantanamo prisoners get new, larger soccer field Associated Press Posted on February 28, 2012 at 1:28 PM Updated Tuesday, Feb 28 at 8:06 PM

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) — Some prisoners at Guantanamo Bay will soon have a new, larger soccer field to help keep them occupied during their indefinite detention.

The U.S. military has nearly completed a new recreation yard in Camp 6, the camp where more than 80 percent of the 171 prisoners are held. Besides a soccer field, it will have a walking trail and exercise equipment. Screened fences block the view of the nearby Caribbean Sea.

A spokeswoman says the improvements cost nearly $750,000. Navy Cmdr. Tamsen Reese said Tuesday the new yard replaces a smaller one in a part of the prison no longer in use. President Barack Obama had pledged to close the prison on the U.S. base in Cuba but Congress blocked him."

jonas_opines 5 years, 9 months ago

If it's a hat that's make you see what you see, you might check it for mercury.

Paul R Getto 5 years, 9 months ago

"Obama has been preparing for this November 5 since January of 2009." === Umm...isn't that what nearly all presidents do--start running for the second term as soon as they get sworn in for their first? I have long argued we should have one 7-year term for the president, and the election would be a stand alone so perhaps the Sheeple will pay attention. Thanks for your patriotic concern, though. As both sides say, "Money talks and BS walks." Surely the R's can find a billion or so to pump up Romney's efforts.

jafs 5 years, 9 months ago

Your position seems to have shifted from "Obama will lose", to "Obama may lose", to "Obama will be hard to beat".

Would you still wager money on the outcome of the next presidential election?

jonas_opines 5 years, 9 months ago

Eventually, he'll just shift his stance back to the standard: "it's all the fault of the libs and the mainstream media", and that will be the end of it.

jafs 5 years, 9 months ago

That's what I've been expecting.

Should be coming soon, I think.

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