2012 Republican Primary Importance

Posted on May 16, 2011


Something that has confused me over the past few presidential election cycles is who we, as Republicans, have ultimately selected as our party’s presidential nominee.  Most recently, in 2008, I was confused as to how we nominated John McCain as our Republican hope to maintaining the presidency.  That is the end goal, correct?  Don’t we want to nominate a candidate who we really think can win a presidential election against any Democratic candidate?  Did we really believe that John McCain had a chance to beat either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton?  I know most of my Republican friends shared my unfortunate, but honest belief that John McCain didn’t stand much of a shot.  So how did we get ourselves into such a predicament and how do we avoid such mistakes in the 2012 election cycle?

How did we get ourselves into this predicament in 2008?

To be quite honest, I am of the belief that many of us fall victim to the deceit of the media and end up voting based on who the media indirectly presents as “winning.”  This is because we are subject to the same senseless, media-driven process throughout primary season.  Below I will try to explain what I mean by this:

From the very beginning of primary season, we always hear questions regarding the potential candidates such as

-Which candidate is the most conservative, both socially and fiscally?
-Who flip-flopped when and on what?
-What potential democrat-like things have any of the politicians done?
-Have any of them cheated on their spouses?
-Is their religion one that I like or agree with?

Typically these are the types of questions the media focuses on to generate ratings with their viewers and, consequently, these are the types of questions that become embedded in our minds when we consider the candidates.  Now, I’m not saying that some of these questions should or shouldn’t be relevant, I’m simply arguing that unfortunately the media has a much stronger influence on our thoughts than we may think.

We then move onto primary debates.  The debates are full of questions designed to create controversy and thus media ratings, rather than focus on the important issues at hand.  For example, in the recent 2012 South Carolina debate they actually played a clip of Tim Pawlenty saying something “anti-Republican” (I believe the topic was cap and trade).  Pawlenty was then asked to defend himself.  As a result of these media-based debate tactics, the candidates immediately go on the defensive and try to generalize their statements to avoid any gaffes or further slip-ups.  In turn, the real important political issues never seem to take center stage.

Following the debates, we are bombarded with candidate attack ads taking advantage of the various candidates’ gaffes and start labeling candidates flip-floppers and all other sorts of politically-expedient, negative terminology.  Essentially, it is a process of Republicans beating up fellow Republicans over topics that are oftentimes not even relevant or true, one that inevitably weakens all the candidates’ otherwise good reputations and has a detrimental effect on the eventual Republican nominee in the general election.

In summary, it is a cannibalistic, media-driven process that I believe negatively affects our judgment as voters and exposes the Republican nominee to criticism in the general election.  In addition, it is a process in which the candidate with the least-publicized “skeletons in the closet” and most liked by the media is nominated by Republican voters.  Imagine the impact this process has on the majority of Republican voters who don’t closely follow the primary cycle and only get negative bites of information from the TV or radio on occasion about the various Republican candidates.  That’s right, a majority end up simply voting for the person who is well known and who has fewer “skeletons” than the next guy.  No wonder we end up with Republican nominees who are inadequate to sufficiently fight off a strong Democratic contender on the national stage.

How do we avoid such mistakes in 2012

Contrary to what you may believe, whichever Republican candidate a majority of Republicans think would be the best president is not necessarily the candidate that the majority of independents or angry democrats (for example those who no longer support Obama due to failed campaign promises) would vote for.  I think this is the critical fact that we oftentimes forget: the success of an eventual Republican nominee is based on how appealing he/she can be to independent voters and angry democrats.

Based on the circumstances of the 2012 election, I think it is a fair assumption to state that regardless of the Republican candidate selected in the primaries, all Republicans will vote for that candidate in the general election over Obama…hell, I think almost all Republicans would even vote for Hillary Clinton over Obama.  My point here is that the most important question Republican voters should consider when electing the Republican nominee is who can be the most appealing to independents and angry democrats considering the current state of the nation and economy!  The attractiveness of a candidate to independents and angry democrats that we, Republicans, elect will determine our ability to unseat Obama with one of our own.

The most socially and conservative Republican candidate will not necessarily be the most appealing candidate to independents and angry democrats.  The candidate who has flip-flopped the least on Republican-based platforms will not necessarily be the most appealing to them either.  Most independents don’t give a crap about religion either.  So, I think you get the point:  if we select a candidate based solely on who has the strongest perceived Republican creds, we will most likely be selecting a candidate who has a lower chance of beating Obama than some of the alternative candidates. [Note: I understand this will most likely conflict with idealistic tea party platforms (which I agree with and respect), but we too must be realists when it comes to the danger our nation is in with Obama at the helm].

So who are some good candidate choices?

I’m not going to tell you what I think about anyone in particular.  However, below are some attributes that I think we should consider (random order):

  1. National Name Recognition: let’s face it, there are a lot of stupid or uninformed voters out there and when they get to the polls, you’re going to want a known name as an alternate to Obama.  Also, if a candidate is only now trying to create name recognition, it may be too late.
  2. Economics and Business: the #1 factor facing the nation.  A strong knowledge of global economic matters and business issues will be absolutely necessary.  With government-reported unemployment at 9% and real unemployment at closer to 20%, this will be a very personal issue to many voters.
  3. Foreign Relations: I realize that foreign policy experience will only be held perhaps by candidates who were former or are current ambassadors, congressmen, and senators.  So, I don’t think foreign policy experience is as important as the ability to build strong foreign relationships.  For example, Donald Trump’s comments on China would not be what we are looking for in a candidate (although I admit he and his hair are a quite entertaining duo).  [Note: Trump backed out of the presidential potentials prior to this post].

I’m sure many of you could articulate my points better than me, but I truly do would like to hear  your thoughts on the above and hopefully read other important characteristics of what a Republican nominee would need to be attractive to independents and angry democrats.

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