The Republican Party has a problem. Last night’s Iowa caucuses revealed the problem. It did not point toward a solution.
It’s no longer Ronald Reagan’s party. It is Mitt Romney’s party.
Gone is the congeniality and the civility; now we have negative emotion, brutal attacks, and wall-to-wall nastiness.
People liked Ronald Reagan. No one really likes Mitt Romney.
People knew what Ronald Reagan stood for. No one really knows what Mitt Romney stands for or what a Romney agenda would look like.
All everyone knows is that Mitt Romney stands for Mitt Romney.
I have mentioned this before. I will probably mention it again.
The negative ads run in Romney’s name have seriously damaged his most prominent opponents, but they have left him with around 25% of the Republican Party vote. They have also created a fractured and dispirited party.
You cannot inspire people by trashing your Republican competition. You will not generate enthusiasm by constantly attacking your fellow Republicans.
In the end you are going to set Republican against Republican and provoke an intraparty civil war.
In the end the party looks bad. It does not inspire confidence. People will be less likely to vote for a party that is divided against itself.
It’s fair to suggest that if Romney were as true a Republican as he says he is he would have adopted a more conciliatory and respectful approach to the rest of the primary field.
Given his tactics and given the divisions they have sown he will, if he gets the nomination, be very poorly placed to unite the party and to burnish its brand.
Looking at the results from last night’s Iowa Republican caucus Howard Fineman declared that the only real winner was Barack Obama.
In his words: “The dismal, nasty campaign here was not good for the Republican Party or the country. There was precious little debate on anything other than who literally was Holier than Thou; the dollars spent on attack ads were, vote for vote, enormous. One GOP top finisher is unpopular with the base; another is too far out of the mainstream to be nominated, let alone elected; the third lost his last Senate race, in Pennsylvania, by 17 points, and is far to the right of the country on social issues.
“All of which is good news for a president with a 40 percent job approval rating and a desperate need for a weak opponent next November.
“Projections put the GOP turnout at about 118,000 votes, roughly the same as 2008, a year in which the Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama race drew twice as many participants. In other words, the turnout was not the kind of show of interest and enthusiasm that would presage a Republican surge next fall.”
And then there is Rick Santorum. Regardless of what Iowa caucus-goers said, Rick Santorum is not a serious candidate. He is not the kind of candidate that a serious party turns to when it wants to win an election.
Santorum seems to have been the last conservative standing, the last of the Not-Romney candidates, the only one who was not assaulted by a barrage attack ads. He seems to be a nice enough guy, but he is a cipher to most voters. Among the candidates he is most likely to become a running joke.
And Santorum does not come across as a winner. Considering his last senatorial campaign his candidacy reflects his own vanity more than anything else.
At a time when the nation and the world are still trying to work their way out of a grave financial crisis, the Republican Party has just elevated a candidate whose strength lies in what are called social issues.
Does anyone really believe that Rick Santorum can unite the Republican Party and beat Barack Obama in a general election?
It’s time for the Republican Party to get serious. How this is going to happen is not at all clear.