Carl Golden, 5/13/2014 [Archive]

GOP Moves to Protect Itself from Itself

GOP Moves to Protect Itself from Itself

By Carl Golden

By any reasonable standard, the 2012 presidential primary season for the Republican Party was an unmitigated disaster --- undisciplined, chaotic, embarrassing and ultimately the destruction of any chance the party had of defeating President Obama.

With some 20 debates, forums or joint appearances and as few as six or as many as a dozen candidates participating, the party lost any hope of developing a coherent message or articulating a vision in which the American people could believe.

When Mitt Romney eventually emerged as the nominee --- a victory largely purchased with millions of dollars in negative advertising --- he was a candidate carrying immense political baggage heaped upon him by his own party. His loss to Obama was almost anti-climactic.

A few weeks ago, in what many considered to be a "never again" moment, national chairman Reince Priebus, won committee approval for significant changes in the nominating process and re-assert control over managing it

Realizing that the sheer volume of debates and the exposure it gave to marginal candidates with equally marginal chances of success drove the party into a downward spiral, Priebus won national committee approval to penalize any candidate who participated in a debate not sanctioned by the national party.

Violating the rule would result in limiting the offending candidate's role in any subsequent party-approved forums.

To win over the committee's more conservative delegates and secure their support for the change, Priebus turned to one of their favorite whipping boys: "The liberal media doesn't deserve to be in the driver's seat," he said.

It is true that many of the forums and debates were sponsored by news outlets and, for the most part, chose the moderators and reporters who took part.However, it wasn't the media which forced Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Ron Paul, Michelle Bachman, et. al., to flock to the stage and trip over their own rhetoric and offer up some ridiculously out of touch ideas.

They and others craved the attention and exposure in the futile hope they could keep their struggling candidacies alive, attract greater contributions, and achieve some measure of credibility.

In doing so, they ganged up on front runner Romney, forcing him to spend precious time and resources to defend himself rather than taking the fight aggressively to Obama.

While the media has long been a target for party conservatives, the truth of the matter is the real goal of the change sought by Priebus is a reduction in the number of debates and lessening the impact of insurgent or marginal candidates.

The change took aim also at the growing length of the primary season by providing the first four primary states --- Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada --- hold their contests in February, other states in March and winner take all systems March 15 and beyond.

The overwhelming vote to support Priebus' proposals is an unmistakable sign that the experience of 2012 inflicted serious damage on the eventual nominee --- Romney — as well as on the party's overall national reputation.

Despite some misgivings over the potential for freezing underfunded and lesser known candidates out of the process by denying them access to televised debates and the exposure they provide, the committee recognized a repeat of 2012 is not in the party's best interest and would undermine what is widely acknowledged to be a better than even chance of capturing the presidency in 2016.

Retaining control of the House of Representatives and winning the six seats needed to gain control of the Senate in this year's mid-term election will give Republicans enormous momentum and signal a deep discontent in the country with the performance of the President and the Democratic Party.

The debates two years ago became little more than pander fests and demeaned and diminished all those who participated --- candidates and media alike.They ceased being clashes of ideas or intellectual exchanges over serious problems --- foreign and domestic --- the nation faced and deteriorated into slogans, jingoism, and sound bites, often revealing an appalling lack of understanding or perspective on the part of the candidates.

It's a given that if Hillary Clinton seeks her party's presidential nomination, she will in all likelihood have a clear field, allowing her to concentrate on building organizational and financial support without the distraction and diversion of resources necessitated by dealing with lesser candidates nipping at the hem of her pants suits.

There's no doubt that entered into Priebus' thinking as well.

While the changes instituted by the Republicans can't guarantee the party will achieve the degree of unity a Clinton candidacy provides the Democrats, they are an overdue recognition that greater focus and discipline are crucial in the run up to 2016.

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©Copyright 2014 Carl Golden, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. You can reach him at cgolden1937@gmail.

This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.

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