A growing number of Republican operatives are worried about the negative effects of grueling primary battle will have on the party’s eventual nominee.
These concerned pundits and strategists share a number of things in common. First, they are all card-carrying members of the GOP establishment. Second, they always get worked up after Mitt Romney once again shows that he’s incapable of securing the nomination. Finally, they care more about fundraising reports and political positioning than about the issues and principles that make up the Republican Party.
Recent polling has shown that the ongoing primary has hurt Romney’s standing in general election polls. It is understandable for those who are supporting Romney, or who are quietly rooting him on, to be concerned about the damage that is being done in the primary, but Romney is the bully in the race, not his opponents.
All of the talk about the brutal Republican nomination fight forgets to mention that it’s Romney and his Super PAC who are throwing the punches. In state after state, Romney and Restore our Future have drowned their opponents in nasty, negative ads.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Super PACs have spent just $4.7 million dollars attacking Romney during the 2012 nomination fight. On the other hand, $18.8 million has been spent against Newt Gingrich, and $14.1 million has been spent against Rick Santorum. With such a large disparity between the negative ads being run against Romney and his opponents, one has to wonder why the long primary battle is bad for Romney since he’s not the one being suffocated by negative attacks by his opponents.
The truth of the matter is that the grueling primary is bad for Romney because it is highlighting his weaknesses as a candidate. No matter how much the Romney campaign, it’s surrogates, and those in the media who are favorable towards him insist that Mitt Romney is the inevitable nominee, he should have to overcome his weaknesses just like any other candidate.
Below are a few suggestions for the Romney campaign to consider if they want to secure the nomination and begin to unite the Republican Party.
Exude Confidence Not Arrogance
Romney has a number of advantages over his opponents. The Romney campaign has a larger, more experienced staff, more financial resources, and more wins, and thus delegates, in the nomination process. The campaign has spent the days following Super Tuesday insisting that only they can accumulate the 1,144 delegates necessary to secure the nomination.
While the Romney campaign has a clear delegate advantage, with only a third of the delegates awarded, it’s too soon to make the argument that they have essentially secured the nomination. In fact, until it’s mathematically impossible for Romney’s opponents to reach the magic delegate number it’s pointless to make the argument. That is especially true when one can easily make the case that Romney himself could come short of securing the necessary delegates to win the nomination outright.
If the Romney campaign truly believed that only they could win the nomination, why spew so much negativity toward his “pathetic” opponents? Romney’s delegate advantage should give them confidence to begin the process of uniting the party, not further dividing it.
Try Implementing A Positive Campaign
The remaining contests in the month of March are going to be difficult for Romney, which is why they are pushing the narrative that Santorum and Gingrich are remaining in the race despite not having any real chance to win. Illinois is the lone bright spot for Romney, and that’s largely because he is expected to do well in the Chicago area.
Romney and his Super PAC might benefit more from running a positive media campaign than the negative one they have been running. The results from Michigan and Ohio show that Romney performs well in urban areas, while Santorum is strong in rural areas. The take away from those two contests is that Santorum’s brand of conservatism doesn’t appeal to metropolitan voters, while Romney does.
One could argue that the millions of dollars Romney and his Super PAC have spent beating up Santorum in Ohio and Michigan did little to influence the race. If they had, one would think Romney would perform better in the rural parts of state. Running positive ads might actually help Romney attract rural support, which he will need in the general election. Romney needs to begin reaching out to rural conservatives, and there is no better time than the month of March.
Again, if the Romney campaign is confident that they have a firm grasp on the nomination, why do they feel the need to continue the negative assault on their opponents?
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
It is understandable why the Romney campaign desperately wants the Republican nomination fight to be over. The problem is that, for the race to be over, Romney needs to stop losing contests. Winning six out of ten contests wasn’t enough on Super Tuesday because Romney lost some very key contests. It’s one thing to say that the Missouri primary and a couple caucuses didn’t matter. It’s another thing when you get stomped in Georgia, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.
The best way for the Romney campaign to begin wrapping up the nomination is to start acting like one would expect the nominee to act. Put the political games aside, stop attacking your Republican opponents every chance you get, and start focusing and talking about the general election. Romney would also benefit by starting to develop his theme for the general election. I’m pretty sure that arguing delegate math or pointing out a candidate’s inability to be eligible to get delegates is not what Romney will be running on this fall, or at least I would hope not.
Nominating Process Worked
The Romney campaign seems annoyed that they still have to deal with Gingrich and Santorum. Instead of focusing on their opponents, the Romney campaign should start fixing their candidate.
The nomination process has identified Romney’s weaknesses:
1. He lacks an inspiring message.
2. He doesn’t appeal to rural or lower or middle class people.
3. He has yet to honestly address his own healthcare mandate.
4. He needs to find a way to engage conservatives.
The Romney campaign is acting like these are things that should be ignored instead of things to be fixed. That’s no way to run a campaign. Instead of focusing on his opponents’ weaknesses, Romney should use the month of March to get his own house in order.
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