A negative and drawn out campaign won’t damage the Republican nominee for president in 2016.
Jonathan Bernstein wrote a great piece yesterday responding to claims in Politico that Republican Party is looking at a long and drawn out battle for the 2016 presidential nomination, and such an outcome would damage, perhaps fatally, whoever ended up winning and going on to take on Hillary Clinton. It’s an interesting theory, unfortunately for Politico it doesn’t really jive with history:
In any case, the nomination will be locked down by June 2016, at the very latest. Could it be a rough journey? Absolutely. Will that matter in November? Almost certainly not. The closest, longest presidential nomination battle since 1976 was the Democratic contest in 2008 between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. It had no apparent ill effects.
Republicans who worry that Clinton will lock up the Democratic nomination easily while Republicans continue fighting among themselves should remember what happened to Vice President Al Gore. He was nominated practically by acclamation and then proceeded to fall short of projections by a greater degree than any modern candidate. By contrast, his Republican opponent, George W. Bush, fought an extended battle against John McCain.
That’s exactly right. There is some historical evidence that divided conventions can hurt political parties on Election Day. Hubert Humphrey was probably hurt about the chaos in Chicago in 1968. But modern political conventions just don’t work that way. Today they are little more than carefully stage manager multi-day political commercials instead of the actual decision make bodies they used to be, making that sort of chaos profoundly unlikely.
I’d argue that there is one big reason to welcome a major inter-party brawl: the GOP might get the chance to hammer out what it is they stand for in the post-Obama age. For years now the Republican Party has largely defined itself as being opposed to whatever it is President Obama stands for. So mandates requiring people to buy health insure go from being at the center of Mitt Romney’s state level reforms in to being an unconstitutional monstrosity that will make us all buy broccoli. Or the GOP could finally decide if deficits are actually going to destroy America or if they just don’t matter at all.
Presidential nomination contests are a key way for political parties to determine what it is they stand for, even if they go on to lose in the general election. Since Obama won’t be around forever it would be good for the GOP and the nation for them to start figuring out what it is they really believe.
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