Thursday, February 16, 2012

Future Shocks for the Republican Front Runner: What the Maine Caucus Results May Mean?

Keywords or Terms: Republican Primaries; Republican caucuses; Mitt Romney; Rick Santorum; Ron Paul; Newt Gingrich; Campaign Strategy; Michigan; Arizona; Super Tuesday; Jeb Bush; Chris Christy; 

The last few Republican Party primaries and causes in a couple of states have been a source of reflection and challenge for many Republican hopefuls for the party’s nomination for the November 6 contest. The successions of triumphs and failures for some candidates have been a source of encouragement and or discouragement for others. Some candidates have dealt with their failures better than others; and, while some primary and caucuses results have shown the dexterity of the front runner, Mitt Romney, others have shown a fundamental weakness in the campaign strategy of each of the candidate and the prospect for change in order to win the trophy to represent the Republicans in November, 2012. The blog today explores the implication of the Maine caucuses results for the entire slate of the Republican candidates seeking to compete against the President of the United States.

Succession missteps among the four remaining Republican candidates pose a serious threat to their viability as the best candidate against the Democrats. Candidate Newt Gingrich espouses leadership quality to South Carolinian; Floridians saw the charade in his candidacy and he was probably written-off in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado. Candidate Romney was a darling of Florida and Nevada Republican voters, while voters in the last or most recent three contests before the State of Maine's, saw the leadership vacuum in whatever Romney is offering as a candidate. Republican Voters in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado are so focused on the social conservative message of Rick Santorum that they ignored whatever product Romney, Paul or Gingrich were selling. Results from the three last state contests just before the state of Maine, showed the frailty of the Republican front runner and probably his inadequacies in the face of credible challenge from Rick Santorum. Maybe the promise of a new day came from the contest in Maine; and probably, re-launched Mitt Romney's viability as the best Republican flag bearer, not withstanding the threat from candidate Santorum.

There are some conservatives who still maintain that despite the Maine Caucasus results, nominating Mitt Romney as the Republican flag bearer is tantamount to loosing site of the truth regarding the front runner’s numerous weaknesses. Support for Romney has shrunk in some parts of the country, while in others, the results of primaries and caucuses have solidified Romney's front runner status and encouraged some undecided voters, to just throw in the towel and say, since the Republican establishment is supporting Romney, we will just go along, not really because we prefer him to other Republicans, but because there is no other candidate out there that can muster the required organizational dexterity or financial purse to compete against the wit of President Obama. Further, some very controversial campaign messages of other candidates have just continued to distance some voters away from their candidacy; or, put strains in their relationships with the candidates. Now, for those pundits who feel its all over, it maybe too premature to write the Republican nomination process off, as there are still over eight hundred delegates out there, that still need to be contested for; and, the fact that the front-runner has done well recently in a state like Maine, does not necessarily tie the nomination up for him.

In December, the contest in Iowa upped the ante for all candidates and most especially for Romney who once seemed very inevitable at the beginning of the competition or contest. Candidate and contestant Romney faltered even if it was belated in Iowa, to candidate and contestant Rick Santorum. The inevitability of candidate Mitt Romney that was once accepted was actually challenged, if not trashed belatedly with the results coming from Iowa. While the New Hampshire contest gave a ray of hope to the front runner, the South Carolina’s victory of Newt Gingrich doubly exposed the weakness in Mitt Romney’s campaign strategy and message. Romney's triumph in Florida could have highlighted his message for those voters who did not know much about Mitt Romney; however, the series of losses in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado, have spurred the remaining candidates to rethink the inevitability assumption of Mitt Romney’s candidacy. As a matter of fact, seasoned campaign strategists maintain that the Republican nomination is up in the air and the game is winnable for any candidate who can muster the plurality of more delegates in the upcoming contests.

Despite the message from Romney’s campaign and the recent success in Maine, there are some inherent short comings in his campaign that continue to distance voters from him and his message. The uncertainty in the Republican’s contests and results in already completed states in the union open up opportunities for the Democratic candidate. Party’s nomination process are often complex and fraught with emotions; failures and successes in one state or another; re-affirm the essence of the competition in the nomination process; and, allow some candidates to redouble on their message while others fall apart as each attempts to compete for voters' support. It is the nature of the business of campaigning for party’s nomination and the challenge all candidates have to go through to be better prepared for the general contest in November.

Are there some issues in all the candidates? Yes; however, some candidates have more issues with voters than others. Each Republican candidate at this time has to examine his campaign message and see what opportunities they have over other candidates in the race. The speedy rate at which the upcoming primaries and caucuses are about to deluge the campaign team(s) may expose the weaknesses of each candidate's message. The remaining four candidates have their work caught out for them. For example, the upcoming Michigan and Arizona primaries are new indicators or true tests of whether a candidate's message is resonating well with voters; and, which candidate's message is relevant to the needs of the individual voter in these states and which, is not. Polls in Michigan indicate that Rick Santorum is leading all other Republican candidates, including the presumed front-runner. For Mitt Romney to win and retain a genuine front runner status in the coming three weeks, when and where there are expected to be thirteen contest events, Romney must be able to do better than the lackadaisical performance and the on and off-again wins in the primaries and caucuses that have been settled.

If Candidate Rick Santorum wins in Michigan, a state considered a home state for Candidate Mitt Romney, all bets are off; the race for the Republican nomination automatically becomes a toss up, as the myth of Romney as the front-runner candidate becomes a rouse. That's even not all, if Romney splits the votes in Arizona with a 30-30 spread with candidate Rick Santorum, after yielding Michigan to the same man, then the anticipated future of Mitt Romney as the eventual nominee of the Republican Party, will completely be in doubt. Anticipated, one must expect the Godfathers in the Republican Party to re-group and probably field another of their favorite candidate; as many of them have really been lukewarm regarding the slate of candidates in the race. Some pundits indicate the possibility of drafting of Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, or Chris Christie, current governor of New Jersey, in case Romney gets knocked off the Totem Pole. These pundits can't stand the idea of a President Santorum or Gingrich! All these events are still hypothetical and things may just be more simpler than is contemplated here.

How can Mitt Romney get ahead of the pack and be considered the ultimate Republican nominee? Being proactive in ways that are not considered unacceptable to majority of the Republican base, especially the extreme right and probably the Evangelical Christians; escalating spending on positive campaign advertisements and media blitz; recruiting on college campuses, young and upward mobile Republicans who are not necessarily hard nosed conservatives; and, committing to a more consistent campaign message that dissuades current perception that he is a flip-flopper; and managing his press interviews, better than what has been happening in the past few months, where many of these have been riddled with Gaffes. Without these necessary changes, if Santorum ever decapitate Romney in Michigan, there would be no corporate contributions that would be enough to prevent his candidacy from being relegated to redundancy. Further, without a conscious effort to burnish his image from being a representative of the one-percenter rather than the remaining 99-percenter, his candidacy is doomed for good; or at best, going to face a steeper hill to win the nomination.

At the end of the coming March 6 contests, famously donned Super Tuesday, the competitiveness of all candidacies would have been appropriately or well defined. The exposure of potential voters to mean and dispirited campaign advertisements on the airwaves and televisions would have subsided and whoever is the most likely choice would have found himself in another race or challenge: convincing America that he is the right person to lead this great country, but President Obama. Delivering this type of message demands more accountability and expectations. To retain the confidence of the larger populace is more challenging and probably breath taking than just fighting to be the flag bearer for a national party. A strong sense of constructive discontent for the current economic status-quo becomes more of a question for that person, than the myopic question of who is more conservative enough to lead the Republican party.

Any of the Republican candidate today, who ends up being the nominee for the party, would find that the current acrimony within the party, is a small cake, compared with what to expect in a national contest with the Democrats. The National Press will begin to delve into the nook and crannies of the individual's past and a never-ending session of questioning the nominees' investments in foreign countries, if the nominee is Romney; or, why homosexuals must be denied their civil right, if the nominee is Santorum; or, why federal justices must be removed from bench because they have not interpreted the constitution the way the nominee likes, if the nominee is Gingrich; and, why America must choose the path of isolationism, if Ron Paul is the nominee. That's what makes America's Democracy unique and why there has never been a short list of candidates who want to rule this country. For many, to win the Presidency of the United States of America is to win the hugest lotto of all time; one that by default makes you, leader of the free world. That is why many are willing to kill or sell their mother to win the Presidency, or their party's nomination.

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