Sunday, February 12, 2012
By: J. Hunter
Elections have always made me nervous—primaries, caucuses, generals, specials, off-years—every kind of election where I feel invested in the outcome. I was even a nervous wreck leading up to the 2010 mid-term election in which “my team” was predicted to dominate. “What if the pundits are wrong,” I thought. “What if Republican enthusiasm wanes by Election Day?” As it were, Republicans did just fine in 2010—set a record, even. As we ramp up for the 2012 Presidential contest, though, my nervousness has returned, and I see no comfort in sight.
Nothing has depressed me more about this race than the acute negativity. Every single Republican who ran for the nomination (save Herman Cain) owns some of the blame. Rick Perry buried himself by focusing on attacking Mitt Romney. Romney revisited his 2008 dark side with sharp, negative attacks on Newt Gingrich, who responded with cartoonish, ridiculous negative ads aimed at Romney. Ron Paul went after Rick Santorum and Rick Santorum attacks Romney relentlessly in debates. In the beginning of the race, Tim Pawlenty diminished himself when he sparred with Romney over his “Obam-ney Care” comments, and when he and Michele Bachmann traded jabs over some esoteric, Minnesota-centric issue. Bachmann at another point tried to resurrect her dying campaign by attacking Perry over a state-mandated HPV vaccination.
Republican pundits, and Republicans in general, intensified the negativity with arguments about each candidate’s conservative bona fides and with calls to dump the 8 original contenders with a totally new field. This cynicism has bloodied the noses of every Republican candidate and appears to be killing the enthusiasm to replace President Barack Obama in November.
Overshadowing the horserace aspect is the extremely low voter turnout in this primary election season. Ryan Hobart, speaking on behalf of the Missouri secretary of state’s office, called the turnout in Missouri “near the lowest, if not the lowest.” Tyler Francke writes that the Taney County Clerk, Donna Neely, originally predicted a 30% voter turnout. The actual turnout was 12.5%.
Voter turnout was down 14% in Florida, 26% in Nevada, 6% in Colorado, 23% in Minnesota and 58% in Missouri, the Los Angeles Times reports.
So far, there is little explanation for such low turnout. Steven Schier, a political scientist at Carleton College in Minnesota, believes that it stems from Republican dissatisfaction with the field. Mark Barabak, writing for the Los Angeles Times, blames the aforementioned negativity on the decline. Michael McDonald, a George Mason University professor, claims that there is no need for Republicans to fret about low turnout—yet.
I’m still fretting.
Finally (for now), the frontrunner game has lost its luster. Almost every nominee has spent time in the frontrunner position, much to the disadvantage of the eventual nominee, but much to pleasure of Sarah Palin. (Will she make a last minute bid? My anxiety builds.)
I part ways with Mrs. Palin on this point because the long primary has not clarified the nominees, as she claims, but has instead exposed their weaknesses as they work feverishly to dethrone the other.
Also, the longer this primary drags on, the less money donors will have to spend for the general election. Rallying around the most conservative candidate who can win in November, at a quicker pace than we have been previously, will greatly benefit Republican prospects.
To make matters worse, President Obama’s approval ratings have improved on the economy and with regards to general malaise. He polls better than all of the 4 remaining Republican challengers nationally. His monetary war chest is massive, and will only grow.
I am not predicting the election lost, but I am beseeching an end to the negativity (which, I believe foments the volatility).
Please, for the Party’s sake and for the sake of everyone who must interact with me until November.
Photo Sources: "Anxious Man" from http://www.uncanxietyclinic.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/anxiety4.203195849.jpg; "Negative Ad Cartoon" from http://blogs.rockymountainnews.com/stein/Stei103108B.gif; "Roulette Wheel" from http://clubroulette.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/play-roulette-game.jpg