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Focus on the GOP’s lack of a 2012 presidential frontrunner overlooks the situation’s real advantages.
Focus on Republicans’ lack of a 2012 presidential frontrunner overlooks the situation’s real advantages. Prevailing opinion is that the absence of a frontrunner indicates a weak candidate field, which will prevent Republicans from making November after next the contest of sharp contrasts they could win.
However, current trends and historical precedent forcefully argue both assumptions may be wrong. Republicans may be about to follow the Democrats’ pattern that has worked for their last three successful presidential candidates.
Even if Osama bin Laden’s killing and April’s job growth provide boosts, Obama is still only emerging from one of his presidency’s lowest points. It is unclear how much, or how lasting, their impacts will be. With an election 18 months away, they need to be lasting. And with his current approval ratings, they also need to be big. Obama continues to hover around a 50% percent approval rating — often below and often negative.
The 2010 election results gave similarly serious signs. Obama’s base supporters showed an ominous low turnout and Democrats lost Senate and governor races in states Obama needs to win for reelection.
Strategists will argue things will be different with Obama at the ticket’s top. His supporters will return and equally important: his opposition lacks a strong candidate to rally behind.
While the first assertion’s accuracy is unknowable until next November, it’s time to seriously reassess the second.
Most importantly, reelections are almost always about the incumbent. Virtually no one Republicans could nominate will change that fact.
Second, even Democrats admit the 2012 presidential contest will not repeat 2008’s. This one will be tight. Obama is no longer an unknown. He now has a record and its construction has produced today’s approval ratings.
Nor do there appear many things that are likely to dramatically change that record before reelection. A split Congress seriously limits new legislation and the major issues — economy, unemployment, the federal deficit and debt — also are unlikely to change significantly.
For an incumbent with limited opportunity to alter his record, the goal is quickly to define the opponent. However, that is impossible with no leading opponent to attack. This not only protects the field now, it also increases the chance the nominee will be stronger. The herd of Republican candidates does not just obscure its members. It also encourages more to enter.
Such a wide-open field is atypical for Republican presidential primaries. But Democrats have made prototypical for successfully challenging incumbents.
Republicans have nominated “legacy candidates” for some time — picks fairly obvious well ahead of their nomination. Nixon in 1960 and 1968, Ford in 1976, Reagan in 1980, Bush I in 1988, Dole in 1996, Bush II in 2000, and McCain in 2008 all fit the description. And all gave Democrats a long time to target them, frequently successfully.
This election though, Republicans seem to be copying Democrats’ incumbent-challenging strategy.
Democrats’ last three presidents — Carter in 1976, Clinton in 1992, and Obama in 2008 — emerged either from “weak fields” or were initially seen as “weak candidates.” Few expected them to win the nomination, let alone the White House. Yet all did and did so in part because they were largely unknown and undefined — in clear contrast to the incumbents they beat.
Obama had these advantages just four years ago. He got them precisely by beating a prohibitive frontrunner for the nomination — Hillary Clinton — whose seemingly overwhelming advantages served to clear the field for Obama.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?