Monday, March 5, 2012

Will Super Tuesday Put Republicans at Ease?

Well, Tuesday's the big day, and frankly, the candidates are all over the map, literally. Ohio's the big prize for either Romney or Santorum, but Georgia also key, since Newt Gingrich is resting his final hopes there.

I'll have more on all of this. Meanwhile, at Los Angeles Times, "Republicans grow anxious for primary race to end":

After a dozen contests, 20 debates and the prospect of weeks or even months of continued skirmishing, there is a growing clamor among Republicans to bring the presidential nomination race to a close for fear of hopelessly damaging the party's chances against President Obama.

Republicans designed their plan for picking a nominee to test their candidates with a longer, more grueling campaign. But the move threatens to backfire in favor of a Democratic incumbent who has gained strength as the increasingly nasty GOP contest has worn on.

"There's been plenty of preliminaries," said Curt Steiner, a Republican strategist in Ohio, the most important of the nearly dozen states voting this week on Super Tuesday. "It's time to focus on the general election."

Steiner backs Mitt Romney, so it's no surprise he would like to end the primary season with the former Massachusetts governor ahead, if still far short of the 1,144 convention delegates needed to secure the nomination. Sending a signal from Washington, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia on Sunday announced his endorsement of Romney ahead of his state's Tuesday primary.

It's not just Romney backers, though, who worry about the toll of a prolonged and increasingly nasty contest.

"The campaign has become deeply personal and very negative," said Steve Schmidt, who managed Arizona Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign and is staying neutral this time. "There is no optimistic vision. It's all about stabbing the opponent."

The damage, Schmidt said, is evident in polls that show Obama gaining ground against challengers while negative views of the Republican field increase. More worrisome from the GOP perspective is the shift of political independents toward Obama and the risk of further alienating those swing voters as the discussion strays from economic issues to the merits of contraception and the separation of church and state.

"This is stuff that will do great harm to the Republican Party," Schmidt said, a view shared, quite happily, by the Obama camp.
That sounds like a lot of establishment fear-mongering to me. Let's see how it all plays out on Tuesday. Then we'll really know how this primary race will affect the GOP. If Romney's not wrapping things up there's good reason for that. He's not broadening his base of support, which so far has been the media's attack on the other challengers to frontrunner status.

That said, here's this at NBC News, "NBC/WSJ poll: Primary season takes ‘corrosive’ toll on GOP and its candidates" (via Memeorandum).

More later...