October 25, 2011

Hoping for confusion in the early states

That's not right.
Not too long ago I made a prediction about the early GOP primary winners. Of course I reserved the right to amend it as facts changed. We all knew they would and I of course need to tweak those predictions now. But that isn't my motivation for the headline. I'd rather the Republicans win in 2012 than be right about what happens along the way.

Nevertheless, I'm still hoping for a mish-mash of victors in the early primary states. Here's why.

Time to vet

If there's a runaway early leader, the chance to vet the eventual candidate is minimized.  There could be things about the winner that weren't vetted that might pose problems in the general election.  More time to vet the eventual candidate means less likelihood that that sort of October surprise could pop up.

Too-early early states 

With all of the primaries moving up, the time to differentiate between candidates and assess the various pros and cons are truncated.  On top of that, not everyone who might vote is engaged yet. A lot of polling shows small numbers of undecideds but that doesn't necessarily indicate the solidity of the support numbers for everyone else.  Early undecided voters is quite different from locked in voters.

Conservative candidate of choice

A runaway leader will likely not be the conservative candidate of choice. In other words, if the decision is made early, it's likely going to be Mitt Romney.  While he performs well head-to-head versus Obama, he's got many issues - flip-flopper, Romneycare and lack of grassroots support chief among them.  That's the sort of support that's a mile wide and an inch deep as they say.  Romney may actually be the weakest GOP candidate in terms of turning out the base.  He's clearly not the most conservative electable candidate and as such is not the best choice, yet a fast selection likely leaves him as the nominee.

Wasting Democrat time and money

Early chaos serves to keep Democrat money and effort aimed at Romney or at least, various, assorted moving targets. That helps to mitigate the cash advantage Democrats have.  Democrats get a tactical primary advantage by not having to exert effort or time into a primary challenge. But with Obama holding his powder to face an eventual winner he'll have more to spend than his GOP rival.  If the Democrats don't know who that rival is, they have two choices - pick a target (they believe it will be Romney) and hit it anyway, OR waste precious time by not targeting anyone OR target everyone and spend way too much money.

The smart money would wait, but that's not what the Democrats have chosen to do.  They believe Romney will win.  It's a gamble.  If they are right they are not wasting time or money.  If they are wrong they are wasting both.

That in itself goes to show you that the Democrats chances at re-winning the White House are shaky and they know it.  If they are the favorite to win in November 2012, they would playing the smarter game and wait for the eventual winner before entering the fray.

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