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Posted by on Feb 10, 2012 in Breaking News, Politics | 5 comments

The Electability Question

Who can beat President Obama in the fall on the Republican side? The question of electability is the main point of concern among Republicans so far in this cycle. To date, a handful of former first-tier candidates have succumbed to the specter of electability including Rick Perry, Tim Pawlenty and yes, even the “perfect candidate” Michelle Bachmann. With only four candidates left in the field, the electability question is even more intense as primary and caucus voters have weighed in with their views. My question to the electability question is WHAT IS ELECTABILITY?

As a teacher of political science, and a staff member of several successful presidential campaigns, here are the important measures of electability: Money, Organization and Message. Here are the facts about the three factors… only One of Them counts in the fall; while the other two are the only reasons why Romney is still in the race for the Republican nomination.

The Romney campaign has pushed the electability mantra as their sole message for the past year. Their logic is that their candidate is the only one that will have the money, organization and message to defeat President Obama. Here are the facts – as I mentioned to my students last night in lecture, and what Senator Santorum mentioned in his CPAC address this morning, both parties will have about the same amount of money and organizational strength; the deciding factor will be the message. Mitt Romney’s only chance to win the nomination will be if he can continue to convince people who have money to disregard the fact that he has no credibility to be elected.

It is a historical fact that in a general election, where a moderate Republican has gone up against a Democrat, the moderate Republican loses BADLY. These elections include open seats (McCain), challenger seats against Democratic incumbents (Dole) and re-election bids for Republican incumbents in the White House (Ford, George H.W. Bush). When there is a contrast in message, when the American people can choose between a Democrat and a Republican nominee that has credible Conservative values and a vision, the Conservative candidate wins (Reagan, George H.W. Bush – 88, George W. Bush).

There are two electability questions that should be asked – who can win the Republican nomination and who can beat President Obama? What is more important – money and organization to win the nomination OR credibility of message to win the Presidency?

If Rick Santorum wants to win the nomination, someone on his campaign staff better figure out how to communicate this to Republican voters and donors before Santorum’s message gets lost in the uninspired mediocrity of organization.

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Copyright 2012 The Moderate Voice
  • ShannonLeee

    While I agree on the premise of the important of the message, I disagree with the simplified idea that it only take a conservative Republican to win. There was so much more going on in those elections than just the level of conservativism of the Rep candidate. I don’t think this community needs it spelled out, so I won’t.

    I do think this piece is a great example of the folks on the far right that believe that America really just wants a true conservative…the more to the right the better. The thought process in the above piece gives us great insight into the thought processes of the extremely conservative people in the Rep party.

    In the end, the author makes a great point. Santorum needs a strong conservative message because he simply does not have the money or organization to beat Romney. He’ll need to pull on those heart strings to win.

  • bluebelle

    They seem to just consider who would be able to get into the WH– not who would actually be good for the country.

    Its nice to see Tony letting George HW Bush back into the conservative club.. I thought he was kicked out when he changed read my lips and didn’t get Saddam.

    I’m pretty sure that historically he’s been viewed as a RINO– as for the 8 years of his son’s administration– no way that was a victory for America. The GOP won, America lost big time

  • petew

    Personally, I think the Republican field is completely inadequate as far as producing a candidate who really has the muster to be president. To me Romney represents the lesser of two evils, the other one being, Newt. I also agree with Shannon Leee that in a situation like ours in 2012, it doesn’t just takes a conservative to win. However, I think the impression Republican candidates make on Independents or Moderates will make a big difference. Romney may, in essence, be disappointing to “true conservatives,” but independents who are now disillusioned with what they perceive as Obama’s failures, may decide to settle for Mitt. After all, he did model a State Health care program from the same template as Obama’s ACA. And, his claim that it is inappropriate for national application, May appeal to some voter’s who fear massive government programs.

    The arrogance of Mr. Gingrich may approve to the self righteous indignation of many conservatives, but perhaps those in the middle will tend to shy away. All in all, Romney has the best appeal to a broader range of voters and has the money to back himself up.


  • bluebelle

    I can’t see how you would ever consider Newt presidential material even as “the lesser of two evils”?? He’s got delusions of grandeur and has been patently dishonest in his appearances. The guy is amoral and scary

  • Rcoutme

    I disagree with the author. First of all, he lists G.H.W. Bush as a losing moderate then lists him as a winning conservative. Which one is it Tony? You can’t have it both ways! He listed G.W. Bush as a winning conservative. Umm…what? I won’t say that the guy was liberal, but extreme conservative? Hardly. NCLB, prescription drug plan for Medicare, HELLO!!!

    I had hoped for some insight from the article. What I see is conjecture with phony ‘facts’.

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