I’m Not Impressed By The Republican Campaigns

Over the past several months, I’ve been watching the Republicans running for their party’s nomination to be the  presidential candidate.   I’ve pointed out in past postings here and elsewhere the lack of intellectual rigor, the inability to propose anything resembling a coherent program to address the nation’s problems, and the blatant pandering to the most racist elements.  All of which are disturbing, even infuriating.   But I understand it, even if I don’t like it.  In a primary, there often is that sort of pandering to the core base of a party, and right now, that is the core base.   But what causes me to be really unimpressed by the Republican field is not that.  It’s the lack of professionalism in their campaigns.  If there is one indicator of how much trouble the Republican Party is in, it’s that.

What do I mean by this?  Consider that through the ’80’s and well into the last decade, the Republicans had a fearsome ability to run campaigns.   One didn’t have to like it to admit that.  They were very good at grooming their candidate, focusing on message, and getting elections won.    They could take relatively unimpressive candidates – and let’s face it, George W. Bush was far from spectacular – and get them across the finish line.

But in looking at this cycle, I see something different.   While various candidates have had “buzz” within the party ranks at various times, their campaigns resembled more a local elementary school play than a Broadway production.   Candidates were caught unprepared for the media spotlight, they couldn’t enunciate a clear view of what they wanted to do, and frequently seemed to be caught out by predictable issues.   For example, Mitt Romney was unprepared for questions about his tax returns – and in particular his failure to release them.   Tax return releases have been standard for a generation, so any failure to do so would be questioned.   But he was caught flat-footed by it.

That’s just one example of many.  Rick Perry being unable to handle debates,  Michele Bachmann unable to answer questions about how her past statements about being submissive to her husband would impact her as President, Ron Paul not thinking that past newsletters under his name would be a problem, and Newt not thinking his lobbying for  working as a historian for Freddie Mac would be brought up, are just a quick sampling.

I’m not a campaign professional, but I have observed a lot of campaigns over my life, and that’s why I had certain expectations.   I expected that a candidate would be aware of the obvious pitfalls around them.  That they would have done “opposition research” on themselves, and made preparations to deal with any negatives when they arise – and they will.  If it’s not the press, it’ll be your opponents who will bring them up.   I expected that candidates would have a set of “stump speeches” and “position papers” which they’ll have thoroughly memorized.  I expected that candidates would have practiced debating.  It’s what I’m used to seeing from “seasoned politicians,”  and let’s be honest here, with the exception of Herman Cain, none of the Republican candidates were “inexperienced” at running for office.

But that’s exactly what I haven’t seen from this cycle’s crop of candidates.  I’m not talking about being blindsided by something unknown, or having a world or national event change the dynamic.  Sure, that can – and does – happen, and you get an idea of how a candidate handles adversity from that.  What I’m talking about is the “standard stuff,” the things you can see coming from a mile away.  Every single one of them seems to have given no thought to the realities of a presidential campaign, and failed to hire – or failed to listen to – campaign professionals on their side.  The overall impression is that it’s like looking at a reprise of the old “Hey!  Let’s put on a show!” only instead of that, it was “Hey! Let’s run for president!”   Since this isn’t a movie, the results were not good.

But I said in the opening paragraph that it was an indicator of how much trouble the Republican Party was in.  The reason I said that is that in the past, campaigns have been able to appeal to enough of the bases inside the Republican party – and yes, every party has multiple ones  – to form a coalition they take into the general election.  We’re not seeing that this time around, we’re seeing a splintering effect, urged on in many ways by the campaigns themselves.    The lack of professionalism in the campaigns says volumes about the quality of candidates – and the lack of a coherent strategy – that the Republican Party is able to attract.   The 2010 election may well turn out to be the “last gasp” of the party we knew, where they traded their long-term prospects for a short term gain.  The Republican Party that comes out of this election looks to be a lot smaller than it was before.

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20 Comments

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20 responses to “I’m Not Impressed By The Republican Campaigns

  1. sjterrid

    Excellent analysis, Norbrook. I think that most of their candidates really aren’t interested in becoming president, they are only running to make as much money as they can.

    • Yes, if you’re talking about Cain, Bachmann, and to an extent, Newt. What I see is a lack of “vetting the candidate” when it came not only to them, but for people like Rick Perry. You’d have thought that before they pushed him forward, they’d have checked around Texas. I’m certain that if they had, they’d have found out that he’s not the brightest bulb in the string, and there was a reason he avoided debates when running for governor.

      Romney is the one who really astonishes me. He’s been ‘runnning’ for 4 years now, and you’d have thought with his money, he’d have had people identifying his weak spots, as well as working with him on appearances. That he seems to have missed all of those points doesn’t speak well of his organizational skills.

      • mdblanche

        Four years? More like eight, minimum. Romney lost any interest he had in the only office he’s ever gotten elected to (running against a candidate who makes Martha Coakley look like Elizabeth Warren) halfway through his one term. Everything he did for his last two years as governor was all about positioning himself to run for President. But he’s never been very good at it. He burned a lot of bridges as governor and his previous track record is a justified source of suspicion with the conservative base. After watching his career for a decade I still don’t know what he stands for besides himself. Nothing, I suspect. He really strikes me as the phoniest man in politics today and the only reason he decided to run is too much flattery from his yes-men. Now he’s discovering that not everyone out there are his yes-men.

    • I should also point out that this isn’t the first time this has happened. All we have to do is look at the process which led to the selection of Sarah Palin as a VP candidate. It’s just on a much greater scale this time.

      • My Poly Sci studies here–I remember standing in the break room of the office I was working at the time, and agency of the USAF, and speaking to another contractor about some event or another that had caused some embarrassment and flailing for the McCain campaign. I noted to my co-worker, a smart, decent person, especially for a Republican, that I had seen it, and I was convinced that McCain was going to lose. She was disappointed by this and asked me if I was gloating, to which I replied “only a little.” I pointed out that the candidate was not well served by staff, and it was something that should have been caught and prevented. It was amateur hour and it should never have happened in a national campaign, and as a PS-major, I was surprised. As a Democrat I was pleased.
        I see things like that all the time with this bunch.
        The booing of the gay Soldier, with none of the candidates saying anything comes immediately to mind–that was a freaking gimme.

        • Mitt is the one whose campaign has surprised me the most. He’s been “running” for years now, and that he didn’t learn any lessons from McCain’s campaign – or Obama’s – really doesn’t speak well of him.

  2. closerange

    Unfortunately competence is only a factor on the left. The GOP is seen as the ‘white people’s party’ and they pander to the bigots of all stripes. These bigots are always motivated to vote whereas you have to practically beg the Dems to support their own.

    How else can you explain W’s two (or even one) terms? Why is it that party that wants to destroy unions routinely wins West Virginia in the G.E. Why is any GOPer polling within 40% of PBO in Florida after they all voted for Paul Ryan’s ‘kill medicare’ budget?

    My question to any GOPer is:

    If you are not rich or a racist can name ONE thing that the GOP has done
    for you in the last 40 years?

    • I wouldn’t go quite that way with your description of the GOP, but it’s been migrating there. What you have to remember that there is no monolithic “base” for any political party. There’s a set of “bases” that combined make up “the base.” What we’re seeing in many ways is a fracturing of the GOP base. The religious right is not happy with Romney, mainly because he’s “not Christian.” The libertarian/racist groups are going with Ron Paul, with some leaning towards Gingrich. Gingrich is anathema to the monied interests. Whichever one gets it, is going to have much reduced enthusiasm from one or more of those bases.

      In looking at W., that’s why I said that his campaign team was competent. While he was not an impressive candidate – far from it, really – there was a team around him which did a great job of getting him elected – twice. I don’t have to like it, and I certainly didn’t like their tactics, but I give them credit for being able to do it.

  3. Caroline

    This is very spot on and an analysis I haven’t really seen anywhere else. Another thing that springs to mind is the candidates who didn’t do the legwork to get on the Virginia ballot and sued to have their names put on. How basic is that?

    • Exactly. That’s a simple “dot the i’s and cross the t’s” thing for any campaign. If you can’t get on the ballot, they can’t vote for you.

  4. I remember saying in 2008 that I couldn’t believe how poorly McCain’s campaign was run. It almost seemed as though he wasn’t really serious.

  5. overseasgranny

    For the Republicans there is no sense of campaigning anymore, and it is a race of entitlement instead. The Bushes are entitled to be President. McCain is entitled to be President. Now Romney thinks he is entitled to be President. If you think the position is just yours for the asking, you lose all sense of what it takes to win an election these days.
    And I am glad the Republicans think that way, and my guy will tromp all over them again.

    • Yes and no. At the very least, the Bushes and McCain – for at least the primaries – had campaigns that did their legwork, and got the basic stuff right in them. McCain screwed up in the general election, but credit where it’s due for his getting the nomination. The problem with Romney is that he seems to have not learned anything from his first time around.

  6. John McCain is now calling for an end to the GOP debates because they’re “driving the candidates’ un-favorables up.” This man is clueless. It was he who introduced Palin to the nation-a key reason that the GOP candidates are going after each other so viciously, imo. Palin made it acceptable to do so. McCain obviously didn’t think that the GOP’s tendency to attack PBO and dems so relentlessly using concocted BS could infect the GOP. As for what the GOP candidates are offering to the American people, it’s just more of the same. This is a campaign of personality-not of policy, and it has Erick Erickson very worried. The Reid Report has revealed that Erickson thinks neither Gingrich nor Romney can win against PBO in November, and I imagine he’s not the only one. Reince Priebus is now on record saying that “PBO is ‘our’ Italian Cruise Ship Captain,” whatever the frick this is supposed to mean.

    • I’d agree that they need to end the debates, because really, nothing is being said in them. Honestly, they’ve had so many by now, that most people are only watching to see which candidate makes the biggest blunder.

  7. Plus there’s a disease common among white males and a growing number of females over 50 who are the victims of being ‘right’ (in their own minds) for much of their lives. It’s partially a sub-type of ‘group-think.’ Their experience tells them that they have been right so often that there is no reason to stop believing it now. Spouses, friends, subordinates nod in agreement. Why would it be different now?
    I began noticing this 15 years ago among people who were not in the political arena but who a consistent life experience of being ‘right.’ Do you see this too?

    • There’s a very interesting study out of Germany which looked at which areas of the country have the most support for the far right. What they found was it tended to be clustered in areas where there was great economic uncertainty. I think what you’re seeing in the Republican Party is similar. Mostly, particularly in those, they’re the ones who are seeing a rapid shift in what “was” – i.e.; white majority, mostly Christian, and for the most part economic stability – to what “is.” A much more pluralistic, diverse country which has undergone a great deal of economic upheaval. Hence, the “Tea Party” and the looking for scapegoats, to return to the comfortable certainties. 🙄

      • Interestingly, the parts of Germany with the worst right-wing extremist (a.k.a Nazi) activity are mostly in the East, i.e. the former communist German Democratic Republic.
        Despite former Chancellor Kohl’s promises that East Germany would take only five years to “flourish” once reunification had happened, it’s been twenty years, and the area is still economically disadvantaged.
        Many young people are unemployed. They didn’t experience totalitarianism themselves, but they grew up with parents who wax nostalgic about a time when everyone had work and rent was low.
        During the communist era, an important part of the propaganda was that the GDR was the “true” Germany while the people in the West were shallow, materialistic Wannabe-Americans who had sold out their culture for shiny objects.
        Many in the East still (or more than ever) see “Wessies” that way. They feel that in 1990, they were not reunited with their brothers and sister but invaded, sold out, and robbed of their culture.
        While the fundie-Christian aspect is not much (if any) of a factor in this situation, other parallels certainly apply. While certain Americans cling to their white privilege as the only thing they have going for them, the neo-Nazis in certain areas of Germany cling to their German-ness for the same reason.

        • Yes, exactly what the map of Germany showed. 😀 What I think is happening, exacerbated by the election of President Obama, is that the old “social certainties” were disrupted, particularly regarding white privilege. The “this is the natural order of things” was suddenly not the way things were, and this has led to quite a bit of backlash – both on the right and the left. They’re trying to put things back where they were, while denying that it’s what they want to do. 🙄