There were many Republican presidential candidates in 2012, but only a few gave Mitt Romney serious competition on the road that led to his nomination. At the beginning of the presidential race, Romney had the edge over Obama. The economy was in poor shape; Obama's foreign policies were unproductive. But Obama won. What happened?
The Mistakes of 2012
1) Obama was vulnerable. But the serious Republican candidates were not attractive enough, or aggressive enough to take advantage of his weaknesses: A gentleman governor from the northeast (Romney); a fiery, qualified candidate with a controversial background (Gingrich), and a placid ex-senator (Santorum) who never fired up the conservative base.
The contribution of other candidates was to assist in creating the type of primaries in 2012 that, in 2008, gave populist John McCain the nomination -- conservatives beat each other up while McCain/Romney wooed independent voters.
The lesson: JFK introduced personality politics to America. Ever since, the attractiveness of candidates has become as important as competence. Get good conservative candidates with fire-in-the-belly, who also look well and articulate well on the stump. Unify behind one of them.
2) Many Republicans didn't vote because they didn't liked Romney.
The lesson: Vote! Stop the in-fighting. Win the presidency.
3) The hot issue of the day, Obamacare, was off the table because Romney had installed Romneycare in his home state, which -- to voters -- resembled Obamacare. This identified Romney with Obamacare; he could not raise it as the powerful campaign issue it should have been.
The lesson: Don't choose a candidate with a record that indicates agreement with Obama's controversial policies, domestic or foreign.
4) Obama was weak on foreign policy; Hillary Clinton was an unproductive Secretary of State. Romney didn't take advantage of this.
The lesson: Wherever the opponent is weak, hit him -- hard. The 2016 Republican must be aggressive. The stakes are high -- survival as a Republic.
5) Romney had a powerful business background. Fixing the economy was the centerpiece of his campaign. That was a mistake. The American economy is resilient. Over the many months of the presidential campaign season, it was almost certain that economic statistics would show some improvement, and Obama would turn those upticks into confirmation that his economic policies were working. That's what happened; it took the edge away from Romney's main campaign issue.
The lesson: Identify foundation issues correctly. The major campaign issue in 2012 was the march to Socialism under Obama. Then and now, excess spending, Obamacare, debt etc. are symptoms of a problem, but they are not the problem -- they should not be the centerpiece of Republican campaigns. Big government is the enemy -- the march to Socialism is still the fundamental problem.
Re-establish the Constitution as the law of the land; spending, healthcare and debt will take care of themselves.
The 2016 Election
Republicans are already jockeying for position. Paul Ryan is the titular head of the party; Chris Christie is getting lots of publicity. But it's too early to say that anyone is the favorite. Potential candidates from Congress are plentiful -- Bachmann, Cruz, Graham, Paul, Rubio and Ryan among them. Many Republican governors have shown interest -- Brownback, Christie, Daniels, Jindal, Kasich, Perry, Walker, etc. And a few activists may influence the race -- Bush, DeMint, Palin, Rice and Santorum.
Voters will have better choices in 2016. Graham, Christie, Kasich, Bush and possibly Ryan would probably compete against each other as the man who can attract bi-partisan support; the others would compete for the Republican base -- the people who want to reverse the Obama revolution -- the fighters.
Hillary Clinton will be the likely opponent. Lick your lips. Artful use of foreign policies she defended, her lack of progress in sensitive problems in the world, plus her attempt to nationalize health care during her husband's tenure make her a juicy target. Throw in a superior Republican female vice presidential candidate (there are several) and you've got a winning team.
But! If Republicans don't coalesce, early in the game, around a conservative , it will be 2008 and 2012 all over again. A RINO will take the nomination -- and lose.
Robert Kelly, author of several books on baseball and history/politics, is also a freelance, award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in many newspapers. His latest books, The National Debt of the United States and Neck and Neck to the White House, are available at Amazon and the better bookstores. His e-mail address is [email protected]