GOP primary battle continues

GOP primary battle continues

March 8th, 2012 in Opinion Times

In some presidential election years, Super Tuesday's primaries and caucuses seal the deal for a candidate. If the day's balloting doesn't quite do that, the delegates gleaned from the 10 states often pushes a candidate's total so close to the number needed for nomination that the eventual outcome of the primaries is easy to foresee. Not this year. If anything, Tuesday's blitz proved -- again -- that none of the four main Republican candidates for the presidency is ready for prime time.

That doesn't mean, of course, that Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul accept that judgment. Each found something positive to say about his performance on Tuesday, despite their inability to deliver an electoral knockout punch. Their willingness to salvage something from such mediocre performances reflects the overweening pride, failure to understand the needs of the average American and the just plain chutzpah that characterizes the current GOP field.

Republicans surely hoped their intramural skirmishing would come to an end or near-end in Tuesday's balloting. It didn't. The jumbled results indicate that GOP voters still can't decide which of the front runners, Romney or Santorum, can best represent their interests against incumbent President Barack Obama in November.

Polls continue to show that Republicans believe Romney would have the best chance to beat Obama, but that belief has yet to translate to an overwhelming victory at the polls. Tuesday's results underscore that. Romney did win in Alaska, Idaho, Massachusetts, Vermont ,Virginia and, by a hair, Ohio, padding his delegate count in the process. But Santorum and Gingrich won delegates, too. The former won in North Dakota, Oklahoma and Tennessee, and the latter carried Georgia, his home state. Paul did not win a single state.

At Super Tuesday's end, Romney led the delegate count with 415, according to the Associated Press, followed by Santorum with 176, Gingrich with 105 and Paul with 47. Despite months of campaigning and millions spent -- mostly from independent super PACS -- the GOP primary picture remains muddled. Romney's delegate total is far short of the 1,144 needed to win. No candidate is likely to add to his delegate total quickly. Most states award delegates in proportion to the votes each candidate receives. Close races, then, mean only incremental delegate gains for a candidate.

As a result, many Republicans increasingly worry that the divisive primary campaign will weaken the eventual nominee. That might be true, but the GOP's weakness extends beyond its ability to rise above partisanship in its ranks. Its leading contenders have failed to articulate policies that would benefit most Americans. In Romney's case, in fact, it is hard to discern exactly what his policies are; he's flip-flopped so much on so many subjects that even his most ardent supporters have trouble explaining where he stands.

When he does take a stand, it can be frightening. His economic and tax plans would lead to higher deficits and cause hardship for ordinary workers while promoting the interests of the wealthiest Americans. His opponents offer nothing better. Their economic prescriptions would cure nothing and cause considerable pain. The GOP candidates' social policies -- especially Santorum's -- and views on health care would end a generation or more of progress on issues vital to the pursuit of equity for all citizens. Voters are right to demand more.

Super Tuesday revealed a divided GOP and the reasons for it. Republican candidates offer little to excite the party or to unite the nation.