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Romney-Santorum fight was a negative image of Democrats in 2008

April 17, 2012|By David Horsey
  • A Horsey cartoon from spring 2008 illustrates how John McCain hoped his election prospects would be helped by the lengthy fight between the Democratic candidates.
A Horsey cartoon from spring 2008 illustrates how John McCain hoped his… (David Horsey / Los Angeles…)

Now that the battle for the Republican presidential nomination is drifting to a close, no Democrat should assume the long, drawn-out trashing of Mitt Romney by his competitors is a guarantee that he will be a loser in November.

Think about where we were four years ago at this time. Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were locked in a struggle whose outcome was far more in doubt than was ever the case for Republicans this year. The race would grind on to the last primary in June when, finally, Obama sealed the deal.

There were those who thought John McCain might benefit from this, since he wrapped up the GOP nomination early, but, in fact, all the attention on the Democrats probably did him no good. McCain largely disappeared from view for most of the spring while passions on the Democratic side built a head of steam that eventually carried them to victory in November.

The dynamic of the 2012 campiagn is different, of course. The supporters of Obama and Clinton in 2008 were giddy with the prospect of making history by electing either the country's first non-white president or the first woman. The hallmark of this year's GOP contest has been how displeased most Republicans have seemed to be with any of their choices.

Nevertheless, they are united in their contempt for President Obama. A collateral consequence of the long Republican primary campaign is that, when they were not attacking each other, all the GOP contenders blasted the president from every angle in the long series of debates, in attack ads and on the stump. After months of this, it is hard to imagine some damage has not been done to the incumbent.

If the lengthy Republican battle didn't make voters fall in love with Romney, it certainly solidified conservative dislike of Obama. Love got Democrats to the polls in 2008. Hate may be the driver that turns out Republicans this November.

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