On Super Tuesday, GOP talking heads from Ari Fleischer to Michael Steele echoed Republican National Committee talking points, comparing their party’s increasingly bitter 2012 race to the 2008 Democratic primary contest.
With top-rank Republicans expressing high anxiety about the length and tone of the campaign, RNC communications director Sean Spicer a few days earlier had helpfully sent out a memo setting forth the spin template that GOP “political analysts” coincidentally employed on Tuesday night’s cable news election reports.
His bottom line: this year’s battle is no different than the Barack Obama-Hillary Clinton set-to four years ago.
Even in early February, the pundits were lamenting an endless, arduous primary. But in 2008, the Democratic primary was contested into early June. Barely two months into the 2012 race and it’s being treated as though it’s vastly longer than the 5-month 2008 race.
Until the very end, Clinton and Obama were haggling over superdelegates, waging searing attacks, and griping over DNC rules and bylaws as they scrambled for every last vote…
The fights got personal, and the internecine battle was waged publicly in debate after debate and in the endless news coverage.
Nice try, as Mitt might say.
The heartbreak of false equivalence: In fact, the 2008-2012 comparison is a classic false equivalence fallacy that fails because of five key differences between the two campaigns.
Enthusiasm. As Hank Plante has reported on this very page, Republican turnout in almost every state that’s voted so far has been below the levels of 2008, when the GOP also had a wide-open, multi-candidate race; by contrast, the Obama-Clinton primaries generated record-high levels of participation among Democrats, with more than 35 million votes cast collectively for the two rivals.
Favorability. At this point in 2008, Obama was viewed very favorably by the public despite his tough race, by 51-28%. By contrast, front-runner Romney is not wearing well, and his favorable-unfavorable is now underwater, 28-39%.
Quality of the field. Among Democratic primary voters, there was excitement about the historic nature of a campaign to select either the first woman or the first African-American who would be a presidential nominee. The GOP race has been a painful exercise in which Republican voters search desperately for someone – anyone! – to nominate other than Mittens, and the list of his rivals, vanquished or still ticking — Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich, Paul, Perry, Santorum, Donald friggin’ Trump – is not exactly a Mount Rushmore casting call.
Super-PACs. The countless millions poured into the Republican race by “independent” committees represent an unprecedented level of primary spending; that the majority of the money – particularly that spent on Romney’s behalf – has paid for attack ads has made the race far more “toxic,” to quote Mike Huckabee, than in 2008.
Tone. Obama and Clinton had their share of personal attacks – from Tony Rezko to Bill Clinton’s racial views — but their mutual bashing came mostly on issues like Iraq and health care, or over who was better prepared for the White House (Spoiler alert: She was). Through the long slog of 20 debates and early voting, however, the Republican contest has often focused on puerile name-calling – “liar” and “influence peddler” come to mind – social issues – who’s purer on abortion and gay marriage — or just silly stuff – the HPV vaccine, endorsing Arlen Specter and denying kosher food to seniors – that has demeaned everyone.
During the Florida primary, Tampa-based Republican consultant Chris Ingram told the UK’s Sky News that the 2008 Democratic race “turned in to a protracted fight because both (Obama and Clinton) were super strong candidates.”
“I think the real issue here is that neither Mitt Romney nor Rick Santorum are super strong, and that’s why no-one is emerging as a clear front-runner,” he added. “This has the potential very easily to turn in to a drag on the party.”
Life in imitation of art: We’re so excited to watch “Game Change” on Saturday night that we’ve ordered up a whole mess of kegs, bought one of those old timey popcorn machines on Craig’s List and rented the Croatian Hall so we can fly in the Calbuzz Executive Board of Corporate Overseers and Shift Supervisors for the event.
Meanwhile, we’re glued to the MacBook, hypnotically watching raw video on a site we stumbled on showing what real-life political consultants actually do all day. Check it out.
Press Clips: Top 10 Reads of the Week
For those, like us, mistakenly left off the Davos guest list.
Against all odds, Mittens keeps finding ways to be more craven.
Ann Coulter: Off her meds again.
John Seiler makes good points about the LAT’s NYT-knockoff pay-for-web play.
Yet another reason it’s a goofy idea.
Three words we thought we’d never write: Ron Paul, sellout.
What National Review tells itself about the Romney narrative.
The Democratic war on women.
Good Weekly Standard take on Mitt’s real problem.
Sending your kid to Cal State Hayward is more expensive than Harvard.