In today’s Gallup poll, “the Republican Party’s candidate” beats President Obama by 44-39 among registered voters:
This is more or less in line with what the Rasmussen survey has been showing, probably more reliably since it samples likely voters, for a while. The message is that most voters have concluded that Barack Obama is a failed president, and they are ready to try a different approach.
That is great news if you are a Republican. Of course, conditions could change between now and November 2012, but, given that the administration’s policies are virtually designed to suppress economic growth, they aren’t likely to change much. But there is a more serious danger: that is, that the actual Republican nominee may run worse than the generic “somebody else.”
In fact, it is likely that the actual nominee will underperform the generic candidate, because he or she, unlike the anonymous “somebody else,” will have a record, personal qualities, etc., that are vulnerable to attack. This, I think, is the key point for Republicans to consider. Any race in which a sitting president is running for re-election is mainly a referendum on the success or failure of his policies. That is as it should be, and it is becoming increasingly clear that if the 2012 election is a referendum on the Obama administration, the Republican will win.
So the Democrats’ strategy will be one of distraction. They will talk about anything other than the economy, anything other than the many failures that the Obama administration has suffered. Above all, they will talk about the Republican nominee. Any quirks and weaknesses will be exploited mercilessly. So it is imperative that the GOP nominate a candidate who will not permit the election to be a referendum on him or her, rather than on the failed Obama administration.
Glenn Reynolds says this is good for Mitt Romney, since “He’s the most generic Republican out there.” I don’t really disagree, but I think there are other Republicans who, like Romney–or perhaps better than Romney–can ensure that the election is about the failures of the Obama administration. But, whatever we do, Republicans must make sure that we do not nominate a candidate whose personal qualities or political history are so eccentric that the election will mostly be about him or her, and not about the Obama administration’s record.
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