Dueling Headlines

Many (including me) have fretted that the Republicans’ bloody primary season may be hurting their chances of beating Barack Obama in the fall. The Hill takes it one step further: “Republicans fear rough primary could cost them the House and the Senate.”

For months, Republicans had been bullish about their prospects for widening their margin in the House and picking off Democratic senators. But some are now questioning whether they could be done in if Mitt Romney limps out of the primary a severely weakened nominee.

Wow. Sort of a perfect storm. On the other hand, the same edition of The Hill also headlines: “Obama campaign says long GOP primary hurts president’s fundraising.”

President Obama’s reelection campaign said Wednesday that the prolonged Republican primary is hurting its fundraising. … The Obama campaign raised $68 million in the last part of 2011, a low number after speculation last year — quickly tamped down by the campaign in 2012 — that Obama could raise $1 billion for his reelection campaign.

Granted, it is conceivable that the long campaign could have both of those effects; more likely, however, nervous politicians will blame it for whatever they are worried about at the moment. We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that this year’s relatively lengthy campaign is no coincidence. Believing that its candidate was chosen too quickly in 2008, the party changed its rules to ensure a lengthier process. The GOP discouraged states from moving their primaries and caucuses forward, and adopted a rule that any primary held prior to April 1 must award delegates on a proportional basis. This has had the intended consequence; i.e., preventing any one candidate from running away with the race early.

Political analyst Charlie Black makes the point succinctly:

“The reason the race is dragging on has nothing to do with who’s running for president, it has to do with the fact the [Republican] party changed the rules,” said Charlie Black, a GOP strategist who is informally advising the Romney campaign.

It will be impossible to tell before November what consequences this year’s more extended primary season has had.

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