After Wisconsin's Republican Primary on April 3, it appears that the dust has finally settled in the GOP race, leaving Mitt Romney as the likely Republican nominee.
With such an unpredictable Republican primary, questions have been raised about the effectiveness and importance of the current primary process. For the first time in GOP history, three different candidates won the first three primary elections, an outcome which underscored the uncertain nature of this season and, perhaps, this process. Is this process altogether hopeless? I wouldn't go that far, but I would say that this election season has shed an unforgiving light on the Republican National Committee's (RNC) 2012 primary calendar strategy.
At the 2008 Republican National Convention, members initially decided that the 2012 primary schedule would follow the protocol exhibited in the 2008 delegate selection contests. But in August of 2010, the RNC adopted new rules for the timing of elections, drastically spreading out the primary schedule, and opening the door for a pointless, prolonged stretch of contests decided by proportional allocations of delegates. This, in and of itself, obliterated any chance of a defeat over President Barack Obama in the general election.
Some may blame the never-ending Republican primary on the lack of credible candidates, which I think is a legitimate stance to take. However, I believe that the length and set up of this primary has also played a key role. In 2008, Obama faced a close primary race, but the primary's scheduling — which placed California in the beginning — perfectly set him up with enough momentum for the rest of the race. The Republican's 2012 primary schedule has done exactly the opposite, leaving a mess of close races and a new frontrunner every week. This creates not only frustration amongst Republican voters, but a tedious primary trail can bring doubt to a candidate's mind which dampers their motivation in the general election.
Unlike the Democrats in 2008, the Republicans in 2012 came out of the blocks too slowly, and with no standout candidates, a grueling stretch of proportionally won contests did nothing but hurt the primary process. A six-week primary of winner-take-all delegation contests would have been sufficient in getting fullfledged support behind one candidate, especially when going up against a strong incumbent. This system would have been profitable to the GOP no matter who was chosen because time would have been saved.
Instead, Republicans have wasted time, and with a mere seven months left for a general election campaign, Obama has had time to hone his campaign and look forward to a likely second term. Romney is left struggling to find support within his own party, from Republicans who have thrown their support behind the other candidates.
Romney’s biggest issue in the near future will be finding a vice presidential candidate who can help to bolster his support and lessen the damage of the ineffective primary system. If this fails as well, you can expect President Obama will be granted a second term in 2012.