Contributed by Shell Suber
1. RUN HARD RIGHT AND WIN: Supporters of this strategy would have the GOP nominate a far right candidate as a winning strategy. “Make the difference between us and them stark and unapologetic. Voters will be impressed and reward the straightforward honesty.”
2. RUN HARD RIGHT AND ‘LOSE WITH HONOR’: Some suggest the GOP nominate a far right candidate to make a meaningful ideological impression on the electorate about the integrity of the conservative movement. “Why not make a statement since, historically speaking, we are unlikely to win in any case.”
3. RUN MIDDLE AND TRY TO WIN: Some suggest the GOP nominate a more electable (moderate) candidate and give themselves the best chance to win should the incumbent trip up.
For my money, beating Obama is a long shot. If you don’t believe that, you are living in a dream world and have very little understanding of the historical precedents and voter mentality necessary for firing a president. However, accepting that it’s a long shot, there is merit in all three of the above strategies.
Strategy 1 is a VERY long shot but it could work if Obama can be successfully redefined as a pure political opportunist who will do or say whatever keeps him in power. That is a tough sell since most voters, whether they agree with him or not, think he genuinely believes his left wing, big government agenda is best for America.
The merit of Strategy 2 is best demonstrated, in my mind, by looking at the 1964 election that pitted a heavily favored big-government incumbent (LBJ) against a hard right ideologue (Barry Goldwater.) Johnson easily won the battle but Republicans won the war because of the impression they made on legions of young, impressionable future leaders who later rallied around Goldwater protégée Ronald Reagan and ushered in a new era in American politics a few elections later. There isn’t a conservative icon over the age of 65 who doesn’t LOVE to tell the story of how working for Goldwater in ’64 changed his or her life. If Reagan was the conservative messiah of the 20th century, Goldwater was John the Baptist.
Strategy 3 is the safest, most likely path to victory for the GOP in 2012 and the one I believe voters will eventually adopt. Any coach will tell you, when you are the underdog, play smart, don’t make any mistakes and give yourself a chance to be there in the end in case the other guy drops the ball and you get a lucky break. A calmer, more moderate candidate who can appeal to centrist voters is the best bet for being in a position to swoop in and win should some scandal or disaster befall the Obama campaign in the last 90 or so days of the election.
Of course, if Obama is re-elected there will be no shortage of “I told you so’s” from supporters of the two strategies that were passed over and there will be no explaining that the most likely reason Obama won is because he is the incumbent and Americans rarely fire their president.