A Republican nominee should “lose the primary to win the general without violating your principles.”--Jeb Bush
“Let’s get away from this top-down planning.”— Bobby Jindal.
Reince Priebus and the Republican National Committee (RNC) planned a quick, orderly primary campaign which they hoped would produce a consensus candidate with a chance to win the Presidency. Their plans self-destructed when the candidates refused to follow the plan or stay on message.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal reportedly told the press that the most important thing that campaigns can do now is to take control away from the Republican National Committee, the networks and the mainstream media. “We’re supposed to be the free-market party. Let’s actually act like it,” said Jindal.
The intended message was “we can govern.” There has been little evidence in support of that. What little that was done, the bipartisan budget agreement for example, could only be done with a majority of the AYE votes cast by Democrats. Some candidates have fatuously claimed that while Republicans can’t govern, I could fix that.
Many news reports about the October 28 Republican debate suggest that the candidates are upset with the sponsor CNBC, but that is superficial–their beef is with the RNC and each other. The campaign organizations aren’t team players, they act on self-interest, and their interests are diverse. Some of the candidates have weak, almost non-existent links to the Republican party. Leading candidates, who seek to limit potential rivals exposure, have interests incompatible with lagging candidates. Reince Priebus went on bended knee to implore candidate Donald Trump to promise not to bolt the party, which he did with his fingers crossed. Some candidates chose to run against the party.
The RNC arranged the debates and selected the sponsors. They had limited options. A sponsor should:
- provide publicity
- appear fair to all candidates
- be trusted by the public
- make it interesting
More than likely these requirements are impossible to meet. Number 2 above is a source of conflict–some candidates were relegated to a “kiddie debate” which they resented. The RNC spread the risk by selecting several sponsors and different formats for the planned debates.
It didn’t work. The RNC is being dealt out of the game. The strong and weak candidates who share some interests are conspiring against the middle candidates. Candidates make rash statements that alienate the party from women and minorities. Squabbling and anti-government rhetoric undermines the party message: “we can govern.” There is a danger that the primary season will end with the GOP nominating a candidate unlikely to win.