Home The Lesson of the 2008 Republican Primaries - Non-Traditional Campaigning Doesn't Work
Home The Lesson of the 2008 Republican Primaries - Non-Traditional Campaigning Doesn't Work

The Lesson of the 2008 Republican Primaries - Non-Traditional Campaigning Doesn't Work

If there are any lessons to be learned in the wake of the Republican primaries it's that non-traditional campaigning really doesn't work. The media can't be discounted, the internet doesn't make nearly as much of a difference as the hype said and the traditional process is still dominated by party loyalists and slanted media coverage. Conventional candidates win, unconventional candidates lose.

Fred Thompson tried to short circuit the traditional campaign process with the kind of small scale people first campaign that won him his Senate seat and failed to register with most voters. Despite being fairly charismatic and promoting some rather good ideas, Thompson got in the game too late and his campaign never took off.

Rudy Giuliani tried to head off the traditional primary process by aiming for the states where he was polling strongly. It seemed like a bold strategy and if New York and California pay off, that might still be the case, but after Florida that seems less likely. By taking himself out of the state by state primary grind, Giuliani also took himself out of the campaign focus and allowed McCain and Romney to be annointed as the front runners, by the time Florida rolled around, the party was treating him as an also-ran.

Ron Paul created a fanatical cult following on the internet that generated money, threats against reporters and a fantastic spamming campaign that will undoubtedly be studied by crazed fanatics and Goebbels wannabes for some time to come, but one that also proved to be as weak and ineffectual at the voting both as it did in the real life polls.

The common thread here was that non-traditional campaigns failed to bring home the prize and the original anointed candidates, Romney who was anointed by the party and McCain who was anointed by the media, are winning. It may be bad news for those who wanted a change and for those who wanted genuinely conservative politics, but the same lowest common denominator that produced Bush, may well insure that Romney becomes the next Republican president, as underwhelming as that may be.

Primaries for some time have reliably given us the triumph of the most non-objectionable candidate, which despite his many flaws is what Romney is. Romney and McCain as the front runners represents the solid victory of the establishment. In contrast to the Democratic party, where the Clinton machine is fighting Soros' MoveOn.org and Obama's stalking horses to the death, the Republican party is stably moving forward another liberal Republican, who is not fundamentally different from Bush. A few years from now, we will likely be looking at a Republican President, a Republican Congress and a general mess at home and abroad, but we won't be looking at Obama or Hillary in the White Houses and those are major pluses already.

Fred Thompson believed he could succeed by campaigning toward the people, rather than the press. Giuliani believed he could use a creative strategy to corral the primaries. Ron Paul believed a fanatical cult could hand him the election. They were all wrong because they forgot that the primaries are more about paying obeisance to the party for its pilgrimage across the primary states. It can't be controlled, only obeyed.

It's instructive to remember that the most famous maverick Republican President, Theodore Roosevelt, only became President through a series of long shots and though he was popular with the American people, the Republican party hated him so bitterly that it tore itself apart to keep him out of public office, giving rise to the Wilson Presidency and WW1.

The Republican party does not like mavericks, even as it canonizes Reagan, the party remains uncomfortable with him and his policies. The race has never been this close going into Super Tuesday, but we're still likely to see the party doing what it can to unite around Romney and keep McCain out. That is probably for the best because McCain is an unstable figure with disturbing positions on global warming and open borders. Romney is the likely candidate but there is plenty there for me to be wary of and very little to embrace.


  1. You may be right. If Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee, we "might" have another Republican in the White House, January 2009. As I am listening to Rush Limbaugh this afternoon, at this point, he believes Romney has an uphill battle in this three man race.

    In terms of who is elected president November 2008, much could hinge on economic and related factors this summer and early fall; the state of the economy is an unknown and a powerful factor in any election, is it not?

    I see the knives are out against McCain all over the conservative media, radio and Internet. The knives have been out. McCain is hated by the conservative right. This could mean McCain's demise but it did not hurt him particularly here in Florida yestday. We'll see. There are a lot of moderates in this party. I know from first hand experience as an eight year party activist. You should have seen the moral outrage here in our local party when we brought the abortion debate before the Executive Committee! I believe the officers of the party wanted me out because of my criticism of Bush's policies on Israel. Our Right to Life president felt it was my strong pro-life stance on the Committee and the fact that I was recruiting pro-life activists into our party. Both may be true.

    The point is, there are many, many "RINOs" in this party, all over the country.

    Seems to me, if McCain is the GOP nominee -- a prospect you believe to be a long-shot -- he could rip this party wide open and assure a Democrat takes the White House. Conservative base of this party is critical. No Republican candidate worth his or her salt, dismisses the conservative (largely Christian) base.

  2. I am not sure elections are honest at all anyway.

  3. OT: I would be interested in anyone's take on this peice:


  4. I never did think the non-traditional tactics such as You Tube videos were effective. And candidates appearing on late night talk shows such as "Jay Leno" and "Jimmy Kimmel" were a good idea. It lowers the respect of the presidential office.

    There really aren't any shortcuts--the candidates have to have meet and greets, kiss babies, and shake hands. They need to make a personal connection with the voter.

    Never underestimate the power of schmoozing.

  5. somewhat worrying is obama's strategy for targeting republicans

  6. Anonymous30/1/08

    Here's my take on the article:
    flush it down the toilet.
    After saying he is worried about Israel he says:
    "I IDENTIFY with the Jewish and Zionist motivations, though not with the actions or the messianist ideologies of many of the people living in these settlements. They include some of our finest citizens. They also include a small minority, extremist and violent, whose deeds have harmed the cause of the Jewish state, and the settlement project itself. "
    What a mealy mouthed statement.He indentifies with nothing.
    He has no belief in what Jewish means. There is no "Jewish" without Torah. He then goes on to talk of what Jews did in the West Bank etc.
    This man would have complained in the midbar(wilderness), mocked Moshe and called Joshua etc murderers. This is the mindset of the mouthiest people today.The erev rav have taken over in more ways than one.
    This is why an Obama can even consider running for president and an Olmert can remain in place.

  7. Years back, I was a regular Rush Limbaugh listener.

    Not too long after Bush announced he would work to establish a Palestinian state, Limbaugh wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times on the subject, essentially making the case that the only way there will be peace in the Middle East is if Israel is allowed to crush her enemies; unconditional surrender like the Allies did Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan is the only way there will be peace. Until then all these feel-good peace and land for peace negotiations are meaningless.

    It was a good piece. The Times refused to publish it and after that Rush fell silent like most good Republican partisans, for the good of the party. Same holds true with Hannity and others. Party comes first in most instances.

    When I tried to call Limbaugh on Israel and got through the screener would reject my call. I did manage to speak with Sean Hannity about Israel and the GOP's position under Bush. This was during the second Lebanon war which he covered day by day. When I got to my topic Mr. Hannity cut me off. He said, 'I don't want to talk about that'.

    Thus I rarely listen to these two anymore. Maybe a few minutes to see what the topic is. Yesterday and today, I have been listening because of the importance of the matter at hand.

    Limbaugh said something a few minutes back that to me rings true. The reason we do not have a Republican candidate that truly inspires is because the Republican party establishment likes John McCain. They do not want a conservative nominee. McCain is fine.

    I found this to be true here in Florida. In the Florida state party establishment, conservatives and conservative positions were not sought out. Our party has moved from morals, principle and conviction to winning. Party unity, discipline and winning is all important.

  8. chana, I could not agree with you more. You nailed it.

  9. Glad you agree with me Steve.

  10. Hannity is supporting Obama in a round about way.Bob Grant came out and called him a very nice young man. They have very little negative to say about the guy and are very protective of him.
    I long ago ceased seeing any difference in the parties.
    Again.. not a dimes worth of difference and that ought to give people pause for deep reflection on why?

  11. hannity is now apparently saying we need to modernize our views and go with mccain

  12. hannity is now apparently saying we need to modernize our views and go with mccain>>>>

    Yes, I heard him. Sean Hannity is a party loyalist.

  13. Oh crikey! I know that sign! Prosperity is nice, but I refused to ever go to Clinton. In fact, I always wondered why they never changed the name. :]

  14. It is all fixed. Hello!
    The nation is in dire financial straits yet we are told how well we are doing in the economy.
    Good ecomonies don't have huge national debts. Good economies don't sell bonds to their enemies nor are they bailed out by rich Saudis.
    If I ran my home like this It would have been in the toilet years ago. I would be sleeping under a rock somewhere in Zanesville, Ohio G-d forbid.

  15. I suggest you work to get Romney nominated.


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