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Public Affairs Insights from the Centre

7 Mar 2012

A unique battle for the US presidency

John F. Mahon

The current battle for the Republican Presidential nomination is unique in several ways.

First, there is a deeply divided fractionated Republican party between ultra conservatives, tea party supporters and moderated. The challenge for whomever wins the nomination is to hold on to the conservatives’ support and attract moderates - not an easy task given the harshness of the campaign thus far. Second, and following the previous comments, the level of animosity between and among the candidates is higher than we have ever seen, and the personal and strident negative campaigning is weakening the eventual winner and providing the democratic nominee with ample material to attack the eventual nominee. Third, groups normally associated with the democratic party have taken out ads against republican contenders in several different primary states - that has not occurred in the past and may be setting a new standard for the future. Fourth, the President has also engaged in media attacks on the Republican candidates as the primaries are unfolding - again an unusual approach from a sitting President.

The President is also in a weakened position - when initially running for the office he laid out a series of criteria that he should meet in order to be reelected and he has, objectively and with supporting data, not met his own articulated goals. The economy continues to stumble along and health care is currently being challenged in the Supreme Court.

The final ‘wildcard’ in this election is the amount of SuperPacs and their ability to spend unlimited sums. The President, after noting he would not use these organisations, has now changed his mind and is pursuing this type of support.

Stay tuned, this campaign is just heating up.

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