Insiders Divided Along Party Lines Over Impact of Primary on Romney
If frontrunner Mitt Romney survives the Republican primary process and becomes the party's presumptive nominee, a majority of Democrats surveyed in this week's National Journal Political Insiders Poll say he will enter the general election campaign a weaker candidate than when he began his run. But by an overwhelming margin, Republican Insiders feel the primary campaign has been a benefit, leaving Romney stronger and more prepared to take on President Obama.
|Has the Republican presidential primary campaign made Mitt Romney stronger or weaker as a potential general election candidate?|
Many Republicans feel the primary process has been a critical pressure-test for Romney's campaign skills, resulting in a more honed and prepared candidate.
"He has weathered incredible attacks and remained largely disciplined," said one GOP Insider. "Much more of this and he'll be weakened but for now, it's good practice for November."
"The primaries gave Romney the field-testing he needed and helped him build credibility with skeptics," agreed another Republican.
"It's the first time he's won outside of Massachusetts," pointed out a third. "He needed this. Most candidates improve through the process."
Some Democrats agreed. "He has gotten better in debates, more disciplined in his messaging and more comfortable as a candidate," said one. "Yes, he was exposed for being a flip-flopper, but that was going to happen anyway."
Republican strategists also felt Romney would ultimately benefit from the early airing of potent attacks likely to re-emerge in the general election, especially those related to Romney's time at private-equity firm Bain Capital.
"His wealth and the Bain bomb were going to become an issue regardless," reasoned one Republican Insider. "The primary campaign has made him a better candidate, better on his feet."
"It's much better to deal with the Bain Capital issues now, instead of later when Obama's billion-dollar campaign kicks in," said another.
"A primary almost always makes the eventual nominee stronger in terms of overall capacity as a candidate," echoed a Democratic Insider. "And anything that has come out now, such as the Bain attack, was going to come out."
Many Democratic Insiders, however, disagreed on that point, claiming that Romney's Republican opponents have set in motion negative messaging on Romney that will reinforce Democratic arguments in the general election.
"A ten-month discussion on his job-killing record at Bain is better than a three-month discussion," said one Democrat.
"The questions raised about Romney's lack of core principles and political opportunism are invaluable in forging his image with the American electorate," said another.
"His opponents have saved Obama countless hours and dollars by framing a line of attack," agreed a third.
A few Republicans expressed the same concern.
"We made Bain and 'vulture capitalism' an even more legitimate line of attack among non-Republicans," lamented one GOP Insider. "How can that help?"
Democratic Insiders also argued that Romney's persona is not well-suited to extended exposure to the American electorate.
"His disconnect from the lives of the majority of Americans is manifesting itself more every day," said one Democratic strategist.
Explained another: "Romney does not wear well. The more time you are exposed to him, the less you want to have a beer with him."
Still, at least one Republican looked to science to explain his optimism that Romney's roller-coaster ride in the primaries would ultimately benefit him.
"It's called hormesis: exposure to a toxin or stressor that makes you stronger. Thanks, Newt!"
Democrats: Jill Alper, John Anzalone, Brad Bannon, Dave Beattie, Andy Bechhoefer, Cornell Belcher, Matt Bennett, Mitchell W. Berger, Mike Berman, Stephanie Bosh, Paul Brathwaite, Donna Brazile, Mark Brewer, Ed Bruley, George Bruno, Bonnie Campbell, Bill Carrick, Guy Cecil, Martin J. Chavez, Tony Coelho, Larry Cohen, Jerry Crawford, Brendan Daly, Jeff Danielson, Peter Daou, Howard Dean, Scott DeFife, Jim Demers, Tad Devine, David Di Martino, Debbie Dingell, Monica Dixon, Patrick Dorton, Pat Dujakovich, Anita Dunn, Jeff Eller, Steve Elmendorf, Carter Eskew, Vic Fazio, Peter Fenn, Scott Ferson, Jim Fleischmann, Tina Flournoy, Don Foley, Jeffrey Forbes, Vincent Frillici, Gina Glantz, Niles Godes, John Michael Gonzalez, Joe Grandmaison, Anna Greenberg, Stan Greenberg, Pat Griffin, Larry Grisolano, Michael Gronstal, Lisa Grove, Marcia Hale, Jill Hanauer, Dick Harpootlian, Paul Harstad, Laura Hartigan, Doug Hattaway, Mike Henry, Karen Hicks, Leo Hindery Jr., Harold Ickes, Marcus Jadotte, John Jameson, Steve Jarding, Jonathon Jones, Jim Jordan, Gale Kaufman, Lisa Kountoupes, Celinda Lake, David Lang, Penny Lee, Chris Lehane, Jeff Link, Bob Maloney, Jim Manley, Steve Marchand, Jim Margolis, Paul Maslin, Keith Mason, Susan McCue, Gerald McEntee, Steve McMahon, Tom McMahon, Phil McNamara, David Medina, Michael Meehan, Mark Mellman, John Merrigan, Michael Monroe, Steve Murphy, Janet Napolitano, David Nassar, Marcia Nichols, John Norris, Tom Ochs, Tom O'Donnell, Jeffrey Peck, Debora Pignatelli, Tony Podesta, Jefrey Pollock, Jack Quinn, Larry Rasky, Mame Reiley, Ed Rendell, Steve Ricchetti, Will Robinson, Steve Rosenthal, David Rudd, Ryan Rudominer, John Ryan, Michael Sargeant, Stephanie Schriock, Terry Shumaker, Sean Sinclair, Phil Singer, Erik Smith, Doug Sosnik, Greg Speed, Darry Sragow, Ken Strasma, Doug Thornell, Jeffrey Trammell, Ed Turlington, Rick Wiener, James Williams, JoDee Winterhof, Brian Wolff, Jon Youngdahl, and Jim Zogby.
Republicans: Dan Allen, Stan Anderson, Gary Andres, Saulius (Saul) Anuzis, Rich Ashooh, Whit Ayres, Brett Bader, Mitch Bainwol, Brian Baker, Gary Bauer, David Beckwith, Paul Bennecke, Clark Benson, Wayne Berman, Brian Bieron, Charlie Black, Kirk Blalock, Carmine Boal, Jeff Boeyink, Ron Bonjean, Jeff Buley, Luke Byars, Nick Calio, Al Cardenas, Danny Carroll, Alex Castellanos, Ron Christie, Jim Cicconi, Jonathan Collegio, Rob Collins, Cesar Conda, Jake Corman, Scott Cottington, Jay Cranford, Greg Crist, Diane Crookham-Johnson, Fergus Cullen, Tom Davis, Mike Dennehy, Ken Duberstein, Debi Durham, Sara Fagen, Frank Fahrenkopf, John Feehery, Don Fierce, Mindy Finn, Mindy Fletcher, Carl Forti, Alex Gage, Bruce A. Gates, Sam Geduldig, Adam Geller, Benjamin Ginsberg, David Girard-diCarlo, Bill Greener, Jonathan Grella, Lanny Griffith, Janet Mullins Grissom, Doug Gross, Todd Harris, Steve Hart, Christopher Healy, Ralph Hellmann, Chris Henick, Terry Holt, David Iannelli, Ed Ingle, Jim Innocenzi, Clark Judge, David Keating, David Kensinger, Bob Kjellander, Ed Kutler, Chris LaCivita, Jim Lake, Steven Law, Steve Lombardo, Kevin Madden, Joel Maiola, Gary Maloney, David Marin, Mary Matalin, Dan Mattoon, Brian McCormack, Mark McKinnon, Kyle McSlarrow, Ken Mehlman, Jim Merrill, Lisa Camooso Miller, Tim Morrison, Mike Murphy, Phil Musser, Ron Nehring, Terry Nelson, Neil Newhouse, David Norcross, Ziad Ojakli, Jack Oliver, Todd Olsen, Kevin O'Neill, Connie Partoyan, Billy Piper, Van B. Poole, Tom Rath, Scott Reed, David Rehr, Tom Reynolds, Steve Roberts, Jason Roe, David Roederer, Dan Schnur, Russ Schriefer, Rich Schwarm, Brent Seaborn, Rick Shelby, Andrew Shore, Kevin Shuvalov, Don Sipple, Ken Spain, Fred Steeper, Bob Stevenson, Terry Sullivan, David Tamasi, Eric Tanenblatt, Richard Temple, Heath Thompson, Jay Timmons, Warren Tompkins, Ted Van Der Meid, Dirk van Dongen, Jan van Lohuizen, Stewart Verdery, Dick Wadhams, John Weaver, Lezlee Westine, Dave Winston, Ginny Wolfe, Fred Wszolek, and Matthew Zablud.