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Republicans debate for candidacy

Nicole Michels | Thursday, January 19, 2012

Four nominees remain in the race to become the next Republican candidate in the 2012 presidential election.

Political Science Professor David Campbell said the great irony in this election has been the Republican Party’s overhaul of structure in its delegate appropriation, which did not have the effect the GOP hoped to see.

“The Republicans changed their rules hoping to get a more long drawn-out contest,” Campbell said. “But it hasn’t mattered. Romney has won, and it’s hard to see how any one will carry on beyond Florida since no one else has the money to compete there the way that Romney can.”

He said the drawn-out contest weeded out Republican hopefuls who lacked the resources necessary to pursue a strong national campaign.

Professor of Political Science Christina Wolbrecht said since the campaign started long before the Iowa caucus, candidates had to employ large amounts of money in order to compete.

“The campaign has been going on for a very long time before the Iowa caucus, and that’s 10 months before the general election,” she said. “That’s very expensive.”

Political Science Professor Darren Davis said it was surprising candidates dropped out early because there remained opportunities for other contestants to gain on Romney. Herman Cain, Jon Huntsman, Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry have dropped out of the presidential race so far.

“It’s not going to be a cakewalk for Romney by any stretch of the imagination. Romney may eventually receive the nomination, but we have only had two contests so far and it is still really early … I think that the other candidates will have some appeal,” Davis said.

The campaign season has been marked by great volatility, Campbell added.

“This period will be memorable for the huge amount of flux in the polls so early on, characterized by both spikes in the polls and sudden and almost precipitous declines,” he said.

Davis said the issue positions of the candidates are all very similar, forcing voters to look to the personality, values and backgrounds of candidates.

“What they are all really interested in showing right now is the type of character who could defeat Obama,” Davis said.

Campbell said Republican nominees have employed various strategies to separate themselves from the pack. Campbell said Romney’s successful attainment of endorsements and early support from prominent political officials was key to his victories in the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries.

“Romney himself is everyone’s second choice. Romney is like the girl that you marry not because he’s the glamorous one. He’s moderate, and therefore he’s seen as a potential winner in the general election,” Campbell said.

He added it remained to be seen whether other candidates would be able to garner more support without alienating loyal voters.

Political Science Professor Ricardo Ramírez said candidates sought such support through unique platforms on previously unmentioned issues. Michelle Bachmann’s approach to immigration exemplified this strategy.

“It’s been interesting because until the 2010 Gallup polls, immigration has not been an issue of paramount importance in U.S. elections,” Ramírez said. “Bachmann made immigration a priority first, and then the rest followed.”

Davis said candidate Rick Santorum’s attitude toward key social issues was also noteworthy, as it pressured other candidates to establish their position on the matter.

“Increasingly you hear [candidate Newt] Gingrich talking about social issues and other things of that nature, but it was Santorum that first articulated his positions, even on the potentially divisive social issues,” Davis said.

Campbell said while the stormiest part of the primaries was over, voters must wait to see which candidate advance to the general election.

“With more information out there about all of the candidates and more voters paying attention to the race, spikes are a lot less likely now,” he said. “The stakes are higher.”