When I am down, and lately I have been down, I take great joy in reading the GOP introspective "The Growth and Opportunity Project". For a Party that has lost 5 of the last 6 popular vote elections--and takes solace in the 2012 loss by claiming a partial mandate in that voters returned the GOP to the House, despite the gerry (rigged) mandered districts, their soul searching report to make them competitive by 2016 is nothing short of delusional. Rather than deal with the report in detail, let me just pick one part: the complaint that too many primary debates left them in a weakened position vis a vis the Democrats.
The report, with a nifty graph, notes the rise in the number of debates since 1980. In 1980, there were just 6 debates whereas in 2012 there was 20 (actually down one from 2008)! They believe that the number of debates are hurting their ability to produce a viable competitor to whomever the Democrats pick (nevermind that the Democrats have the same number of primary debates when they are looking to take back the White House from the Republicans).
What the GOP suggests is to cut the debates in half (at least), for the GOP to announce a year away from 2016 the exact number of debates and where (I guess we are supposed to be blind to the fact that the Party is not supposed to have anything to do with the primary process), and then the suggestion to institutionalize the debates by creating a companion organization to the Commission on Presidential Debates, the organization responsible for hosting the presidential debates.
First, the GOP changed their system in 2012 to make it harder for a nominee to emerge earlier in the process as well as to encourage participation in debates because it worked so well for the Democrats in 2008. The lengthy primary process in 2008 energized the electorate, including the much vaulted Independents, and the vigorous debates between Obama and Clinton left a nominee who was battle tested. Now they complain about it?
But let's look at what is really afoot here. The GOP is overlooking the fact that the person who they expected to be the nominee won the nomination, and the debates actually made him a better candidate (witness Presidential Debate #1). They are upset that Romney had to compete with a circus of challengers--that Bachmann-Cain-Perry-Santorum--presented an image of the GOP that was out of step with the average voter. Right, the debates is what damaged the image.
What is disappointing about this report, and what they miss, is the fact that fewer debates or debates controlled by the Party, who get to weed out undesirables, is not going to solve their problems. In fact, minimizing the number of debates in 2012 might well have left that trainwreck Rick Perry unscathed--no "oops" moment--giving him the opportunity to allow his money and advertising to give him the nomination, only to put him on stage with Barack Obama, with 10 times more voters watching. Yeah, that's going to help the GOP get right back in the game.
So listen up GOP: Americans love debates. If you are truly soul searching in an attempt to win back voters, give them what they want. Give them debates. Your problem is an internal schism, and until you fix the weight that social/cultural conservatives have in the Party, no amount of soul searching and fancy reports are going to fix your problems.
But hey, keep churning out those reports. It has added levity to an endless winter.