The 2012 Republican presidential primary has been a long-running absurdity, as if Jonathon Swift decided to created a reality show about a bunch of intellectually challenged, superstitious, suit-wearing orangutans, flinging shit at each other with one hand while collecting big checks from the Koch brothers with the other. Just when you think things can’t get more ridiculous, they do, encompassing everything from Rick Santorum’s disturbing obsession with porn to the Mitt Romney/Etch-A-Sketch comment. And, of course, Faux News keeps up its unabated championing of all candidates on the right, when they can find time to break away from defending a racist’s execution of a young, black man in Florida.
Lately, I’ve noticed a trend in Faux’s coverage of GOP presidential race. They’ve been comparing the fight between Mitt “I’ve got presidential hair, vote for me” Romney to Rick “Damn you, Dan Savage” Santorum to the Dem nom process in 2008, when Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama were barnstorming across the U.S. in a hotly contested race.
Of course, this being Faux News, the logic behind this comparison is a bit … non-existent. Here’s why:
1. People actually wanted to vote for both Obama and Clinton. The Super Tuesday turnout for the Clinton-Obama fight in 2008 was the single biggest Supe Tues ever at 27 percent of eligible voters participating, topping 1972’s 25.9% turnout. From Jan. 3-Feb. 5, 2008, turnout in the Democratic events exceeded GOP turnout by six million voters. In the 2008 Missouri primary, 1.4 million voters hit the polls in a state Obama and Clinton didn’t campaign much in, with 58 percent casting votes for Democrats. That is a drastic change from 2000’s Missouri primary, where 740,000 voted in the primary, with 64% voting Republican. These are just a few numbers, but the trend is clear: The Clinton/Obama matchup created excitement among the electorate, which translated into larger numbers of voters hitting the polls.
Then there’s Mitt-Rick. In the 2012 Illinois presidential primary, Land of Lincolners pretty much avoided the polls, the lowest turnout in 70 years. In the 2012 Virginia primary, turnout was half of what it was in the 2008 GOP primary contest. One study noted that in the first 13 GOP presidential primary contests of 2012, turnout was down in eight of those states. In the five states where there wasn’t a decline, all had an open primary that allows Democrats and independents to cast ballots.
It gets even worse when you start looking at turnout of minority voters. In this year’s Mississippi (37 percent African American population) and Alabama (26.2 percent) contests, only 2 percent of all Republican primary voters were black. In South Carolina, the African American population is 27.9 percent of the overall population, but only 1 percent of GOP primary voters. It’s not looking much better among Hispanics. Five percent of Nevada voters were Hispanic in the 2012 caucus, down from eight percent in 2008.
2. The Republicans don’t like their nominees. As the numbers above show, there was genuine excitement on the left and among independents for Obama and Clinton. That excitement translated to the general election, where approximately 130 million cast votes, compared to 122 million in 2004 and 101 million in 2000. The mania that surrounded Obama even helped him win states traditionally considered Republican strongholds, such as Indiana, Missouri and Virginia.
Meanwhile, as the numbers show, Republicans can barely be bothered to vote for any of their candidates. Mitt can’t connect with the religious right, who are suspicious of Romneycare, his Mormon faith and his elitist ways. Santorum can’t connect with Republican moderates and the GOP business community, who all view Santorum as being only slightly less fucked in the head than Charles Manson and half as dependable. In my lifetime, the GOP has always known its frontrunner heading into the presidential primaries, and they’ve pretty much all stepped into line to support him. Now, the GOP is a fractured group that can’t unite around a central figure. Yes, most if not all will vote for the nominee in November, but they’re not going to go out of their way to do it, and the nominee will have to work hard to draw independent and disaffected Democratic voters to the polls.
3. The Republican nominees are a joke. Know what Mitt’s favorite footwear is? Flip-flops (insert groan here). For every two good things Mitt does, he does another that shoots himself in the foot. His biggest success is being the head of a company that spent a good portion of its time downsizing employees so that money could flood to the wealthy owners of said corporation. He and his cronies give him a bunch of credit for the success of the 2002 Winter Olympics, but if you listen to other organizers of that event, Mitt was less crucial than he’d have us believe. He couldn’t beat John McCain in 2008, and McCain lost to Mitt’s Democratic rival Obama by about 10 million votes.
Meanwhile, Santorum couldn’t even convince the voters of his home state to re-elect him last time around. Newt Gingrich, after helping to engineer one of the greatest GOP electoral victories ever in 1994, was chased from office in disgrace by 2000. His marital history is troubling for a conservative electorate that allegedly supports family values. Republican “rebel” Ron Paul, who actually speaks to young voters and some minorities, has less chance of winning the GOP nomination than I do. If Paul did win, he would in no way be able to count on the financial backers that traditionally support Republican candidates, plus Paul does not appear to have any support among GOP elected officials.
In the end, the winner of the 2012 GOP field will be to the Republicans what King Moonracer was to the Island of Misfit Toys, only less credible.