The South Carolina primary results have made President Obama a very happy man. He and his campaign high command know the longer the Republican nomination fight drags on, the less time the eventual nominee will have to turn his full attention and resources towards defeating Obama.
Some strategists believe that a prolonged battle strengthens the candidate and prepares that person for the general election. The Hillary/Obama primary fight of 2008 is often cited as an example how a bruising battle helped to hone campaign skills and otherwise prepare the victor.
However, in 2012, I disagree with this line of thinking. What is potentially shaping up to be a tough prolonged battle between Newt and Mitt will result in neither one emerging as a stronger candidate and the reasons why are as follows.
Unlike in 2008, we have a first-term president hovering above the fray with enormous advantages of incumbency and statistical odds of re-election.
As noted in this piece I co-wrote last January discussing Obama’s re-election prospects: “In the last 56 U.S. presidential elections, 31 have involved incumbents; 21 of those candidates have won more than one term. Based on these historical odds, Obama has a better-than-67-percent chance of winning reelection.”
On January 24, when he gives his State of the Union message, Obama will stand above a joint session of Congress looking very presidential on a high prestigious platform. Contrast that scene with Mitt, Newt, and to a lesser extent Rick and Ron, continuing to sling mud at each other while the media chronicles their every attack. (Mitt is supposed to release his tax returns around that time so that might steal some of Obama’s thunder, but not in a positive way.)
Since Obama cannot run on his anemic economic record, he will instead wage a frontal assault against his future opponent. So what could be more perfect than stacks of great material provided by the candidates themselves?