The message from Republican officials has been crystal clear for two years: The 2016 Republican primary cannot be another prolonged pummeling of the eventual nominee. Only one person ultimately benefited from that last time — Barack Obama — and Republicans know they can’t afford to send a hobbled nominee up against Hillary Clinton.
Yet interviews with more than a dozen party strategists, elected officials and potential candidates a month out from the unofficial start of the 2016 election lay bare a stark reality: Despite the national party’s best efforts, the likelihood of a bloody primary process remains as strong as ever.
The sprawling, kaleidoscope-like field that’s forming is already prompting Republican presidential hopefuls to knock their likely rivals privately and, at times, publicly. The fact that several candidates’ prospects hinge in part on whether others run only exacerbates that dynamic. Ultimately, the large pack won’t be whittled for many months: Republicans have no idea who will end up running, and insiders don’t expect the field will gel significantly until at least the spring of next year.
This story of woe and worry serves three purposes.
First, it begins the 2016 narrative control early. The leftmedia wants to start beating up on the GOP hopefuls before they even begin beating up on themselves. They would also like to put the idea in the voters’ heads that the Republicans didn’t learn anything after 2012.
Second, it quietly reinforces the Madame Hillary the Inevitable myth. Focus on the GOP takes away from all of the rumors about potential challengers, including the Vice President of the United States.
The last thing it accomplishes, obviously, is keeping the conversation away from the train running down Democrat Mountain that’s headed for a crash a month from now.
It’s fun to pretend, isn’t it?