2012 Is No GOP Version Of Clinton-Obama Primary

If there's been one familiar refrain among Republicans during this presidential primary, it's been that the hard-fought battle between Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and other contenders hasn't hurt the party – arguably, it's even strengthened it.

"Don't always assume that a primary fight is a bad thing," Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Mar. 7 on CNN. "In fact, I think it's the opposite. I think it's going to be great for our party."

And frequently, as a point of reference, Republicans point to the long – and, at times, bitter – intra-party battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2008 as evidence that an extended race to the nomination isn’t necessarily a hindrance to winning the White House.

But there are important differences between the two cycles. Some of them might serve as a warning sign for the GOP, such as less money and a more damaged brand. And some might give the party encouragement, like more enthusiasm among Republicans.

Of course, an important caveat: In some ways, it’s difficult to compare 2008 (a race without an incumbent and with two history-making primary candidates) with 2012 (when there’s a sitting president in the Oval Office).

Bank accounts
At this point in the Democratic primary in 2008, Obama and Clinton had each heavily outraised Republicans’ fundraising haul through the first couple of months of 2012.

In February of 2008, just as the Democratic campaign had appeared to shift into a two-person race, the Obama campaign raised $55 million for the month, and had $39 million in the bank going into March. Clinton raised $35 million over the same time period, and had $29 million in cash on hand. (It’s worth noting, though, that much of Clinton’s money was reserved for the general election, and she couldn’t use in the primary season.)

Compare that to the money raised by Santorum and Romney over February, according to their own campaigns’ estimates (official numbers have not yet been filed with the Federal Election Commission). Romney raised $11.5 million in February and Santorum raised about $9 million. Romney had just $7.3 million in the bank at the end of the month, though, suggesting that his campaign is spending at a rate that could threaten to bleed him dry by November, especially if the primary continues for a while.

A discrepancy would suggest some diminished enthusiasm for the Republican candidates this cycle, at least at first glance.

But there are some important things to keep in mind: First, overall fundraising is down in 2012 versus 2008, in part due to the impact of a deep recession that onset after the 2008 primary.

More Republican money has also flowed to super PACs that support the various GOP candidates. These groups didn’t exist in the last Democratic primary, and one Romney super PAC alone, Restore Our Future, has already spent over $30 million this primary season.

The brand
Perhaps the most illuminating figures on the impact of the Republican primary campaign comes from a series of national NBC News/Wall Street Journal polls and the exit polling conducted of voters in key battleground state primaries.

By March of 2008, both Obama and Clinton enjoyed net-positive favorability ratings among the public at large (Obama: 51 positive, 28 negative; Clinton: 45 positive, 43 negative according to the March 2008 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll).

Romney and Santorum haven’t fared as well with the general public, according to this month’s numbers, also taken from the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Romney has a 28 percent positive rating among U.S. adults, and a 39 percent negative rating. Santorum has a 26 percent positive rating, and a 39 percent negative rating. They each perform much better with Republican primary voters.

And in terms of the impact on each party’s brand, the Democratic Party had a 45 percent positive rating among registered voters in March of 2008, and a 35 percent negative rating. Four years later, the Republican Party has a 32 percent positive rating, and a 43 percent negative rating.

But the GOP’s ratings represent a recovery of sorts from the party’s depths in mid-2010, when the August NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll from that year had the Republican Party with just a 24 percent positive rating, and a 46 percent negative rating.

Republicans are also still dealing with the fallout from an unpopular two-term president in George W. Bush, who preceded Obama. The wars Bush had started are still winding down, and Obama still warns of a return to the policies of the years that preceded him, attacking Bush by implication.

The Bush years also left Republicans with a more fractious coalition with emerging fault lines of social issues and foreign and economic policy. Given those divisions, it might be tougher for any of these candidates to capture a broader swath of the electorate.

Enthusiasm, curbed
The figures from both primaries suggest that Democrats were happier with their choice of candidates than Republicans have been this cycle.

Fifty-seven percent of Republicans who voted in the Mar. 6 Ohio primary said in exit polls that they would be satisfied with Romney as the eventual nominee.

By comparison, 73 percent of Democrats who voted in the Ohio primary four years ago said they would be satisfied if Clinton won the nomination, and 66 percent of Democrats said the same of Obama that same cycle.

Nationally, 45 percent of Republican primary voters said in the March NBC/WSJ poll that they would support Romney with enthusiasm, and 42 percent said they would support Santorum with enthusiasm.

Four years ago, in the same national poll, 60 percent of Democrats said they would vote for Clinton with enthusiasm, and 52 percent expressed enthusiastic support for Obama.

But in 2008, Democrats weren’t being measured against an incumbent president like Republicans are this cycle. The differences between the candidates were also more stylistic in 2008 than ideological, especially compared to the 2012 race in which Republicans do battle over the extent of their conservatism.

But the Democratic primary four years ago also featured two political heavyweights in Obama and Clinton, each of whom were poised to make history simply by virtue of their nomination. Obama would become the first African-American presidential nominee, and later, the nation’s first black president. Clinton would have been the first woman to top a ticket, and the first woman president if she were elected.

And Republicans can take solace in the fact that Obama is now their greatest unifier. While there might not be tremendous enthusiasm for either of the two major remaining Republican candidates, there’s a great deal of interest within the GOP about beating Obama.

A mid-February Gallup poll found that Republicans, by an 8-point margin, were more likely to say that they were enthusiastic about voting this fall compared to Democrats. And among certain key portions of Obama’s 2008 coalition, especially younger and nonwhite voters, enthusiasm was down.

But a mid-March poll, also by Gallup, found that enthusiasm for Romney and Santorum within the GOP is down from 2008; Republicans are motivated this time by voting against Obama.

And the numbers in the January NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll suggest that while Santorum and Romney might not generate tremendous enthusiasm, they’re at least acceptable.


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  • by Lavon Location: Goldsboro on Mar 18, 2012 at 06:31 AM
    Were trying to get the economy going and some fool keeps talking about an American flag. How embarrassing. Fox News is a disease
    • reply
      by LOL on Mar 18, 2012 at 07:08 AM in reply to Lavon
      Just as I thought, Lavon and his far left fellow democrats have no loyalty to this country, only Obama. As always he resorts to name calling, lies and spin to answer a question. I am not and will never be embarrassed to stand up for the American Flag and no true American would be. By the way Lavon, I saw the article on MSN for a fleeting moment, one of your selective reporting liberal media outlets. As far as your comment about Palin putting her name on a flag (I am sure that was you too!), show me where she had a flag manufactured with her name on it and flew it and I will object to that one too!! I am proud to say I am a patriotic american and a republican. I love how scared you are of FOX News, the PROVEN most balanced and reliable news source, whether you like it or not! Anybody but Obama 2012, count on it!!
      • reply
        by lavon on Mar 18, 2012 at 01:34 PM in reply to LOL
        Im going to buy me a flag tomorrow and have Obama's name stitched in it and im going to personally hand deliver it to you lmbo...
  • by Eyes Wide Open on Mar 17, 2012 at 05:59 PM
    If the Democrats always raise more campaign money than Republicans, because they are friends with the true elite, then how can you liberals scream the Republicans only care about the rich with a straight face? I also need an explanation on the $15.5 Trillion national debt and how Obama plans to stop adding to it!
  • by Soccer Mom Location: ENC on Mar 17, 2012 at 04:16 PM
    It is time for hope and change. I don't know anyone who is better off since President Obama took office. I will vote for the Republican nominee if he has a logical plan to lower gasoline and grocery prices.
    • reply
      by Newt on Mar 17, 2012 at 06:35 PM in reply to Soccer Mom
      Hey! $2.50 a gallon! You heard it here first. Vote for me. I'll make sure all your groceries just cost $.50 too
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Mar 17, 2012 at 11:56 PM in reply to Newt
        No worries apply for the Obama issued government gas card and food stamps.
  • by Anonymous on Mar 17, 2012 at 03:53 PM
    Who gives a rat's behind? They are all liars.
  • by Lavon Location: Goldsboro on Mar 17, 2012 at 10:58 AM
    Republicans have a reason to be angry, look at their candidates. Thank God Im a Democrat.
    • reply
      by Back Again on Mar 17, 2012 at 03:29 PM in reply to Lavon
      Still refusing to defend the flag defamation issue Lavon? So sad to be a democrat, all you do is lie and twist facts to TRY to make your so called president look good. Well, it doesn't work. You can continue to throw around your allegations that women are all for democrats, that is a lie too, I am a women and so are a large majority of my fiends. We are ALL smarter than you and can see right through the liberal smoke screens that you throw up and try use to make us the brainless idiots you wish we were. We will all be voting anybody but Obama. We are angry at nothing but the FACT that Obama has continuously lied and made EVERYTHING worse for the working class Americans since he bought the white house. His time is short and you have nobody but him and his policies to thank for it.
      • reply
        by Lavon on Mar 17, 2012 at 05:20 PM in reply to Back Again
        LOL. Nobody but Obama in 2012. If you don't believe me then just look at the Republican candidates. Judging by your post I really don't think your that smart at all.
        • reply
          by Back Again on Mar 17, 2012 at 06:23 PM in reply to Lavon
          Judging by your blindness and never ending name calling I know you are not smart at all. When are you going to stop avoiding the flag issue? Just because your selective news reporting media outlets had little or no coverage of this issue, it IS a very important issue. They don't report it because there is no justifying it and no way to spin it to the democrats advantage. When has any political figure defaced or allowing the defacing of an american flag? If you have allegiance to this county, as you have claimed on many occasions, why are you not outraged about this incident? How do you justify this move? It is just one of many ways in which the democrats have spit on what this country stands for for the last three and a half years, under the leadership (I use that term very, very lightly) of Obama.
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Mar 17, 2012 at 06:25 PM in reply to Back Again
        Did you complain when Sarah Palin defaced the United States flag by putting her name on it? ......I thought not. Idiot!
      • reply
        by Lavon on Mar 18, 2012 at 06:29 AM in reply to Back Again
        Go by a flag and stick it in front of your door and cling to your gun.
        • reply
          by Obama Snake Oil Co on Mar 18, 2012 at 05:03 PM in reply to Lavon
          Best I can tell by the polls, Obama has the black vote and the gay vote...Lavon, which is it?
  • by Wolfgang Location: Chocowinity,NC on Mar 17, 2012 at 09:31 AM
    I thought Hillary was giong to knock Obama out with a left hook to the jaw back in 2008? She might have had a good reason. Quotes from 2008 - Former President Clinton in 2008 complained about attacks from Sen. Barack Obama on Sen. Hillary Clinton in the latest back-and-forth bickering between the two rival Democratic presidential campaigns. "I've got before me a list of 80 attacks on my wife Hillary that are quite personal by Sen. Obama and his campaign going back six months that I've had pulled," he said, speaking to CNN contributor Roland Martin. - 2008 Sen. Hillary Clinton says Sen. Barack Obama's camp is deliberately distorting her remarks. - Barack Obama's campaign, on the defensive for the past week, yesterday launched its most pointed assault yet on the character of rival Hillary Clinton, accusing her of routinely misleading voters for political gain, - 2008 Sen. Barack Obama tried Tuesday to gain the high ground on Iraq over Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), his chief rival for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, by charging that Clinton voted in 2002 to authorize President Bush to use force in Iraq. Just a few Clinton vs Obama tid bits. - I wonder when or if Hillary will deck Obama before the Obama Celebrity Apprentice Presidentual Show is over? I give 1st round to Hill for the knock out punch?
    • reply
      by Lavon on Mar 17, 2012 at 10:56 AM in reply to Wolfgang
      Nobody but Obama in 2012
      • reply
        by Obama Snake Oil Co on Mar 17, 2012 at 12:50 PM in reply to Lavon
        Obamagas 2012
  • by taxman Location: wilson on Mar 17, 2012 at 09:03 AM
    All repukecan politcians have serious cases of mental flatulence. Hence, the ideas and philosophy they promote. Hasn't been a good republican politician since Eisenhower.
    • reply
      by Obama Snake Oil Co on Mar 17, 2012 at 12:51 PM in reply to taxman
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYS7aQY1iZI
  • by Anonymous on Mar 17, 2012 at 07:21 AM
    The main difference is that the Republicans aren't socialists, that wan't government to support everyone in a "Nanny Sate", cradle to grave economy.
    • reply
      by The Facts on Mar 17, 2012 at 10:35 AM in reply to
      No, they aren't socialists - no one running is - but the republican's do seem to be theocrats, almost fascist about it even.
      • reply
        by Obama Snake Oil co on Mar 17, 2012 at 01:58 PM in reply to The Facts
        Nope, Obama is a devout communist...have you heard him lately? We have.
    • reply
      by Truth Hurts ...don't it on Mar 17, 2012 at 11:23 AM in reply to
      There is one MASSIVE difference between 2008 and 2012, in 2008 democrats were trying to decide who they LIKED MORE, in 2012 repubs are try to decide who they DISLIKE THE LEAST.
      • reply
        by Obama Snake Oil co on Mar 17, 2012 at 02:00 PM in reply to Truth Hurts ...don't it
        And the funny think...I mean funny ha ha, not funny qer, its anybody but Obama this time.
        • reply
          by Anonymous on Mar 17, 2012 at 06:28 PM in reply to Obama Snake Oil co
          That's not what the polls are saying...It's Nobody BUT OBAMA in 2012!!!!!!!!!!!!!
        • reply
          by Obama Snake Oil co on Mar 18, 2012 at 05:05 PM in reply to Obama Snake Oil co
          Really? So are you gay or black? Seems thats the only ones that will vote for him this go around....which is it?
    • reply
      by Barlow on Mar 17, 2012 at 12:15 PM in reply to
      Republicans are socialists alright. They just are socialists of and for the rich. Tax breaks, subsidies,bailouts, all just versions of corporate welfare. They just have you believing it is the poor that are taking all your tax dollars. Welfare for the poor is less than 1% of the total budget. Now how much is in there for the corporations that support the military industrial complex in this country? How much did Haliburton make in our "blood money" war on its "no bid" contracts?
      • reply
        by Eyes Wide Open on Mar 17, 2012 at 05:52 PM in reply to Barlow
        You do not know what a socialist is, nor could you define socialism!
        • reply
          by Barlow on Mar 17, 2012 at 06:43 PM in reply to Eyes Wide Open
          "A stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done." As in the rich in America have the majority of wealth and don't do squat except rob the middle class.
        • reply
          by Eyes Wide Open on Mar 18, 2012 at 07:40 AM in reply to Eyes Wide Open
          Good job, you learned how to copy and paste! Only problem is there is not an "all powerful" person (or group of people) who distributes the wealth, nor is there a set amount of wealth to be earned. Capitalism is not a zero sum game, meaning there is not one big pile of cash that is controlled by anyone and you can become wealthy without someone else losing any of their wealth. Everyone can earn more and more money WITHOUT hurting anyone under capitalism because there is an endless supply of wealth being created everyday, and it is up for grabs for all of us. It is true that the people who are ahead of the game and already have money have an advantage of earning more money, but everyone still has a fair shot at success!
  • by Teacher Location: enc on Mar 17, 2012 at 05:32 AM
    IF Democrats can raise all these millions of dollars, why HAVEN'T they helped the AMERICAN people? Seems all our money is spent other places EXCEPT taking care of the WORKING people. When Obama was elected, my husband and I were middle class, BUT now our responsibilities are higher with less and less to work with.
    • reply
      by Lavon on Mar 17, 2012 at 06:03 AM in reply to Teacher
      WHat have you done to help yourself
      • reply
        by I'm Back on Mar 17, 2012 at 08:35 AM in reply to Lavon
        Come on Lavon and Barlow, I am asking you again, for at least the fourth time. I want to hear your defense of the democrats removing the stars from the flag and replacing them with Obama's face. Defacing the flag, defend that. Again I am not going away. Comment on this issue that the lame stream media refuses to cover. ANYBODY BUT OBAMA 2012!!!
        • reply
          by The Facts on Mar 17, 2012 at 10:40 AM in reply to I'm Back
          Are you suggesting that the party of SmallGovernment(tm) SHOULD tell people what to do with thier own personal property? Am I to understand the the GOP is all for SmallGovernment(tm), except in cases of flag ownership, lady parts, female health issues, contraception, etc... oh yes, I see the SmallGovernment(tm) argument. I'm not defending defacing the flag, just pointing out hypocrisy.
        • reply
          by Barlow on Mar 17, 2012 at 02:00 PM in reply to I'm Back
          And I'm telling you for the first and last time, you are a lunatic. Nobody put anybody's face on the American flag. On your way to the shrink pick up Snake will you? Sheesh!
        • reply
          by Obama Snake Oil Co on Mar 17, 2012 at 02:07 PM in reply to I'm Back
          You know that was inspirational when I saw that flag. After I saw it, I just had to have one. And then I read The Facts post....nothing like smelling a terd to justify a communist part in America. So I went out today and sighted my rifle like a good patriot. I thought this would be usefull since those defending the communist in the whitehouse. Then to read the attack...whoooa...the hypocrits like to ignore the constitution; Today marks the start of a new series on ITS Tactical where we’ll be walking you through the COMPLETE assembly of a Direct Gas Impingement AR-15. There’s an awesome offer involved with this build too, so be sure to read on below to find out what’s in store! We’ll be starting this journey with an introduction to the series where we’ll go over the laws surrounding owning and building your own AR, as well as the parts we’ll be using and the tools required. Up front you should know that building your own AR-15 isn’t as hard as you think and there’s not better way to learn about the AR platform than to build one from the ground up!
        • reply
          by I'm Back on Mar 17, 2012 at 02:53 PM in reply to I'm Back
          @ "The Facts" (truth is you could not be further from the REAL facts), republicans do not try to control what goes on with a women's health issues, we just don't want to have to pay for your personal elective prescriptions, that is nothing but liberal democrat spin that you have fallen into (pig dung to be exact). How about you pay for my medications that are required for health reasons, not pleasure. By the way, I am a women and have no problem with paying for my elective prescription drugs. There are FEDERAL LAWS that prohibit defacing the American Flag in any way, you just choose to ignore that FACT to try to spin the truth to suit your lies. You lose, just like you will in November. Count on it!!
        • reply
          by The Facts on Mar 18, 2012 at 05:36 AM in reply to I'm Back
          I can't respond directly to your latest post - the one where you say that there are federal laws to protect the flag - so accept this as a repsonse...Yes, there are federal laws to protect the flag. And now that you are fully supporting federal laws, your previous post is nonsense. There are federal laws providing for abortion, female health care, etc...do you support them too? Or is this like christianty where you can pick and choose which parts you like and only have to follow those?
        • reply
          by I'm Back on Mar 18, 2012 at 07:18 AM in reply to I'm Back
          So, Barlow is denying that the democrats in Florida sent away to China and had a flag manufactured removing the stars and replacing them with Obama's face, then flying it right under the true american flag. Research it Barlow, MSN ran a very short story last week. Of course FOX, the most reliable source, ran the story first but since that source shows all true reporting, you can't look on that site. As far as "The Facts" claim, I never said I was against abortion so stop trying to put words in my mouth. I am pro choice and have always been. Not to mention the FACT that republicans are not trying to change abortion laws, that is nothing more than liberal spin that you have fallen for, you do that quite often. Show me where there are federal laws relating to "female health care" as you claim and I can respond to that one as well, I bet there aren't any!
    • reply
      by Barlow on Mar 17, 2012 at 06:42 AM in reply to Teacher
      If you are a teacher, be glad the president cares about education. Billions of dollars in education funding has been cut by Republican governors all over the country. Over 3000 teacher have lost or left their jobs in Wisconsin alone. Wages are being cut, benefits are being eliminated and teachers are being left go. The Republicans don't want kids to get a decent education. After all, what did their candidate say about people who believe kids should have a chance to go to college. Snobs!
      • reply
        by teacher on Mar 17, 2012 at 08:10 AM in reply to Barlow
        Give me a break! None of these guys care about teachers. The president has a new national mandate that tests more than NCLB called Common Core. States don't have to adopt it, but if they don't, they don't get federal funding.
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Mar 17, 2012 at 09:47 AM in reply to Barlow
        Obama only cares about the unions that teachers belong to and give money to the DNC.
  • by What a Joke on Mar 17, 2012 at 04:45 AM
    Apparently "anyone" in the Republican party is "no one competent." I cannot believe that the Repubs cannot come up with anyone better than Romney, Santorum or Gingrich. I don't think they could have picked anyone worse....but then again, their candidates are supposed represent the views and the values of their party so it all makes sense.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Mar 17, 2012 at 08:49 AM in reply to What a Joke
      And the Dems only pick is Obama. I don't think they could have picked anyone worse....but then again, their candidates are supposed represent the views and the values of their party so it all makes sense.
    • reply
      by The Facts on Mar 17, 2012 at 10:42 AM in reply to What a Joke
      You really don't think they could have picked anyone worse? If they have a brokered convention they could still wind up with sister sarah, all praise to saint to reagan!
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