More than nicknames needed

Progress 27/2/12

Though great nicknames abound, the GOP field has failed to ignite any enthusiasm

The twentieth GOP debate this week attempted to give the voters a lasting impression of the candidates. Though their positions were well rehearsed and their talking points recycled, CNN decided to continue the infotainment with a new round of nicknames, these ones the most outlandish of the season.  Here was Mitt ‘the long distance runner’ Romney, Newt ‘the constant challenger’ Gingrich, Rick ‘the late contender’ Santorum and my personal favorite, Ron ‘the delegate hunter’ Paul.

CNN has taken some ribbing for its ridiculously overproduced introductions but it points to the power that these TV debates have had in this forever-changing field. Now down to four contenders the debate cycles have been seen as the major movers of momentum alongside pocket billionaire money bombs in media markets. The GOP field has felt like a reality show, with contestants being voted out week by week.

The turbulent path that has so far been this nomination process demonstrates the inability of any of the field to truly motivate the GOP base, and has further alienated the independents that are necessary for victory.  In a period of such uncertainty within the American national psyche now was a golden opportunity for a ‘change’ message.

There are still some vain hopes that a saviour will be found in the wings, especially as delegate rich states such as California, New York and Texas will not vote for some weeks, yet the issues of ballot access (needing 10,000 signatures to get on the ballot in some states) make the hurdle near impossible at this late stage.

The Punch and Judy show that has so far been the GOP nomination contest has managed to boo a serving gay solider in Iraq and bring access to contraceptives to the forefront of the national debate. When independents will decide the outcome of this election, charging to the social extremes is not a winning strategy.

The move to the social space is partly due to the upturn in the US economy. Barack ‘the president’ Obama has managed to get unemployment to start trending downwards and the Dow is up to pre-crash highs. Yet with the upturn in the economy the president is still to see the significant bump in the polls to put him anywhere in the ‘safe territory’ in this election.

The long nomination battle provides benefits for both parties, however. For the Democrats, seeing their opponents at war with each other allows them to get on with running the country while the GOP flounder. Whoever triumphs will have had severely depleted their resources.  Yet for the GOP, the fight allows them to stay in the national spotlight and give brand recognition to whoever the candidate is. This nomination fight will harden their eventual nominee for the main event and limit the amount of ‘got you’ moments that the president’s team can dig up.

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