Is there a Republican narrative?

James Dwyer tells us that while the Republicans continue to fight between two ideals - their chances of a 2012 President are sailing out of the window.

Will Boehner help his party find its way?
James Dwyer
On 28 July 2011 12:40

As Democrats and Republicans stumble towards a budget deal, GOP strategists are racking their brains in order to develop some plan for the next few months.

On August 11, the next important milestone in the race to become GOP candidate will take place - a debate in Iowa hosted by Fox News.

The make-up of this debate is Republican through and through. It is taking place in Iowa, one of the most important states for the GOP, and it is hosted by Fox News, seen by many as the mouth-piece of the Republican Party.

For many of the candidates, this is a chance to really put their stamp on the campaign. Up to this point there have been half-hearted efforts by those running to get their campaigns off the ground, but no one has really pushed themselves and delivered a coherent message. The debate in Iowa will be for many the launch-pad for their campaign, and their chance to set out clearly their ideals, principles and policies.

It is also, for the GOP as a whole, a chance - and perhaps a necessary one - to make a decision. There are two paths that the party can take for the 2012 election. Both are distinct and have their virtues and their failings, but at some point the party faithful will need to swing one way or another.

At the moment, the GOP seems to divide roughly in to two categories - the Tea Party 'revolutionaries' on the one hand, and the moderates on the other.

The leading representative of Team Tea Party is Michele Bachmann. Initially seen by many as a flash in the pan candidate, Bachmann has done fairly well so far and that is reflected in her polling. Sarah Palin is no longer the darling of the Tea Party, and even if she decides to enter the race late, it seems that Bachmann may have already captured the baton of the Tea Party.

The latest polls show that twenty-two percent of Iowans who are likely to turn up to vote in the Republican caucus will vote for Bachmann - a considerable number given her relative anonymity at the start of the campaign, and her penchant for historical gaffes.

On the other side of the coin, leading the more 'moderate' pack is Mitt Romney. Whilst he has managed to raise a lot of cash so far - almost twenty million dollars in three months - Romney has been relatively quiet in the grand scheme of things. As he is a veteran of this campaign and has been there before, it is hard to think he doesn't know what he's doing.

As it stands however, he has been swamped out by the more sensationalist stories of the campaign.

The concern for the GOP is this: while Michele Bachmann is becoming more popular with the more socially and fiscally conservative wing of the party, and is certainly able to gather some momentum, the odds of her gaining the nomination are slim. If that did happen - and it has to be said that few are seriously expecting it - then the chances of her rivaling Barack Obama are even slimmer.

It would take a cataclysmic collapse of the economy, and probably something else devastating for Bachmann to beat Obama to the finish line in 2012.

Romney knows this as well, which is perhaps why he's being keeping quiet. He may well be sitting back and waiting, hoping that at some point people will realise that, for all Michele Bachmann has to offer, he is the only realistic candidate to take on Obama.

The GOP leadership are also aware of this, and are desperate for someone to stand up and make a push for victory.

It was previously hard to see anyone getting in Romney's way - although Rick Perry has been making some noises that are not at odds with the GOP base.

For the Republicans to make a decent go of challenging Obama, they need to get their ideology - and their candidate - sorted out as soon as possible. For as long as the party is seemingly torn between two ideals, they will struggle to attract the all important undecided voters. Romney will appeal to these, as will Huntsman - Bachmann and Perry almost certainly won't. Every day the Republicans spend torn between ideals, the Democrats look stronger.

The 2012 election will be tight. It looks at the moment like it will be a fairly scrappy campaign. The Republicans must choose their direction now - then they'll have every chance.

James Dwyer works for PoliticsHome on the news team. He writes for The Commentator in a personal capacity.

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