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Economy Favors Romney in GOP Race

Repub­lican hope­fuls faced off at Monday’s GOP pres­i­den­tial debate in New Hamp­shire, after which most pun­dits voted front-​​runner Mitt Romney best in show. William Crotty, the Thomas P O’Neill pro­fessor of polit­ical sci­ence at North­eastern and expert in pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, explains Repub­li­cans‘ pri­mary cam­paign issues, the tac­tics used by pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates to stand out in a debate and why Romney is leading the GOP field, for now.

What issues will Republicans focus on in pre-election debates, and do they differ from Democrats’ priorities – in particular, those of the Obama Administration?

There is a divide among Repub­li­cans. The major issues of the cam­paign year will be jobs and the economy, two areas where Mitt Romney hap­pens to excel — he has suc­cess­fully come out early and made these issues the cor­ner­stone of his cam­paign. Although the other can­di­dates touched on eco­nomic issues, they’ve focused on social, moral and reli­gious issues to appeal to their Repub­lican base in the pri­maries and to Tea Party mem­bers. These plat­forms and “Rom­n­ey­care” are Romney’s weak­nesses. But if he wins the nom­i­na­tion, and has a well orga­nized, media-​​driven, well-​​funded and highly focused cam­paign, the economy and jobs will be the con­cerns that dom­i­nate in the gen­eral election.

The Democ­rats have a problem. The economy is Pres­i­dent Obama’s area of weak­ness. He has not addressed it ade­quately — case in point: a con­tin­uing nine per­cent national unem­ploy­ment rate, home fore­clo­sures at record highs and a slug­gish recovery. Obama cau­tions patience, as he has throughout his time in office, and is attempting to win over Wall Street and the busi­ness com­mu­nity, which will be dif­fi­cult if Romney is the can­di­date. He has a well-​​organized, expe­ri­enced, pro­fes­sional and very well funded cam­paign. He needs to defend his record in office. His hope is that one of the social con­ser­v­a­tives wins the nom­i­na­tion. If so this this presents him with tar­gets to attack and should make Obama the clear fron­trunner. At present Obama and Romney are close in the polls with Romney actu­ally slightly ahead in several.

As we may have seen some of last night, what tactics do candidates use in early debates to standout against the competition?

The Repub­lican can­di­dates need to estab­lish name recog­ni­tion, intro­duce them­selves to the elec­torate, present a coherent policy pro­gram, build a cam­paign orga­ni­za­tion, present them­selves as “pres­i­den­tial” and define their appeal to their con­stituency of greatest strength. Ron Paul is a lib­er­tarian and has a well-​​defined con­stituency. Herman Cain is an ego can­di­date, unknown and with no chance of suc­cess. The others are dif­ferent shades of social con­ser­v­a­tives from Michelle Bach­mann to Tim Paw­lenty. They will be fighting each other for the same voters, all to Romney’s benefit.

In your opinion, who emerged as strongest Republican candidate from this debate?

Romney did exactly what he had to do and did it well. In a state like New Hamp­shire that is far more con­cerned with jobs and the economy than social and fun­da­men­talist issues, he solid­i­fied his front-​​runner status and began to build his national appeal. In a poll pub­lished imme­di­ately prior to the debate, Romney had a little over 40 per­cent of New Hampshire’s Repub­lican sup­port — no other can­di­date has as much as 10 per­cent. With this debate per­for­mance, he helped him­self in the short– and long-​​run.

Michelle Bach­mann, a Tea Party favorite, made an effec­tive entrance onto the national stage and may have kept Sarah Palin out of the race. The other poten­tial fron­trunner, Tim Paw­lenty, who has received pub­licity from his family finances and his pre­vious mar­ital his­tory, needs to refine and refocus his mes­sage and his delivery, given his ten­ta­tive­ness on some ques­tions. Right now, it looks like Romney will main­tain the lead with Bach­mann adding some life to the race if she can orga­nize the con­ser­v­a­tive Tea Party Repub­li­cans effectively.

– By Kara Shemi 

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