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Calling all candidates to the starting gate

May 12, 2011 - Steve Murch
How would you like to be Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, or even DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz this presidential election cycle? Granted, Schultz's job is less complex, but it will be a challenge nonetheless.

Priebus is looking at a field of candidates that could be as large as the running of the Kentucky Derby. On Thursday Ron Paul's campaign aides announced he will make his third run for president; Newt Gingrich announced on Wednesday. When you look over the list of people either running, considering a run, or assumed to be running the number is at least 12. That's a whole lot of candidates.

Priebus' job could come down to reining them in so they don't destroy each other. With so many candidates, all the hopefuls will be looking for a way to stand out from the crowd. One way to do that is to attack all the others. That could open up a free-for-all where the Republican candidates basically cannibalize the party and turn off swing voters, easily opening the door for their nemesis, President Obama, to waltz back to the White House.

Wasserman Schultz, on the other hand, has to keep her part sharp and ready for the Republicans who will challenge Obama. There is always some candidate who runs against a sitting president, but generally it's a formality that the president will be the party's candidate in the general election.

The Republicans could have so many voices shouting over each other that voters who fit in the middle could all move left if the candidates turn to mudslinging. Every election voters say they hate the mudslinging, they hate the negative ads, they hate that most of the issues get pushed aside for the ones with the juiciest “scandal.” But time and again the negativity has a prominent role. So Priebus will have to make sure the GOP race doesn't get overheated and turn off voters.

The DNC has the luxury of watching for the dirt flying on the other side, then make sure to capitalize on the damage and try to carry the momentum.

We are still more than seven months before the first primary and caucus, but the race is already under way. Doesn't it seem like we just finished the last presidential election?


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