The presidential election will see the most brutal campaign in history, with neither party giving an inch as they throw mud at the other side’s candidate, veteran Republican operative Al Cardenas tells Newsmax.
The country is split to such an extent that each side sees the election as vital to its interests, the American Conservative Union chairman added in an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV.
“There is so much at stake that the passions are going to be so strong on either side that this will be unlike other elections, this will be perceived as a total win or a total loss,” Cardenas said.
“I believe this will be the most brutal election we’ve ever had,” he said.
Story continues below the video.
“America is divided more than ever before. We’re really split into two countries: the ones who believe in greater government involvement in our lives with cradle-to-grave assistance from government, those who believe less and less about self-reliance and self-dignity. And I believe there are those who want to return America to the social fabric that made our nation great — and that’s us.
“It’s a turf battle. There’s no middle ground here. Progressives represent one side of that battle, and conservatives represent the other — and the middle ground is almost unattainable.
“For us, election victory is critical. We believe America has headed in the wrong direction the past four years. We can’t fathom to think where we would be four more years from now if the president is reelected and, nothing personal, but we cannot allow that to continue.”
Cardenas predicted that any candidate who wins the GOP nomination will beat President Barack Obama in November, although he conceded that it will not be easy.
But he said the passion among Republicans is higher now even than it was when Ronald Reagan faced off against President Jimmy Carter in 1980.
“Because the country’s divided 50/50, the turnout rate is going to decide the outcome,” said Cardenas, the former two-term chairman of the Florida Republican Party.
“For us to win this election, there better be more folks who agree with us turning out than those who agree with them. Last time it wasn’t that case. Last time, clearly the president had a marked edge in the turnout battle and that’s why he won. This time around, if we don’t have a turnout victory, we’ll lose.”
Cardenas declined to reveal which candidate he supports, saying the one with the best chance of beating Obama is whoever wins the nomination.
“That’s always the case. You may or may not think he is your perfect candidate, but the one who survives a fairly brutal nominating process has earned it because they have usually had a better organization or better message.
“But all our candidates have some attributes and some challenges. No one’s perfect. Mitt Romney seems to be in the lead — he seems to have run the most disciplined campaign, the best campaign. Newt Gingrich is talented. Santorum has a loyal following. We’ll see where this ends up.”
Cardenas, who was born in Cuba and came to the United States as a 12-year-old, said Hispanics are going to be vital in winning the election. “Truth is that, without a reasonable percentage of their support, we can’t reoccupy the White House.
“Out of 13 or 14 states that will likely decide the outcome of this election, you start looking at Florida, at Virginia, Colorado and New Mexico, Arizona, and, to some extent, Ohio and you realize that, if we don’t have a significant percentage of support there, we’re not going to win those states.
“Obviously, there is a lot of work to be done. That constituency is critical, but Hispanics have been more impacted by unemployment, by the misery index that we talk about, than anyone else. And when you talk to Hispanics about equality of education, opportunities for their kids to find employment, a better future in America and upholding the traditional values that our party espouses, we have a loyal constituency and we just need to get better at the messaging.”
GOP candidates should stop pretending that they are the next Ronald Reagan and forge their own identities, Cardenas said. “It’s impossible for a leader to be asked to emulate someone else because by definition that doesn’t make him a leader,” he said.
“A leader should be a person comfortable in his or her own skin who has got a vision for the moment and a talent and ability to motivate all of us to follow him or her. To try to pretend to fit into Ronald Reagan’s profile diminishes the image of someone we want to see lead.
“We all want to emulate Ronald Reagan’s values. We want to look up to Ronald Reagan, just as we looked up to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, but we want a leader, we don’t have to compare to someone else.”
He said fellow Floridians, Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush, should be among the top tier when the eventual GOP nominee is deciding on his running mate. At 40, Rubio is young enough that he can afford to wait, Cardenas said. “I don’t believe that there is any doubt that he will someday be an occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”
As for Bush, Cardenas said, “Jeb is one of those candidates that for the future you say, ‘Gee, I hope he runs for president some day.’ He’s young. He’s in his 50s, so the sky’s the limit.”
Editor's Note: In the exclusive Newsmax.TV interview, Al Cardenas also:
Says CPAC will be the biggest ever, reflecting increasing conservative clout — Go Here Now.
Insists that Republican candidates must attract Hispanics to take back the White House — Go Here Now.
© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.