Tags: gingrich | romney | obama | reagan | campaign

GOP Strategist Shirley: Republican Primary Battle Could Last Until June

By    |   Monday, 28 November 2011 12:44 PM

The GOP presidential race is in such a state of flux that it could be June before a Republican candidate will be nominated to challenge President Barack Obama, conservative strategist Craig Shirley tells Newsmax.TV.

Changes from the winner-take-all primary voting in many states mean that long-shot contenders such as former businessman Herman Cain will stay in the battle longer, with the hope that they can pick up delegates, Shirley said during the exclusive Newsmax interview.

But Shirley believes the conservative, Reaganite wing of the party ultimately will prevail, and that probablyy means a candidate much like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will emerge as the winner — barring a surprise.

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The GOP is more polarized now than in the past, said Shirley, whose new book, “December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World,”  is to be released next week.

Over a career that spans four decades, Shirley has worked with a number of leading GOP presidential candidates, including Ronald Reagan, both George Bushes, and Bob Dole. Shirley, president of Shirley and Banister Public Affairs, has written two books on Ronald Reagan and has one on the early political life of Newt Gingrich coming out next year.

Shirley pointed to presidential running mates such as the moderate Dwight Eisenhower and the conservative Richard Nixon, or Nixon and his more liberal running mates Henry Cabot Lodge and Spiro Agnew, as examples of the early efforts to provide equilibrium between the two wings of the party.

All that changed with the advent of Reagan, he said.

“Only after the election of 1980 do the parties change — in that they become completely polarized — so the Republican Party is pretty much all conservative, whereas the Democratic Party is all liberal within degrees of definition between collectivism versus freedom," said Shirley.

Things changed again at the start of the millennium. “What happened during the presidency of George Bush was that he embraced a philosophy that a lot of people saw as, quite frankly, contradictory — big government conservatism.

“That you could have conservative values and a conservative country and big government at the same time, a lot of people think those two concepts are antithetical to each other, so you ended up with a party that was kind of bipolar in many ways.”

Now, the party is once again “fighting over its identity,” Shirley said.

“Is it more Mitt Romney . . . or is it more over here with the Reagan wing of the party? Most people think the Reagan wing is going to win out as it did before, simply because of sheer numbers. If you look at the polling data, Romney’s been stuck at 20-25 percent, and that leaves 75 percent who are searching for somebody else.”

Gingrich is the GOP candidate who best embodies the spirit of Reagan, probably because he was the only one who was on the scene during the heady days of the Gipper’s presidency.

“He more than the others became imbued with Reagan’s vision of conservatism,” said Shirley, whose “Citizen Newt: The Rise, Fall, and Future of Speaker Gingrich” is to be published in January.

“I chose to write this book about Gingrich because I find him to be one of the most fascinating characters in the history of American politics," said Shirley.

"If you think about it, he’s been a dominant figure in American politics for four decades without ever having been elected president and … you’d have to go back to Henry Clay and the War Hawks in the 1820s, ’30s and ’40s to find somebody who was never elected president of the United States yet still had a dominant role in the national debate.

“Gingrich’s greatest asset might be his durability, much like the durability that Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan all possessed. All of them were written off by the political intelligentsia at a certain point in their political lives and all rejected the political intelligentsia to define their own fates.”

Despite Romney’s position as front-runner, he still has too many problems, Shirley said. “As other candidates drop away, their support is not going to go to Romney — it’s going to go to the leading conservative.”

As for the others, he said the party’s flirtation with Herman Cain is emblematic of the Republican search for the party's soul.

“It wouldn’t be the first time the Republican Party nominated a businessman for president. They did with Wendell Wilkie in 1940,” he said, adding that Cain’s inexperience with foreign policy doesn’t seem to bother primary voters.

Whatever happens, Rep. Ron Paul also will be an important figure, Shirley said. “We still haven’t heard the last of Ron Paul. He could determine who the nominee is and he could, if he runs as a third party, determine who the next president of the United States is.”

And because of the race’s fluidity, even candidates such as Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who are way down in the polls, could stage comebacks.

“The situation is just too fluid, too jumpy,” Shirley said.

“The news cycle changes not just within a matter of days or hours, but changes within a matter of minutes,” he said.

“We live in the era of instant campaign . . . Because of the Internet, because of tweeting and all other forms of the democratization of communication, they all have the ability to reach people, to raise money and to ‘get their message out.’”

With the rise in proportional representation instead of a first-past-the-post vote in the primaries, lesser candidates still can pick up a substantial number of delegates to take to the Republican National Convention, Shirley said.

“In the old days . . . you could have nine candidates running in Missouri, and the front-runner gets 30 percent, and he would get all the delegates.”

But next year, he said, “If you get 10 percent of the primary vote, you get 10 percent of the delegates, so there’s an incentive for a lot of these lesser candidates to stick around for a long time to see if they might formulate a breakthrough strategy.

“So it’s possible the Republicans could go to June 2012 before knowing who the nominee is going to be.”

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The GOP presidential race is in such a state of flux that it could be June before a Republican candidate will be nominated to challenge President Barack Obama, conservative strategist Craig Shirley tells Newsmax.TV. Changes from the winner-take-all primary voting in many...
Monday, 28 November 2011 12:44 PM
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