Many pundits have written the tea party movement’s obituary and are adamant in their belief that a shift in the nation’s demographic composition spells doom for Republicans unless conservative ideas are abandoned.
But there is one way to bring a GOP that seems to reflect primarily the political philosophy of the Deep South to a position that is palatable to an entire nation — and without the prolonged bloodshed that actually crippled Mitt Romney’s effort to defeat President Obama. The answer would be to start the Republican GOP contest even deeper in the South — all the way to Florida.
The idea that an Iowa caucus and primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina drain millions of dollars, exact all types of statements and positions taken in the heat of these battles, and cause potentially permanent rifts among Republican and conservative voters is truly amazing. Iowa’s a great state, and so is New Hampshire — but the fight for their delegates has created a cottage industry that arises every four years.
And, for those who know the truth about this past year’s fight for the GOP nomination, they led to bad blood and ill will that may well have contributed to another lost bid for the White House.
As for South Carolina, the state is larger and the “industry” is less important, but it can now no longer be said that a candidate must win South Carolina to win the Republican nomination. Newt Gingrich won South Carolina but could not survive the onslaught of negative ads and the massive need for organization and money necessary to win Florida.
It’s a terrible thing to realize the huge amount of funds needed to run for president in our day and time. But it is a reality, along with the fact that any candidate who actually hopes to not only win a Republican nomination but the actual presidency must have a real and “social media” organization of world-class caliber to have any chance at all of capturing the White House.
To put it bluntly, it’s time for the Republican Party to let the Democrats play games in the snow or learn how to eat grits overnight and start a move toward letting the big boys and girls who want to be president play in a big-time arena. For goodness sakes, start the GOP nomination contest off in what continues to be the nation’s bellwether for a November presidential showdown: Florida.
It’s not that voters in the Sunshine State are smarter. It really isn’t that they are more moderate or conservative than the GOP as a whole. Rather, it’s the simple fact that a candidate who can win Florida is a candidate who proves that he or she can handle a large number of big media markets, raise the necessary funds to stage a first-class candidacy, and can turn voters out in large numbers.
Rather than forcing strong candidates to battle for what amounts to a relatively small number of delegates in the grand scheme of things, wasting resources and time in the process, why should Republicans not start with a contest that is more reflective of the national election they will face should they win the nomination?
Some might say that the same result occurs regardless. And yes, Mitt Romney may well have emerged with a huge collection of Florida delegates to fuel victories in a more diverse and delegate rich “Super Tuesday” contest to follow, had Florida been the first state in the 2012 GOP contest.
If so, Romney would likely have won without the depletion of resources and goodwill created by the archaic system now in place.
Some candidates from 2012 who could never have competed in a Florida-first scenario would have never gotten past square one. And others might have marshaled their resources and time more effectively and perhaps could have performed better.
National press and pundits can build up or tear down candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire, but in Florida every section of the state is a “nation” unto itself. The GOP needs a true “game change,” and “Florida first” in 2016 can provide it.
Matt Towery heads the polling and political information firm InsiderAdvantage. Follow him on Twitter @matttowery.