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Republicans in Minnesota and elsewhere worry about rift in party

The trope this primary election cycle is that Minnesota Republicans, like their counterparts nationwide, are so fractured that Republicans themselves will present the biggest challenge to the GOP presidential nominee. Mitt Romney’s relatively narrow wins Tuesday support the contention that before the nominee can defeat President Obama this fall, he must cement together enough of these factions to bring together the base, and that may not be possible.

Carleton College political science professor and pundit Steve Schier rejects that notion with a sweeping dismissal. “There are no Obama Republicans,” he says.

With polls showing Republican approval of Obama at 10 percent, even Rick Santorum will get the GOP base, he said.

That is not to say that Minnesota Republicans, like DFLers, don’t have specific agendas. In the Republican Party, the factions resemble a grown-up version of high school cliques. There are the social conservatives, the pro-business Republicans, the country club Republicans, the disenchanted Republicans. This last group has morphed into the libertarians and the Tea Party Republicans.

Even the splinter groups have splintered. There are Tea Party supporters who don’t like Romney because of health care, don’t like Santorum because of earmarks, and don’t like Newt Gingrich because of his stand on cap and trade and his association with Nancy Pelosi.

Then there are the Ron Paul supporters. Republicans who will work hard in November for unified voter turnout say the biggest division stems from the Ron Paul people.  Activists note that the Paul supporters show up at caucuses, never to be seen again. They have no second choice candidate. 

“The Ron Paul supporter will never be an activist,” Schier said. “It’s not the man. It’s the libertarian cause. They buy a libertarian ideology and mission.”  

The mission to dramatically shrink the size and scope of government has given extra weight to the one issue that cleaves Republican ranks in Minnesota: Gay rights has replaced abortion as the bright line that can’t be crossed. On one side are the social conservatives. On the other are libertarians, moderates and groups who see anti-gay positions as an impediment to business growth.  

The divide has widened with the proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot that defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman. It’s also strengthened the voice of the Log Cabin Republicans of Minnesota. Although in number the coalition is miniscule, Log Cabin Republicans created some ripples in their caucuses as they moved to remove anti-language from the party platform.

Republican activists are sensitive about the depiction of their party divided and point to divisions among Democrats, namely the battle over jobs versus the environment.

Schier concurs -- up to a point. “The rift is there but it’s been submerged in this election,” he says. “There’s no evidence of this at the state level. At the national level, if there were serious rifts, Obama would have a primary opponent.” He sees no evidence of an anti-Obama Democrat when it comes to the president’s reelection.

As for the Republican primary opponents, there seems to be the belief that what doesn’t kill the party will make it stronger. There are three candidates that fit the bill for most of the Republican Party. They are competing with each other, and that’s healthy. The party won’t be fractionalized once the nominee emerges.

Given the rank-and-file Republican’s determination to deny Obama a second term, turnout of the base will not be a problem. But given the positions that candidates have been forced to stake out, the question is whether the eventual Republican nominee will attract the critical percentage of independents needed to win the national election. Divisions in the party could linger until November and turnout alone will not be enough for a Republican to win.

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Comments (13)


There ARE Obama Republicans. People I thought would never consider voting for a Democrat, let alone Obama, are so fed up with the circus that is the GOP, they'd rather hold their nose in the hopes of being able to breathe later. Does this mean that they're gung ho about Obama? Not necessarily. At least not all of them. I admit to being utterly shocked when one of my Republican friends "liked" Al Franken on Facebook the other day. It's easier to like the people you supposedly hate when you actually look at what they do and not what you imagine they do. That GOP imagination is on its way to delivering a butt-whupping to itself.

The self-butt-whipping of the Republicans...

...reminds me of a dog chasing its tail. You know, that dog may get tired or frustrated and take a break for rest. But that same dog soon enough sees that thing out of the corner of his eye that he just must chase, all over again.

Don't change, Republicans!! Don't listen!!

With every week that passes

With every week that passes it will get harder to hang the blanket of moderation over the skeleton of wing-nuttery. If it goes to a brokered convention with fierce debates, the game really is over for the Republican party.

Although there are no Obama Republicans,

there are also a number of Republicans, especially on the right, who have struggled mightily to get a candidate other than Romney. Hard to see some of them as Romney Republicans. Some have even bragged about 'holding his feet to the fire' and pushing him to the right by supporting Santorum. For example, the local right wing blogger Mitch Berg:

Why I’m Caucusing For Santorum

"tonight I’m going to caucus for Rick Santorum. Not because I think he’s necessarily the best candidate...

But I’m doing it mainly because if Mitt Romney really is “inevitable”, at least he’s going to know at least one GOP activist – and every one I can convince to follow suit – isn’t handing over his support merely because Mitt’s got a “GOP” behind his name.

Promise to repeal Obamacare? Start listing cabinet departments that’ll be cut? In addition to the parts of the Romney platform that do make conservative sense (and there are parts)? We can talk business."

And of course this has a number of deleterious effects on GOP prospects for success this Fall at the local and national level. The most obvious one is the complete loss of independent voters. The data is out there. And Obama has plenty of fodder for his adverts no matter who is put up on the GOP side. And this material was all GOP generated.

The disgruntled any one but Romney folks may sit on their hands. Attendance at GOP caucuses was down this cycle, presumably because of unhappiness with what was on the menu.

You're all over the map on this

Republicans are fractured. No, they're not. But there are splinters in the splinter groups. Wait -- competition is good; what doesn't kill the party makes it stronger. The base will turn out. Yet divisions in the party will linger.


Thrilled, just thrilled, I'm sure...

was the Romney camp when they found out that ONLY 58% of Republicans in Michigan voted against him !!

You have to wonder if that entire 58% are going to overcome all obstacles and inconveniences on general election day to go to the polls and champion the cause of Mr. Romney. Especially if the economy has improved further by that time, I should think they would have some mixed feelings.

Obama Independents

What swings national elections are Independents. There may be no or few Obama Republicans, but there may be more Obama Independents these days. Those who used to be Republicans, but now feel unwanted by the true believers of the right. That's close enough to being an Obama Republican for me.

The Republican sky is not falling. It already has fallen.

It is the "my way or the highway gang" but they don't even know where the road is. Republicans are absolutely lost, flailing, floundering, and confused in the political wilderness. Republicans don't know who they are or where they are going. They can't even tell you who their leader is. Is it Limbaugh, Norquist, Hannity, McConnell, Cantor, Coulter, or Ingraham? They will tell you they have many leaders. That they do, and many leaders lead to the chaos they are experiencing. They can't even think on their own because they have to sign pledges so they don't have to think and can remain politically pure. All they know is they have to be against anything the other side is for even if they were for it before. Early on the republicans couldn't decide if they should cozy up to the tea partiers. They now have their unequivocal answer. The moderate republican party has been destroyed, in a very short period of time, by the extreme radical fringe tea party. There is absolutely no thought given to working for the country. They don't have any solutions so all they work are the wedge issues to the point that they have destroyed their own party. Not even republicans like republicans. Now they have Romney who can't get over 50% of his home state to vote for him, Santorum who knows what is best for women more than women do, and Paul who is nothing but dangerous. Then top it off with the political bomb-throwing Gingrich. None of them have any solutions to offer beyond the tired, failed, republican talking points.

It must really fry you

to know that despite all that Obama will still lose. heh

That is what the republicans are really really good at

Denial, to the point of being delusional. For me, I'm a happy camper knowing all that. There is nothing better than when the competition takes themselves out of the race. Look at the four the repubicans have running. They have to convince their own party first and then some independents before they can win. Not even republicans like them so they have a daunting task to win.


There's nothing more amusing than watching liberals desperately trying to convince themselves of something.

"Pot meet Kettle"

Sounds more like the Pot calling the Kettle black.

The major problem for the

The major problem for the Republicans is not the fratricidal primary contest, although that's bad enough. Their major problem is ever-increasing extremism. The range of acceptable policy positions among the party faithful (aging white men, mostly) has both narrowed and moved far, far to the right over the past ten years. Look at the candidates - we have a libertarian conspiracy theorist who wants to return to the gold standard, a far-right Catholic who talks in public about the president being on the side of Satan in the contest for America's soul, a formerly center-right Wall Street Republican who has renounced every sensible idea he ever had in an attempt to move to the right of everyone, and Newt Gingrich (enough said). They've spent the last couple of weeks denouncing birth control, and this in 2012! The moderate electorate is starting to notice, even those who don't pay much attention to politics.

The US right suffers from the delusion that there is an large number of sympathetic voters who will miraculously appear if only they nominate someone who's ideologically pure and far enough to the right. Apparently they've forgotten both the Goldwater and McGovern campaigns.