The 1000 students come from 26 states, D.C., and 19 foreign countries.
Wilson Center Newsletter February 2012
An assessment of the Republican presidential selection process by a seasoned political consultant and a Democratic Party strategist.
Chris Cooper '93 is a Managing Director in the Washington, DC office of SKDKnickerbocker. He joined the firm in 2009 after nearly nine years with MSHC Partners (formerly Malchow Schlackman Hoppey & Cooper), a targeted political communications company in Washington, San Francisco, and Austin. Washington, DC. Chris has built a distinguished career in Democratic politics for almost two decades, having worked or consulted on campaigns in 36 states and the District of Columbia. His experience spans the fields of communications strategy, persuasion mail, media consulting, campaign management, and public relations. He has helped candidates across the country win elections from governor and U.S. senator to state representative and city councilmember.
The Republican Party is going through a painful soul-searching exercise, with the main question being, "Can we find someone-anyone--not named Mitt Romney to nominate?" At various points in the race, almost every candidate has had his or her moment at the top of the polls. The process has winnowed the field significantly, which hurts Romney. His financial and organizational advantages are certainly helpful in a 2-way or 3-way race, but the mechanics can only take him so far given his fundamental strategic problem-that a clear majority of the Republican primary electorate is so uncomfortable with him (and vice versa).
His major concern going forward is the re-emergence of a galvanizing social issue that puts him on the wrong side of the activist base of his party. The recent flap over health insurance plans' covering contraception is a major opportunity for Rick Santorum, and a major banana peel for Romney. When he was Governor of Massachusetts, Romney's landmark health care reform law (on which "Obamacare" was partially based), dealt with this contraception issue similarly to the Obama Administration's plan that was just rejected by the Catholic Bishops. Not a good place to be in today's Republican Party!
This subject also underscores the "Romney as serial flip-flopper" meme. As H-SC alum and conservative columnist, Charlie Hurt '95, wrote in a recent column, Romney looks like "John Kerry without the war medals." In one of his previous campaigns, Romney was unabashedly pro-choice, going so far as to say, on a Planned Parenthood questionnaire, that he wanted his state to pay for Medicaid-funded abortions. Again, this is not exactly "Position A" for a Republican running for President in 2012.
Santorum can use this social issue-prism to pound home his contention that he is the one true conservative in the race. His recent success in the Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado nominating contests and his rise in the polls nationally are evidence that his message is working. Michigan's primary on Feb. 28 is crucial for Romney. If he loses in the state where his father was Governor (and as of this writing he trails Santorum by 15 points), his "inevitability argument" will be dead. It might not be long before his campaign is as well. And with it will go the best hope Republicans have of defeating President Obama in this fall's election.