The Right Opinion

The Republicans' Primary Problem

By Ann Coulter · Feb. 7, 2013

Having just lost an election, many Republicans are anxious to remake our party in the image of Democrats. The theory seems to be that whatever we're doing isn't working, so we better change everything.

But in fact, whatever Republicans did in 2012 – other than an overly long primary fight – worked amazingly well, given the circumstances.

In a detailed analysis of the 2012 election, William A. Galston, a fellow with the liberal Brookings Institution, makes a number of fascinating observations that Republicans would do well to consider before embracing amnesty, abortion, gay marriage and Beyonce.

In my analysis of his analysis, the single most important factor in the election was simply that Obama was an incumbent. As Galston notes, beating an incumbent president is a feat that has happened only five times since the turn of the last century. Republicans have done it only once.

On closer examination, in all these cases the incumbent president faced a primary challenge. In three of the five, the incumbent also had a third-party challenger in the general election.

– In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt ran against incumbent William Howard Taft and, failing to win the Republican nomination, ran on a third-party “Bull Moose” ticket against him.

– In 1932, President Herbert Hoover faced a number of primary opponents, including Calvin Coolidge and John Blaine (and it was also a few years into the Great Depression).

– In 1976, Ronald Reagan nearly beat a never-elected incumbent, Gerald Ford, in the primary, losing narrowly on the convention floor, 1,070 to 1,187. (And Ford still almost pulled it out!)

– In 1980, Teddy Kennedy ran a primary campaign against President Jimmy Carter all the way to the convention, and John Anderson ran as a liberal third-party candidate in the general election.

– In 1992, Pat Buchanan ran against incumbent George H.W. Bush, winning an astounding 37 percent of the vote in the New Hampshire primary, and then Ross Perot ran a shockingly popular third-party campaign, winning 19 percent of the general election vote – mostly, polls showed, from Bush.

The one time Republicans beat an incumbent was in 1980 when Reagan beat Carter. Not only was the economy in shambles, not only had Iranian savages been holding 52 American hostages for more than a year, but Carter was badly battered by these extra opponents. (And that's to say nothing of an amphibious rabbit assault!)

Running as the “true liberal,” Kennedy won 11 of 24 primaries against Carter, including the not-insignificant states of New York, Pennsylvania, California and New Jersey. (He impressed voters during the campaign by not drowning any more campaign aides.)

Kennedy battled Carter right up to the national convention in August, even seeking a rule change in an attempt to snatch the nomination from Carter.

A month after the convention, Kennedy's supporters were still so bitter, one-third of them said they'd prefer Reagan to Carter. Another third said they were either undecided or supporting the liberal third-party candidate, John Anderson. (The rest had unaccountably drowned after being driven off a bridge.)

Independent candidate Anderson directed all his campaign fire at Carter, vowing to stay in the race even if it meant a Reagan victory. On Election Day, if Anderson's votes had gone to Carter, Reagan would have squeaked into office with less than a 2-million-vote margin and Jimmy Carter would still be whining about it.

By contrast, Obama faced zero opposition from his party, the media, the education establishment or Hollywood, all of which were madly in love with him.

And yet, Obama may be the only president ever to win re-election with fewer votes than his initial election, down nearly 4 million votes compared to 2008.

Galston identifies the game-changing elections in the past century, leading to a period of one-party dominance, as 1900, 1936 and 1984. In each of these elections, the turnout rose and the winner received both a higher vote total and a higher share of the popular vote compared to his prior election.

As Galston says, “None of these things happened in 2012.” Turnout was down by 3.5 percentage points, Obama received 3.9 million fewer votes than in 2008, and even his percentage of the vote declined by about 2 points.

In 2008, a majority of voters said they thought the government should do more, not less. In 2012, a majority thought government was doing too much.

After Republican Gerald Ford – a technical incumbent -– lost his re-election in 1976, Republicans didn't engineer a comeback by adopting the idiotic policies of the Democrats. They certainly shouldn't after the 2012 election.

Last year, Republicans had to run against an incumbent with a unified party and a unified media, 100 percent behind him, and they had to do it after waging their own bitter, endless primary fight, providing a wealth of sound bites for Obama TV ads.

Still, Obama did worse than nearly any other incumbent who has won re-election. Indeed, had the election been held a week earlier, Obama probably would have lost.

Stop running scared, Republicans. It makes you look like Democrats.



CGreen in Texas said:

A little rationalization goes a long way. You and a bunch of other conservative writers supported Romney and trashed every other conservative candidate. You just knew that the 2/3 of the Republican voters who wanted anyone other than Romney, the northeastern moderate, were to stupid to know what was go for them. For all your bluster about being a conservative, in your heart you believe the rhetoric of your Ivy League friends and cannot imagine Americans really beieve that conservative and God stuff.

Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 7:44 AM

Alex in NJ replied:

"Too stupid", I think you meant.

Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 8:48 AM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA said:

Apparently those who didn't want Romney stayed home and didn't vote, therefore ensuring Odumbo would win. Had those folks went to the polls and voted we might not be facing 4 more years of destroying the country. Better a Northeastern moderate than what we have now.

Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 9:05 AM

Orf in Pittsburgh replied:

I think you mean "Had those folks GONE to the polls..." Also the libertarians for Ron Paul did not vote for the moderate Romney. Between the no-Romney voters and no-one-but Paul voters, the Republican party didn't have a chance.

Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 10:52 AM

shoot in Michigan City In. replied:

I trully hope that all the idiots that didn't vote are the first to start complaining, let them think about what they caused! I've already told a few of them off!

Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 5:33 PM

Tex Horn in Texas said:

I'm with C Green: Ann's piece is a bunch of rationalization. Although it may be true that those Republicans who stayed home lost Romney the election, he was the wrong candidate to begin with, as he has hinted himself. The only hope for true conservatives lie in the Tea Party. Otherwise, you will be voting for a Democrat-lite candidate, one that Ann will probably like.

Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 10:59 AM

Jayve in ABQ, NM said:

The Republican's primary problem Ann? Look in the mirror. You went on your love fests week after week putting down true conservatives and latching onto the likes of Christie and Romney, because, wait for it..... "Guys like these are the most electable and can win!" Yeah...... You talk a good game but your actions ring loud. A Karl Rove in a female body. Keep babbling on about your love fests for moderates and RINOS. I enjoy SOME of the stuff you have to say, but I gotta call you out here.

Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 11:24 AM

Jayve in ABQ, NM said:

Also as a side note, there is no reason Obama couldn't or shouldn't have been defeated. You rationalize about Jimmy Carter with all his problems but look who went against him? A Conservative!!!! Obama was just as if not more vulnerable than Carter and still wins because why? The establishment (i.e. you) had to have a moderate in there because they are the only ones that can win! What a load of horse s***.

Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 11:30 AM

HP in Kalispell, MT said:

Ann, I'll let you get away with this one because you need to save face. But you as much as Rove contributed to the four more years of 0. Romney spent millions savagely destroying each conservative in the primaries then ran on a platform of "Obama is a great guy, good father and husband". At least he didn't say he'd like to have a beer with him. The only debate Romney won was the first one where 0 didn't show up. Ryan is a good man but Romney needed an attack dog, not an economist. I said yesterday that it is time Rove exits Politics, he and the Bush clan have done enough. I suggest you reconsider your role in this and keep in mind that the Tea Party is a big chunk of your fan base. I would hope to hear more of a mea culpa from you with some wisdom as to how we put conservatism back in the GOP. Until then, I've purchased my last Coulter book and may need to just quit reading your columns. I still love you but after this past election I've about had enough of the GOP.

Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 12:39 PM

Hank in Texas said:

I agree with the Texans.. The party elites orchestrated McCain in 08 when the grass roots did not want a moderate. The Tea Party, grass roots, thrift lovin, freedom lovin, God fearin conservatives, took over in '10 and put Republicans in charge of the House. Then the elites, who know what is
Really best for us, orchestrated Romney. Now they still don't get it. These are the same folks who opposed Reagan, who was always too conservative to win.

Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 2:24 PM

Capt. Call in New Mexico said:

A "primary problem?" Well, may be that should be on the list, but at the top it should say, an "IDEOLOGY" problem. As Rush Limbaugh has said, "Conservatism works, every time it is tried." What is needed is a true conservative; not a democrat copy.

Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 5:39 PM

Howard Last in Wyoming said:

I see I am not the only one that wants to puke when Hannity calls Rove the Architect. Yes the architect of defeat. If the Republicans got rid of the RNC and the leadership (an oxymoron) in the House and the Senate they would have a chance. Otherwise it will continue to be known as the "God Owful Party". I guess we can always vote Whig, what they became irrelevant and no longer exist.

Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 9:10 PM

Robinius in Broomfield, Colorado said:

I would rather not vote for the first time since I became eligible (1972) than vote for a RINO. I voted Romney/Ryan last November and was pleased to do so. Had to be better than Obama! I am wondering whose side Boehner/McConnell are on and I am watching closely.

Friday, February 8, 2013 at 2:43 AM

pete in CA said:

I'll embrace Beyonce, but you can have all the rest of that crap!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 3:04 PM