Then, by weakening or shutting down unions with fervor since 2010 in states including Wisconsin and Florida, Indiana and Ohio, Republican governors and legislators also sought to neutralize their Democratic counterweights. And by restricting voters in over a dozen states via laws mandating photo IDs, shortening early voting, and by threatening, in the name of fighting voter fraud, civic organizations such as the League of Women Voters with fines of $5,000 for registrars who got their paperwork wrong, Republicans sought to further narrow the voting pool.
With this three-pronged strategy finally in place, and with the biggest Daddy Warbucks businessman soon to head the Republican ticket, what could go wrong?
But this is where the story takes a sad, sad turn. Their plan was that the new money flooding into the political system was supposed to be aimed at Democrats. Instead, it has been spent to attack loyal Republicans. Republicans loaded their guns for Democratic bear - then shot themselves.
How could this happen?
One of the gazillionaires who was supposed to help fund the coming Republican tsunami decided he did not like a fellow gazillionaire, and instead funded an insurgency to the tune of $10 million in South Carolina and Florida. Even those $10 million, however, were no match for the front-running gazillionaire, who outspent his insurgent rival by 10 to 1 in Iowa. In South Carolina, that same gazillionaire outspent the insurgent by a mere 2 to 1 - and lost. So in Florida, the gazillionaire went all out, spending $15 million for a 4 to 1 advantage, burying his competitor.
In fact, according to a study by the Wesleyan Media Project, outside group spending on political ads is up 1,600% in the Republican primary, compared to this point in the 2008 race. Thus in Florida, Newt ran 200-something TV ads; Romney ran over 12,700, over 90% of them negative. Leave aside ideology; how could anyone survive this onslaught?
If you still think that voters chose Mitt’s superior ideas over Newt’s less appealing ones, then answer this: What if Newt had enjoyed that financial advantage? Could Romney have dug himself out of the avalanche?
Contrast this with the pre-Citizens United 2008 campaign. After early defeats, John McCain’s campaign found itself on life support – but still roared back to snag the Republican nomination. On the Democratic side, an insurgent Obama beat an “inevitable” Hillary Clinton, whose campaign had started with far deeper pockets.
In short, 2008 was the year of the insurgent. In 2012, the insurgent never stood a chance. The Republican Supreme Court justices took away the insurgent’s pebble, and told voters that this David vs. Goliath fight was a fair one.
But that is not the way conservatives see it, leading to anger and rage by Newt and his conservative followers. And for good reason. A New York Times poll of Florida’s Republican voters showed that, when asked “Who is a true conservative?”, 44% picked Newt while only 11% picked Romney.
The business wing of the Republican party – the Wall Street and corporate and banking interests – have bared their might. The less moneyed conservatives have to accede. Only, they’re not. In fact, after repeatedly calling Romney a liar and worse, Gingrich has promised to continue fighting through to the convention. There will be no making nice nice in August, like there was four years ago when McCain came back to clinch the nomination. There will be no making nice, as there was among Democrats when Barack Obama came up from behind to clinch the nomination. The difference between now and then: the newly legalized, anonymous, limitless flood of money used to hose down insurgents.
The result is the Republican Civil War. The convention may mute that long simmering war; it will, however, not end it. The volume will be turned down, not off. And the Republican nominee, who will need a unified party to defeat the incumbent President, will instead be coming out of a severely fractured party. Remember when many female Democrats, convinced that sexism had cost Hillary the nomination, vowed not to vote for Obama? Remember when Republicans picked Sarah Palin to capitalize on this Democratic divide? Take those divides, multiply tenfold, and you have the current chasm.
So why should conservatives owe allegiance to the Republican nominee? And how can Romney become President without that conservative base? Unless the moneyed Republicans can metaphorically jump over the Snake River Canyon and win back Gingrich and his followers, they are lost.
Which brings us back to Evil Knievel. He fell into the Snake River Canyon. Yet, he still attained his desire for fame. The 433 broken bones he would suffer during his career earned him an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records as the survivor of “most bones broken in a lifetime.” How many broken bones will this election year cause?By Joseph Hanania, Aslan Media Columnist