Home > Politics > What went wrong with the 2008 Republican primary?

What went wrong with the 2008 Republican primary?

The basic problem in the 2008 Republican primary was the number of more conservative candidates compared to the number of more liberal candidates.  Paul, Huckabee, Romney, and Thompson were basically competing for the conservative vote while McCain was competing for the liberal Republican vote.  Giuliani was for the social liberal vote as well, but not until the Florida primary which we all saw was too late to get in the game.

McCain talks about the clear choice he is over Obama.  While that is true, he is hardly the clear choice that any of the more conservative candidates were.  If Republicans would have paid more attention during the primary this all could have been prevented and we could have had a better choice in the Republican candidate.  A choice that would have excited the base like Sarah Palin did.

Failure Highlights

1. Romney out spent Huckabee in Iowa 20 to 1 spending around $85,000 a day some of which was negative campaigning against Huckabee.  Message trumps money and the people of Iowa saw that.  Huckabee took 30 delegates while Romney only took 7.  This should have been a clear indication to conservatives that Romney was not the best candidate.  They should have seen it before, but prominent conservatives such as Dobson, Hannity, and Limbaugh should have seen this, realized their mistake and changed their message.  Instead they each held out against Huckabee, if not directly at least indirectly.

2. After Iowa there were two victories for McCain and one small victory for Romney, so that before the 1/19/2008 primaries McCain had 31 delegates, Romney had 19, Huckabee had 35 and the remainder had zero.  Despite these facts even the conservative media spent most of their time talking about McCain, Romney, Thompson, Giuliani, and even Ron Paul.

3. The South Carolina primary saw the broadest competition in the primary.  By the end of the day the spread went McCain-33.2, Romney 15.1, Huckabee-29.9, Thompson-15.7, Paul-3.7, and Giuliani-2.1.  Eliminating the not so conservative McCain and Giuliani there was still 64.4% conservative vote in the state.  OK, we can probably eliminate half of Paul’s votes because they are voting for making all drugs legal or side with the Democrats in wanting to abandon our troops in harms way.  Still that leaves more than 62%.  Of course Huckabee wouldn’t have needed any of Paul’s votes.  If either Romney or Thompson had realized that they didn’t have the chance and only half of their votes went to Huckabee he would have won by 4.2 with Romney out or 4.8 with Thompson out.  Even if Paul who was polling at 5% in South Carolina and had only garnered 9.9% in Iowa, 7.7% in New Hampshire, and 6.3% in Michigan had pulled out and put his full support behind Huckabee, it might have been just enough for him to beat McCain by .4%.  Not exactly an astounding victory, but a victory none the less.

As an aside, there are times when polling is off.  For example, in the instance just listed Ron Paul polled at 5% in South Carolina but only garnered 3.7% of the vote.  On super Tuesday in Georgia Huckabee was polling at 26%, but when the dust had settled he drew 34% of the vote an 8% difference.  This race was another one in which Paul’s polls were higher than the actual votes.  McCain’s polls on the other hand were only 0.2% off of his final draw for Georgia showing that he wasn’t really in the contest for the conservative vote accounting for the excitement of the Palin addition.  Can you imagine the excitement in the base if a true conservative were the choice from the start.

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