Commentary Magazine


Should the GOP Just Focus on the Senate?

The odds that Republicans will be able to take back the White House seem slimmer by the day. But is it getting to the point where the GOP would be better off giving up on the presidential race to fully focus on taking back the Senate, and maintaining its grip on the House? That’s what George Will argues in his Sunday column this week, according to an advanced copy obtained by POLITICO:

“Romney and Rick Santorum… are conservatives, although of strikingly different stripes. Neither, however, seems likely to be elected… If either is nominated, conservatives should vote for him,” Will writes in his upcoming Sunday column, obtained in advance by POLITICO Playbook by Mike Allen.

However, Will argues, that control of both house of Congress is more attainable and more important.

“[T]here would come a point when… conservatives turn their energies to a goal much more attainable than… electing Romney or Santorum president. It is the goal of retaining control of the House and winning control of the Senate.. [C]onservatives this year should have as their primary goal making sure Republicans wield all the gavels in Congress in 2013,” writes Will.

Without having access to Will’s full column yet, it’s hard to judge the persuasiveness of his argument. But two problems immediately jump out:

1.) Will Republicans be able to draw enough conservative voters to the polls if they prematurely resign themselves to losing the presidential race? This seems like a recipe for low GOP turnout, which would decrease the possibility of winning control of the Senate. If voters don’t believe there’s at least a fighting chance of taking back the White House, many might not even bother to come out.

2.) Today, Romney is leading the Republican field nationally. Two weeks ago, it was Santorum. A little over a month ago, Gingrich was surging. Public opinion has turned so quickly and dramatically it’s impossible to predict what the race will look like next month, let alone next November. Toss in the wild cards of rising gas prices, the economy, Iran and the Supreme Court’s look at ObamaCare, and the GOP would be selling itself short if it surrendered so prematurely. Remember last summer when all the pundits pronounced Tim Pawlenty’s campaign dead? He listened to them – and that turned out to be one of the dumbest political moves of the race.

The Republican Party would be crazy to make a similar mistake. As depressing as the current field may be for conservatives, winning the White House isn’t impossible – unless, of course, the GOP gives up before it even begins.