You can’t blame Chairman Reince Priebus and his Republican National Committee for going through with their threatened boycott of NBC and CNN when the 2016 presidential debate season rolls around.
After all, the party’s decision, announced Friday, to cut the two networks out of their primary process over NBC’s forthcoming miniseries and CNN’s upcoming documentary — which both feature presumed Democratic Party frontrunner Hillary Clinton — amounts to a three-for-one GOP publicity bonanza.
They can rail against Clinton, rail against the “liberal media” and look like they’re responding proactively to losing twice to President Barack Obama and losing the popular vote in five out of the last six presidential elections.
But here’s the catch: it wasn’t debates — or those networks — that caused their problem.
Because contrary to what Priebus told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Sunday — that he’s just doing his job to “protect this party and our nominees” from what RedState’s Moe Lane described as the networks’ “gunning” for GOP candidates — in the end, the admittedly long, drawn out primary season actually worked the way it was supposed to: out of a veritable clown car of also-rans, Republicans’ best option by far — Mitt Romney — still emerged as their nominee.
Republicans had no better candidate than Romney to take on Obama in 2012, other than, maybe, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — but Christie wasn’t in the running.
And even as Romney was getting hit repeatedly from the left by former Gov. John Huntsman and from the right by Rep. Ron Paul, he wound up elevating himself above the crowded debate field pretty easily. And if there’s any doubt he was their best debater last time around, just recall Romney’s convincing win over Obama in their first head-to-head debate last October.
He didn’t win the election, but for one night, Romney went toe-to-toe with the president. The rest of the 2012 field simply wasn’t up to the task.
It wasn’t CNN’s fault that Gov. Tim Pawlenty chickened out after he was challenged by debate moderators to stand behind the “Obamney-care” attack line that he rolled out against Romney.
NBC didn’t cause Gov. Rick Perry’s “oops” moment — when he couldn’t remember the names of three government agencies he said he planned to cut.
You can’t blame the debates for Herman Cain’s campaign — only memorable for the audacious, but ultimately hollow “999” tax plan.
And it wasn’t the liberal media who confronted Newt Gingrich after the former House Speaker dubbed President Obama the “food stamp president.” It was Juan Williams — of conservative Fox News.
No, the GOP debates actually worked. They separated the not-so-well-versed, not-very-well-prepared and not-quite-ready-for-prime-time candidates from Romney, who was — whether Republicans liked it or not — Obama’s worthiest challenger. So while they’re perfectly within their rights to howl about CNN, NBC and the media’s ongoing fascination with all things Clinton, their game of keep-away with the rights to televise future debates probably isn’t going to help them beat her.
Clinton’s a former First Lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State. And that’s a three-for-one that no Republican contender comes even close to matching. She shouldn’t — and won’t — get a free ride to the White House. But it’s no mystery why she makes for good television, and why no one’s making a miniseries (not yet, anyway) about Sen. Rand Paul or Sen. Ted Cruz.
It’s not as complicated as they’re making it.
If Republicans want to get back in the White House, they need to make inroads with black and brown voters in blue and purple states. And you don’t do that by taking your toys and going home.
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