Leading article: Now the right has its own primary race to savour

Share
Related Topics

In the opening weeks of this year's US presidential race, attention from outside America has focused, for obvious reasons, on the enthralling contest for the Democratic nomination. The Republican side has tended to be neglected. This should not be so from now on. Mitt Romney's convincing victory in the Michigan primary on Tuesday night has thrown the Republican race wide open. The three leading contenders have one victory each. They now go to South Carolina, and thence into the multiple contests of Super Tuesday, with all to play for in the battle for money and votes.

Mr Romney's victory – and John McCain's defeat – in Michigan can be explained in several ways. Mr Romney always had more funds at his disposal; without a win to his name, he was probably the more desperate. He also had the closer local connection, in that he was born in Detroit and his father was a well-regarded state governor. But his trump card was probably his concentration on the economy and his successful record as governor of Massachusetts. With rising unemployment, a flagging car industry and the rusting ruins of a heavy-industrial past, Michigan was ripe for Mr Romney's promises of generous help to mount an economic revival.

In his blunt warnings that many traditional jobs would not be coming back, Mr McCain was the most honest and realistic of the candidates. His remedies included more education and re-training schemes. But his nine-point defeat showed him to be clearly less in tune with voters. His relatively liberal stance on immigration, as well as his defence of the Iraq war, may also have been liabilities with different groups in a state which counts some of the highest concentrations of Arab-Americans in the United States. In all, Mr McCain could not repeat his victory of eight years before, when his straight-talking helped him to prevail over a callow George Bush.

Rudy Giuliani, the former Mayor of New York, may or may not be completely out of contention. But his gamble on remaining aloof until the big states hold their primaries appears to have backfired in a decisive way. With sixth place and only 3 per cent of the vote in Michigan, it will be very hard for him to catch up.

This essentially leaves three candidates in the Republican race, each with strong appeal to a different constituency. Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas, can be expected to have the white southern voters of the religious right in his pocket. John McCain's Vietnam war history still guarantees him the patriotic vote, and his gift for communication brings in younger voters and independents. But his long political experience is as a Senator, not as an administrator – which was Mr Romney's strongest suit in Michigan, where the economy became the central issue.

The lines of the Republican contest thus seem already set along policy distinctions, where the Democratic duel still hinges on personality. And so sharp are those distinctions that they could make it hard for Republican voters to unite around the victor, when the campaign proper gets under way. This hints at an early advantage for the Democrats, who are already more engaged than rank-and-file Republicans and more determined, after eight years of George Bush, to see one of their persuasion reclaim the White House.

Divisions among Republicans could also be a factor in tempting the current mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, to join the race as an independent. Such a late and plausible entrant could negate every earlier bet on the outcome in November. By keeping the Republican contest open, Michigan has probably made this more likely. But it has also had a more immediate effect: it has made the Republican contest overnight almost as compelling as that of the Democrats.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The landslide vote for gay marriage takes Irish society further away from the Vatican  

Ireland gay marriage: Church's decision not to lead No campaign recognised remarkable new reality

Paul Vallely
New SNP MP Mhairi Black distinguished herself in Westminster straight away when she made herself a chip butty in the canteen  

The SNP adventure arrives in Westminister - but how long before these new MPs go native?

Katy Guest
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?