GOP conflict benefits Democratic party

Columnist and Columnist

Two contests are finished in the race to be the Republican nominee for president and many are now speculating that Mitt Romney could run away with the nomination.

Romney scored his second win in the New Hampshire Primary on Tuesday night receiving just under 40 percent of the votes cast.

This comes one week after Romney squeaked out a narrow win in the Iowa Caucus by a total of eight votes – out of the more than 122,000 votes cast for the seven candidates competing.

The former Massachusetts Governor defeated former Pennsylvania Senator, Rick Santorum, in that contest causing many to wonder if Santorum would be the one to finally give Romney a run for his – vast amounts of – money.

All eyes now turn to South Carolina, where the next primary will be held Jan. 21.

If Romney can win there – the Republican constituency in South Carolina is largely made up of Evangelical Christians who remain skeptical of Romney, in part because of his Mormon faith – the nomination may be decided before most states have even voted.

Romney, however, will have a lot tougher time winning the South Carolina Primary, where (in addition to his religion) people will be judging him based on his record of conservatism – a less than stellar record as Romney has held more liberal stances on many issues in the past.

The race in South Carolina may be determined as much by the political action committees that support the various candidates, as by what the candidates themselves are saying. Super PACs – which by law, candidates cannot directly coordinate with – have become the attack dogs for the individual candidates.

In the run up to the Iowa Caucus, it was the Super PAC called Restore Our Future – which is headed up by long-time Mitt Romney supporters and political consultants – that aired a plethora of negative attack ads against then front-runner Newt Gingrich, which led to Gingrich’s fourth place finish in the state’s caucus.

Gingrich’s abysmal finish in New Hampshire a week later (again a fourth place finish), has led many Republican pundits (such as talk radio vulture Rush Limbaugh) to speculate that Gingrich’s new goal in the race is to make sure Romney is not the nominee.

A new video produced by Winning Our Future (a pro-Gingrich super PAC) titled “King of Bain: When Mitt Romney Came to Town,” alleges that when Romney was the CEO of the private equity firm Bain Capital, he was the cause of thousands of people losing their jobs.

So who benefits from Republican in-fighting the most this election season?

President Obama.

Gingrich’s super PAC has basically laid out a strategy for Obama in the general election, should Romney be the nominee.

This is a fact not unnoticed by other GOP pundits and supporters, many of which have turned against Newt Gingrich because of his attacks on Romney and their belief that Romney will be the eventual nominee.

Republicans are also upset because they feel that Gingrich’s attacks on Romney – which basically amount to saying that he made millions of dollars on the backs of working class Americans – amount to an attack on capitalism itself.

I do not look for Romney to win South Carolina (although he currently leads in the polls there) because of the ultra-conservative, Evangelical Christian base. If Gingrich wins the state (he is currently second in the polls there) then I think the effect on the Romney campaign will be minimal (especially if Romney can pull a second place finish) and amounts to little more than a speed bump on his way to the nomination.

However, if Romney and Gingrich’s attack ads end up canceling each other out and Rick Santorum can manage a win in the state – which is highly possible given his neoconservative stances on social issues – it may give him the momentum to become Romney’s chief rival in the race.

And while I don’t see Santorum having the organization in place to actually become the Republican nominee, a longer, more contentious GOP race only benefits the president’s chances of re-election in November.

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