Consensus is split among analysts trying to decide whether the nastiness of recent GOP Presidential primary debates is creating problems for the Republican Party or forging a battle-tested, formidable opponent to emerge in the contest against Barack Obama in 2012.
Following each debate, headlines about the ongoing feud between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry have been abundant; and recently, rhetorical transfers between the two candidates have become more and more personal. According to The Hill, many Republicans think the “friendly fire” is doing little more than ensuring Obama a victory in the 2012 election.
“What happened last night was horrific. If you applaud what happened last night, then don’t come asking me in December of 2012 what happened,” GOP strategist Frank Luntz told activists last Wednesday at the Western Republican Leadership Conference following the Las Vegas debate.
Many Republicans agree with Luntz, using words like “childish,” “unprofessional” and “desperate” to describe Republican on Republican attacks that may resurface as Democratic ammunition in the general election.
Others say the attacks are simply a means by which Republicans will be better able to identify the best man or woman for the job, according to NPR. Many people believe that last Tuesday’s debate was the first moment that candidate Romney has abandoned his cool, collected demeanor to defend against attacks. In one of the debate’s most heated moments, an exchange occurred between Perry and Romney in which the Texas Governor brought up mud slung in 2008 regarding Romney’s employing a lawn care company found to have used illegal alien labor.
Republican strategist Mike Murphy believes arguments and attacks are good moments for Republican primaries, if they end well before the general election: “Having a spirited primary that ends at a reasonable time — like mid-March — is the best outcome, because you get battle-tested, you get better, but you can unify the party quicker, and the grinding and the clawing stops in enough time for the candidate to pivot to the general election and be competitive there.”