While top Republicans are tearing their hair out watching the Republican primaries slowly grind their way to a relatively small Super Tuesday, the RNC chair who designed this year’s calendar, Michael Steele, says the process is working exactly as planned. It’s the candidates who are the problem.
As TPM reported Tuesday, the longer GOP primary calendar is thanks in part to efforts by the RNC to extend the race and spread out its major contests over a longer period, efforts that critics like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie now call “the dumbest idea anyone ever had.”
But while some in the party see their brand weakening and their candidates’ funds dwindling while President Obama amasses an impressive war chest, Steele thinks the battle will only harden the eventual nominee.
“It was designed exactly for that purpose, to properly vet all the candidates, but most importantly to give the base a chance to have their voices heard in states that aren’t Iowa and New Hampshire and the bigger states that play early,” Steele told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Tuesday. “So this is the process and I think I think it’s healthy, I think it’s exciting.”
But Steele acknowledged that the primary fight’s sharply negative turn in recent weeks was a legitimate issue, comparing Mitt Romney to Darth Vader for his willingness to destroy his opponents.
“The problem is that … the Romney campaign thought this would be the short, quick battle, and they’re not necessarily ready for a campaign that’s longer so the negative campaigning hits and hits hard,” Steele said. “The Death Star imagery I think is very appropriate here since it is sort of taking out that moon and then that planet to clear a pathway to the nomination.”
He continued with his galactic metaphor: “The problem is there are a whole lot of little stars you have to get through first and that’s the base. They’re not lighting up for you right now and hes got to figure out a way to make that happen — and it’s not going to be by destroying Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum but selling why you are the better guy.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.