The Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 9, 2012)
Close Republican race helps Obama's reelection chances
The campaign to select the Republican Party's nominee to run in the U.S. presidential race in autumn has become a prolonged contest. This development appears to work in favor of President Barack Obama of the Democratic Party, who is aiming at reelection.
This week's Super Tuesday was the busiest day of the intraparty contest, with primaries and caucuses held in 10 states, including Ohio. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a moderate Republican, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a conservative, had a very tight race, so the struggle to choose the presidential nominee did not reach a conclusion.
The contest has become such a close fight this year mainly because the Republicans changed the formula for allocating convention delegates among contestants in accordance with the results of each state's primaries and caucuses.
Under the conventional formula, the candidate who won a primary or caucus in a state was entitled to all of that state's delegates, so that clear differences would emerge among the contenders' numerical results.
This year, until the end of March in principle, the party is using a formula that awards delegates to candidates in proportion to the number of votes they receive.
Under this formula, the differences among candidates' delegate counts tend to be smaller than under the former method, making it less easy for any one candidate to win a majority of the delegates needed to win the nomination at the party's national convention. Thus, the contest drags on.
History not repeating itself
In the presidential election four years ago, Democratic candidates Obama and Hillary Clinton, both senators at the time, fought a fiercely contested race to become their party's presidential nominee, the momentum from which apparently helped Obama win the presidential race.
The Republicans probably intended to attract media attention to an intense nomination race that would give their party a similar surge in popularity.
Yet so far the results have been the opposite of what the party hoped for.
The race has prolonged as just what the party calculated it would. But the contest seems to have descended into mudslinging, with candidates pointing out the shortcomings and weak points of their rivals, rather than waging a battle of words to compete over their respective policies. There have also been television ads in which rivals blast one another so often as to disgust voters.
Many cooks stirring the pot
Financially supporting these negative campaigns are political action committees called super PACs, which can raise unlimited amounts of money for political advertising, and whose financing actions were approved by a Supreme Court ruling in 2010.
Conservative grassroots political activists such as those in the tea party movement, who harshly criticize moderates within the Republican Party, are quite energetic. This deepens the intraparty conflict further.
As things stand now, the Republicans can hardly expect to orchestrate the type of outcome the Democrats achieved when Obama and Clinton joined hands and displayed their solidarity following the end of the presidential nomination race.
This is quite a favorable development for the Obama camp. Improvement in the jobless rate will also be a favorable wind for Obama.
Yet the U.S. economy still remains dismal. Any president, whoever it may be, will have to tackle the thorny issues of buoying up the economy and slashing the fiscal deficit.
In the presidential race, tax system reform is an important point of contention. Regarding the corporate tax rate, Obama and leading Republican candidates agree on the need to reduce it. In the United States, too, the issue of how to reinforce the international competitiveness of its business corporations is an issue of the highest priority.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 8, 2012)