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Ahead of Super Tuesday, RNC dismisses talk of bruising GOP battle

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Super Tuesday looms, and the Republican nomination battle still far from settled. But The Republican National Committee is again swatting Beltway conventional wisdom that says the process is hurting the party's chances of winning the White House.

In a "reality check" memo, spokesman Sean Spicer says such talk "rooted in neither facts nor precedent," specifically targeting four myths as the party sees it.

Spicer starts with the notion that a long primary hurts the party, a point he says is easily dismissed if one looks just four years ago at the Democratic clash of the titans between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

"Until the very end, Clinton and Obama were haggling over Superdelegates, waging searing attacks, and griping over DNC rules and bylaws as they scrambled for every last vote," he writes. "The fights got personal, and the internecine battle was waged publicly in debate after debate and in the endless news coverage."

But ultimately Obama won the White House, and the party added seats in the House and Senate.

The companion myth is that a short primary process helps the party. And again, he points to 2008, noting that by early March John McCain had locked up his party's nomination. And four years earlier, the same was true for John Kerry as Democrats sought to unseat an incumbent. And yet George W. Bush ended up winning more states that year than he did in 2000.

The next myth is a sensitive one to the party headquarters: that rules changes adopted at the 2008 convention caused issues with the current calendar. To dispel it, he points to California, which chose to move its primary from February to June not because of party rules, but state finances.

Finally, Spicer disputes talk of a GOP electorate increasingly dispirited by the intense GOP fight. As evidence, he points to a new Gallup poll that showed Republicans were more enthusiastic about the 2012 election than Democrats, by a margin of 53-45%.

"We've only been at this for two months, and 172 out of 2286 delegates have been awarded. In a few more months, the primary will seem like a distant memory," Spicer concludes. "Ultimately, one of the four current candidates will be the Republican nominee. Our party will then unite 100% around him. The momentum and enthusiasm of the primaries will carry us forward toward victory in November and on to the White House."

Spicer's memo reflects the concerns other senior party figures have raised about the GOP fight -- including McCain himself.

On the "Tonight Show" this week, says the expensive fight -- fueled by "super PAC" money, has hurt the candidates with independent voters, all to Obama's benefit.

At the National Governors Association meeting, Maine Gov. Paul LePage said the candidates will be so damaged by the end of the process the party may want to consider putting forth a new face at the convention in August.

Jeb Bush, one of the "white knight" possibilities some in the party would like to turn to, also expressed regret about the tenor of the debates.

"It's a little troubling sometimes when people are appealing to people's fears and emotion rather than trying to get them to look over the horizon for a broader perspective," he said in Dallas recently, according to reports.

The primary won't end anytime soon. According to the RNC's most recent tally, Mitt Romney leads the field with 118 delegates, followed by Newt Gingrich with 29, Rick Santorum with 17, and Ron Paul with 8. Another 211 delegates remain unbound, mainly from earlier caucuses.

Today, Washington state holds its own non-binding caucuses. More than 400 delegates are at stake on Super Tuesday in primaries and caucuses in 10 states.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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