Did the Republicans write off the 2008 election as unwinnable?

Given the criticism of the eight years of the Bush administration, the unpopularity of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the economic collapse that happened on Bush’s watch, did the Republican party decide the support for the 2008 presidential election just wasn’t there, and more or less plan on being defeated? Were McCain and Palin essentially expendable nobodies whose defeat would reflect minimally on the party?

I think most of them figured they had, at best, an outside chance to gain the presidency in 2008. But no, I don’t think that equates to them writing off the election. One way you could check is…did they spend substantially less money in the primaries or during the election itself? If not then I’d have to say that, no…they didn’t write it off.


I read an article a while back about the election. Basically McCain’s handlers knew he was going to lose before the 3rd debate, but didn’t want to tell him. So yeah, at least some knew it was unwinnable.

McCain was picked by the voters in the primaries, not by the establishment. Palin was picked as a long shot to compensate for McCain’s ‘moderateness’ and win support among the GOP base who generally don’t like McCain.

Why on Earth would the Republicans have felt the election was unwinnable? Many of them still stand by the policies of the last twenty years and feel that last year’s defeat was a fluke. If they thought that platform couldn’t win an election they would be working on a new one.

The Republicans produced twelve candidates who were seeking the nomination; that doesn’t look like a hopeless campaign. Who do you think were (or are) the major Republicans who sat out 2008 and are waiting for a better year?

Some of them like Palin and Romney did it in part to prepare for 2012 the way Reagan use 1976 to prepare for 1980.

Plus running for president improves your prestige and name recognition, which helps when you are also running for re-election as senator, governor, representative, mayor, etc which all the candidates tend to be.

Gingrich ‘may’ have intentionally sat out 2008, but that is a guess on my part. He seems to want to prepare for 2012 though.

I don’ think it appeared that the GOP would lose until late in the summer/early fall '08. For most of the '08 campaign, the Democrats couldn’t even settle on a nominee and a lot of people thought the party infighting would severly damage the Democrats and the supporters of the losing Democrat wouldn’t support the nominee.

Meanwhile, the Republicans settled early on McCain, who could have distanced himself enough from Bush based on his record of being a “maverick.”

I think for most of the year the Republicans thought they had a shot at winning and it wasn’t until the economy got a hell of a lot worse at the end of the summer that it became apparant that Obama had the election in the bag.

Palin, maybe, but I think Romney was a serious contender for the 2008 election. It’s a fine line - if you’re a long shot like Palin then you can gain prestige by running a credible campaign and come back stronger in a future campaign. (Personally, I have a suspicion that’s how some of Obama’s supporters saw his campaign in the early days - they didn’t think he’d win but they figured he’d do well enough to be a credible candidate in 2012 if Clinton or Edwards lost to the Republican nominee.) But if you go into the campaign looking like a strong candidate, then there’s nowhere to go but down - you become the guy who didn’t have what it took to go all the way. American presidential politics no longer has any second acts, as John Kerry found out in 2008.

I think plenty of Republicans assumed they would lose, and plenty more wanted to lose. With problems in Iraq and Afghanistan likely to continue, and economic and financial problems having no quick fix, it was a smart and easy bet to predict that 2009, 2010, etc. would be bad years; why not let the Democrats end up with the blame?

I don’t know if this would settle the issue. Money comes from people and businesses building goodwill, and of course the GOP would want to get its message out even if it assumed it would lose. (And of course, despite the near unanimity of the Congressional voting bloc, it’s not right to speak of GOP’s intention as though it’s a single homogeneous conspiracy!)

Gingrich will never run, he left the House in disgrace and hasn’t held office since (twelve years?), he knows he wouldn’t get close to the Oval Office.

He throws his name out as a possible candidate every four years so that he can stay politically relevant enough to appear on news shows and the like. FWIW, I expect Palin will follow a similar route, she knows she’ll never be Prez, but she won’t quash speculation that she’ll run in the next few cycles so that her name stays in the press and she can keep speaking/selling books/etc. Even Cheney plays this game (or at least, his daughter does vicariously).

I noticed a general sense of resignation in the GOP after Candidate Obama won the Democratic nomination. That resignation seemed to turn to desperation until Candidate McCain chose his VP running mate. There was about 3-weeks of positive GOP excitement. GOP election excitement waned significantly after that, however, and never truly recovered.

I think the GOP knew it was going to lose the White House by early in September. I don’t think that there was any conscious effort to make McCain/Palin expendable, they just happen to be leading the party that was about to be hit by a wave of popular discontent and as such were it’s first, and most high-profile, victims.

I don’t disagree with you but that demonstrates how fickle the political situation is. The best example is Bill Clinton. He got into the '92 election just to get his name out there and prepare for a more serious run in '96. At the time, GHWB looked unbeatable and the obvious Democratic candidates decided to sit out. Then the winds changed and Clinton ends up in the White House.

As you pointed out, it was probably a similar strategy for Obama except that the Democrats intended to win and Hillary had almost been anointed early on. It was a good strategy for Obama to establish himself as someone to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate. Then, things happen and Obama is inaugurated.

What I’m getting at is that you never write anything off. Strange things can happen and it doesn’t all go according to plan.

I think a lot of Republican voters saw the election as unwinnable, but I can’t imagine that Republican operatives did. Remember how Bush I surged back against Dukakis.

Well, it’s easy for McCain’s advisors to say that now. :stuck_out_tongue:

If Romney weren’t Mormon, I think he would have gotten the nod in '08. He was the strongest candidate of the bunch. The party base was very dubious about McCain because of his so-called moderate reputation. IF Romney hadn’t had the LDS albatross around his neck in the party of the SBC, he’d have blown McCain away.

I think that Gingrich himself has said so much. He says that he won’t rule out running for Prez and if he sees a gap in the field and/or a groundswell of support for him, then he will run. If not, he will keep making speeches and doing news shows.

It would be foolish of him to run. He would get the regular 33% of hardcore GOP votes and not much else…

They sure spent a lot of money (as do all campaigns) so I would say, based only on that, they weren’t just throwing in the towel. Sure, the Repubs probably figured it was a long shot; that just meant that they needed to take a few chances, like picking Mavericks ™ for example. I certainly wouldn’t call Obama an easy win in any case. A good slip-up near the finish line (“Biden caught in sex scandal - film at 11”) and we would have a Maverick for Pres and an emergency back-up Maverick too.

I agree with Jayjay regarding Romney. I was sure he was a lock for the Republican nomination, except they were smart enough to know a very conservative candidate had very little chance, especially one from a nonstandard religion.

The Presidential election is like the Olympics - only comes around every four years. You may not think a given team has a strong chance but the players sure as hell are taking it seriously because they have been working for years to get ready for that once in a lifetime opportunity.

I think you give the Republicans too much credit. I think they backed into a McCain candidacy. You had the money men pushing for Romney and the JesusJesusRah! men pushing for Huckabee, with about equal vigor. The sliver of overlap in the middle of this clusterfuck of a Venn diagram was McCain. And nobody REALLY wanted him at first. IIRC, he didn’t do too well when the field was still wide (they had what? 10 or 12 candidates at the beginning?).

More likely, McCain got the nomination because it was thought to be his turn, as the leading elder statesman of the party. It was just due to him, in the same way the GHWB and Dole nominations were due them. He did do his part by consciously not alienating the party’s Bible-thumper base, though.

I see this now and again, that someone wanted to lose the election because the problems out there are just too big.

During my time in Washington, I have never heard anything that would make me think that anyone has actually thought this. It’s like saying some football team didn’t really want to win their playoff game, because the NFC championship will be played in Green Bay and it’s too cold there. It’s just not something that highly competitive people – whether they’re in politics or sports – are ever likely to say.

Never thought I would hear someone say that to me. :wink: You could also say the Dems backed into Obama as they sure weren’t rallying behind him from the beginning.

I picture party nominations like the Three Stooges going through a door. A whole bunch of idiots all try to go at once, most clunk together with a coconut sound but one or maybe two (as with Clinton and Obama) manage to get through, the rest clawing at each other and making funny sounds. Isn’t that why we like to watch? Now, if Mitt Romney had hooked Cheney’s nose with a claw hammer he would have had my vote in a second.

Only because Romney may be a better campaigner. He also has a moderate (if not all out liberal) reputation on big Republican issues like abortion and gun control.

This is a superb point that a lot of people tend to not exclamate enough.
For about the last 50 years the Republicans have been choosing the “next guy in line” or the guy who’s “turn it is”. Sometimes it works for them like Nixon in '68, Reagan in '80, the Bush’s in '88 and 2000, sometimes it doesn’t work like Dole in '96 and McCain in '08. Overall I think it’s an incredibly stupid way of choosing a candidate. I had hoped Doles miserable campaign would put an end to the practice, but I didn’t get my wish.