The game of politics is nasty, but many observers of the GOP presidential campaign think that it has gotten too nasty.
Though the rhetorical attacks leveled among the candidates may suggest a fractured Republican Party incapable of winning back the White House, it is more likely that attackers will ultimately rally support around the strongest candidate in November.
During a conference at Southern Methodist University earlier this month, former First Lady Barbara Bush echoed the sentiments of many others, calling the current presidential race the worst she’s ever seen.
But political flame-throwing is nothing new, and, in what has been called a weak field of candidates, it should be welcomed as a way to separate the most presidential man from the pack. Though someone like Barbara Bush would point this out as being damaging to the Republican Party, it actually makes it easier to eliminate the incompetent candidates.
The stakes in this election are especially high. In a race composed of ideologically similar candidates, demeanor and the ability to gracefully sidestep petty attempts at character assassination will be especially important in determining who will be able to handle the presidency.
So far, Mitt Romney seems to have the most presidential deportment, something that will make him more electable in a face-off with incumbent President Barack Obama.
The most vitriolic candidate has been Newt Gingrich. He recently launched a Facebook page dedicated to disparaging Romney. The page, “Romney Record,” describes Romney as “liberal and out-of-touch” and does nothing but show that Gingrich is incapable of propping himself up based on his own accomplishments.
As Romney has continued to pull ahead of the pack in the delegate count, the trailing candidates have devoted more and more time to criticizing Romney.
During a CNN interview Wednesday, Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said that the former governor’s focus would shift “like an Etch-a-Sketch” come the general election. Though Fehrnstrom was referring to a more intense focus on Obama’s economic failures, Santorum and Gingrich seized on the opportunity to attack Romney. Gingrich twisted the adviser’s words during a speech in Louisiana and interpreted them as evidence that Romney will shift to the left.
Romney has not given in to these desperate attacks.
In a prolonged primary season, political smear tactics should be welcomed as ways to zero in on the candidate whose record and stances are enough to give Republicans a fighting chance of reclaiming the White House.
This election goes beyond the issues. To restore confidence in our nation, we need a confident president who will project an image of maturity and rationality rather than childishness and impetuosity.
Sarah Cueva is a sophomore majoring in Middle East studies and political science. Point/Counterpoint runs Fridays.