It's not every day I find myself agreeing with Sarah Palin. I am slightly horrified by it. But I agree that it is premature and presumptuous for the Republican establishment, most of whom support Mitt Romney, to call for the other candidates to throw in the towel and for Republicans to fall in line behind Romney.
In Mexico, they have el dedazo. Anointment by the party power structures is how PRI presidential candidates have been selected for decades. It leads to party bosses cutting deals, the people being cut out of the process and candidates often not fit to represent their citizens. That's not how we do it in America. We cherish our democratic elections, warts and all.
Yes, primaries can be tough and bruising. That's what they should be. Primaries are not only for choosing a great candidate. They are for making a candidate great.
I just don't get the Republican establishment's angst over a long primary. Anyone who's paying attention can clearly see that Romney is a better candidate today than he was six months ago, or even two weeks ago. Many are fretting over too many debates. It wasn't until 17 debates into this that Romney learned not only how to survive a debate without being beaten, but actually beat his opponents. Romney brought in a new debate coach in Florida. If Romney becomes our nominee, it will be a good thing that he got a capable coach now, and not after losing one or two debates to President Barack Obama.
Party elders complain of Republicans attacking each other and condemn the circular firing squad. The issues that have come up in this primary would come out in a general election. Sooner or later, Romney would have to release his taxes or Gingrich would have to explain his marital history. In a long election, sooner is better than later. It's better to have any dirty laundry and potential issues aired out in January than have them explode as an October surprise.
Then there is that pesky unity thing. The truth is, Republicans are not yet ready to hold hands and sing Kumbaya over the thought of either Romney or Gingrich as our nominee. Both have a lot more work to do. Romney has yet to conquer the Republican base. Gingrich has to convince the establishment that he has the discipline and organization to go up against the deep-pocketed, well-oiled Obama political machine. A long primary is the best vehicle for either to achieve what they still lack.
A hard fight will give our candidates a chance to build and test organizations in different states. It allows them to work out the kinks. It forces them to practice their messages in front of diverse constituencies. It takes them to all four corners of our country.
The Republican primary is at the center of the political universe. Republican candidates dominate the airwaves. Barack Obama would have a hard time garnering attention if in the middle of the day, he walked out to the Truman Balcony and smoked a cigarette in his boxers. It's all Republican primary, all the time. What's wrong with that?
Four years ago, the Democrats had a battle royal that lasted through June. It made Obama a more formidable candidate. It taught his organization to run smoothly, and it gave him an earned media advantage. John McCain had it all wrapped up by now. It was the Democratic saga that monopolized the news cycle. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Obama.
So although at times this prolonged Republican primary may feel like a never-ending soap opera, it's a positive. The Republican establishment needs to take a deep breath, chill out and embrace the primary process for all it offers and brings out — the good, the bad and the ugly. True, we'll have a bruised and bloodied candidate by the end of the primary. He will also be a more agile and experienced fighter.
Most important, whoever is left standing at the end will have the respect and support of most Republicans and even non-Republicans. He will have earned it through hard campaigning and perseverance.
In America, presidential nominations are won and don't come delivered in a silver platter. We are a stronger country and a healthier democracy for it. If you don't like our system, there is always the option of self-deporting to Mexico or asking for citizenship in the moon.
Ana Navarro is a Florida-based Republican strategist.