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The extended Republican presidential primary has left many GOP donors paralyzed — unsure of whether to invest in the upcoming battle against President Barack Obama or focus on Congressional races.
Party insiders increasingly believe that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will win the nomination, a development that would likely open the donor spigot for the general election. But a victory by former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) or ex-Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.) would probably have the opposite effect. A GOP money machine skeptical of the party’s White House prospects would likely spend instead on House and Senate races as the best hope for a November gain.
According to interviews with a dozen mostly Washington-based Republicans, including Capitol Hill aides, fundraisers, strategists and K Street operatives, the GOP’s Congressional candidates and national campaign committees would prefer to avoid such a financial windfall, believing the party’s best chance of holding the House and flipping the Senate is to field a strong, well-funded presidential campaign that runs a sophisticated voter-turnout operation.
“This is a discussion that has been happening in all corners of the GOP consultant class,” a well-placed Republican said Monday.
There are some Republican strategists less concerned with the nominee than the fact that the GOP primary is diverting attention from Obama’s record and allowing the president to rebuild politically. They worry that a stronger Obama could help Democrats downticket.
Republicans are additionally concerned that they cannot produce a coherent, unified election-year message until their primary produces a nominee for them to rally around.
One Republican strategist focused on House races said both Romney and Santorum offer GOP Congressional candidates opportunity for success — just different ones. The strategist emphasized that the key is getting the 2012 campaign to the point where the House playing field is set and Obama is the focus. “Until we get there, I don’t care much about the other stuff,” this individual said.
But in comparison to Gingrich, Santorum and Rep. Ron Paul (Texas), the consensus among GOP operatives is that Romney provides Republicans with their best chance to hold on to control of the House and take a majority in the Senate. These Republicans concede that Romney doesn’t stir passion among the party faithful, but they say they fear that the other candidates might not just lose, but sink the ticket altogether.