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Senate Republicans Dread Drawn-Out GOP Primary

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Sen. John Thune (above), who is supporting former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the GOP presidential primary, said not selecting a nominee by the end of June would allow President Barack Obama to escape much of the damage an opposition campaign might inflict.

“Every day that goes by is a day that’s lost,” said McCain, a Romney supporter.

McCain conceded he wasn’t sure how a contested convention would affect the GOP’s White House prospects. But Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), also a Romney supporter, said it could be fatal.

Thune said failing to select a nominee by the end of June — any nominee — would allow Obama to escape the damage an opposition GOP campaign might inflict until September, by which time it would be too late to fund and organize an effective national organization capable of competing with the president’s political machine.

In the event of a contested convention, Thune indicated that he would expect the GOP candidates to spend July and August continuing to raise primary campaign money to fund attacks against each other in an effort to sway convention delegates, who are not scheduled to meet in Tampa until Aug. 27.

“That’s incredibly problematic for us. If we’re out there sort of in this uncertainty zone between now and the end of August and we have to turn around in a short time period, put together an organization and resource it, it’s incredibly problematic,” said Thune, the Republican Conference chairman. “I just don’t see it.”

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) acknowledged that failing to elect a nominee by the time of the last primary in June — in Utah — could put the Republicans at a disadvantage against Obama. But DeMint, who expects the GOP to at least have a “nominee apparent” by the end of the primary season, said a contested convention might have some positive side effects.

In particular, DeMint said, the intense media focus on the undecided Republican contest would give the GOP candidates a cost-free platform to push ideas and hammer Obama, possibly obscuring coverage of the president.

“I always look for the silver lining; it would keep all eyes on Republicans until the convention,” DeMint said, although he cautioned: “The reality is the raising of money, in that short of time, to come anywhere near what Obama’s going to have, is going to be difficult. We’re going to have to count on the American people to sort it out.”

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