Republican Primary’s Absurd Storyline: Why The Media’s Drama Narrative Is All Wrong

The temperature is warming, the flowers are in bloom, the trees are filling out, and it’s an even-numbered year: ahh, it must be primary season, with the sweet smell of headstrong disruption emanating from Republican races across the land. Which “establishment favorites” will be ousted this year for once daring to draw a perceived RINO breath? Which tragicomic, rape-ain’t-so-bad clownheads will replace them and go on to lose seats that they have no business losing? It’s springtime for “Republican civil war” narrative-crafters.

If only there were more material to work with. So far, GOP Primary Season 2014 has been heavily overrated as a stage for intraparty drama.

Let’s consider the main event tonight: North Carolina’s Senate Republican primary, the winner of which will face vulnerable Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan in November.This is the one to watch, we’ve been told. And that’s because it sets up perfectly for political media typecasting. There’s state speaker Thom Tillis, the “establishment” favorite, getting endorsements from the Mitt Romneys and Karl Roves of the world, and having lots of money. Then we have Dr. Greg Brannon, the non-career politician “Tea Party” crusader, endorsed by the likes of Sen. Rand Paul and FreedomWorks and Gadsden flag-wavers everywhere; the guy who can’t go four seconds without quoting some clause of the Constitution that instantly provides the answer to all of our most complex socioeconomic problems. And then there’s Mark Harris, the Mike Huckabee-backed Bible dude.

The establishment guy, the Tea Party guy, the social conservative guy. Got it?

So who’s going to win? Is it a toss-up or something — is that why we’re paying attention? Not really. We’re paying attention to see if there’s going to be… a runoff. A runoff that Tillis, in all likelihood, would win.

But then we get to the sub-sub(?)-narrative, the one that Republican party officials are more worried about: that if Tillis can’t lock up 40% in today’s kickoff special, it will set a cynical, “here they go again” tone within the media for the whole season. From The Hill:

“It’s extremely important. If Tillis avoids a runoff the headline is ‘GOP dodges a bullet’ and if he doesn’t, it’s ‘Hagan dodges a bullet,’” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.

O’Connell said the race could help set the tone for the rest of the primary season, for better or worse.

“It’s important for Tillis to get the party beyond this hump psychologically as well. It could make a lot of other things go easier. The last thing the party wants is the ‘here they go again’ narrative,” he said.

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Analysis & Political Strategy