A Republican Primary Process Predicament?

Polls are somewhat similar to a carpenter’s tool. They are as valuable as the skills of the artisan utilizing them. I recall a very pleasant one on one dinner in 1995 with the head of a “special interest” group based out of Washington, D.C. My dinner companion was a self-made man who due to talent, hard work, and the luck of having been born in the USA, had lifted himself up from rural poverty to someone who could afford to live in Aspen, Colorado.

His organization had done a number of polls to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of various Republican presidential candidates against President Bill Clinton, who would be up for reelection in 1996. Clinton had some personal scandals which were well documented. He arguably had only won in 1992 because of a third party candidate hurting the first President Bush. The polling results showed that if Colin Powell ran against Clinton, he would blow Clinton out of the water.

With Powell as a candidate, several things appeared to be likely. First, a substantial number of Black Americans would have switched parties to vote for Powell. Secondly, a substantial number of independent voters would have preferred Powell. Thirdly, there were a number of traditional Democrats who were less than enthused about Clinton’s history with women.

Powell obviously did not run for President. According to my dinner companion, the polls showed that likely Republican primary voters at that time had two problems with Powell, his position on abortion and his race. Additionally, his sources advised him that Powell’s wife was worried that if her husband ran for President, he would be assassinated. The same polls showed Clinton beating Bob Dole. That is exactly what happened in 1996.

Today, polls show Nikki Haley beating President Biden by a substantial percentage. They also show Biden and Trump in what again would be a close race within the margin of error. That said, a Powell election in 1996 would have had a remarkable impact on our nation’s history, one that most of our Republican friends would have likely preferred. No predictions are being made here, just some food for thought.

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Jim Maxson

Mr. Maxson is a retired Minot attorney, former ND State Senator representing Minot's 3rd District from 1986-1994, and former ND Democratic National Committeeman from 2000-2008. He speaks two languages, English and Metaphor, and is cursed by a long memory.

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One comment on “A Republican Primary Process Predicament?

Jon Nelson

Jim: I continue to enjoy your perspective although we may not agree on every issue. I no longer subscribe to the Minot Daily News but when I did, reading your letters to the editor was my most enjoyable experience with the publication.
Please continue to provide common sense mainstream viewpoints to the citizens of our region. In this time of political turmoil, you are a breath of fresh air we should all take advantage of. Be well.

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