BY BEN DEJARNETTE
Republican presidential candidates looking for a surge of support might not find much help in Eugene’s Cal Young neighborhood.
As the race for the Republican nomination twists and turns its way toward the crucial March 6 primaries, shoppers in the neighborhood are disappointed with the candidates left standing.
“Ron Paul isn’t really a Republican,” Cal Young resident Kris Posta said. “I hate [Rick] Santorum. Mitt Romney is the closest thing to being acceptable.”
The media touted Romney as the clear front-runner after his primary win in New Hampshire, but wins by Newt Gingrich in South Carolina and by Santorum in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri have complicated the race. Paul also remains in the hunt, buoyed by second-place finishes in three states.
Negative campaigning has been a fixture throughout the race, fueled in part by candidates’ public missteps and unscrupulous personal lives. Campaign advertising during the Florida contest was the most negative in history, according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group. The negativity has left a sour taste in some observers’ mouths.
“I find [the Republican race] disappointing,” said Charlotte Maloney, a shopper at Cal Young’s Oakway Center. “People are still not talking about the issues.”
Maloney thinks that personal scandals have overshadowed policy debates during the campaign. She expects Romney will emerge from the fray and will give the Republican Party its best chance of defeating President Obama in the general election.
The outcome is less clear to others. With all the ups and downs, Cal Young resident Kylie VanRysselbergh has had a hard time keeping up.
“I can’t even keep it straight,” VanRysselbergh said. “It’s turned into a circus.”
The race may begin to gain some clarity on March 6, when ten states will hold “Super Tuesday” primaries or caucuses. With 563 delegates up for grabs, the election season’s biggest single day of voting includes primaries in Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia. In a bizarre twist, only Romney and Paul will appear on Virginia’s ballot after the rest of the candidates failed to collect enough signatures to comply with the state’s election laws.
In a nomination race where the unexpected is now the norm, the Virginia ballot fiasco has been one of the more mundane subplots. Herman Cain’s once promising campaign lost momentum after allegations of sexual harassment surfaced in the national media. Gingrich has struggled to overcome the stigma of two divorces and an extramarital affair. And Romney’s controversial sound bites, including the comment that he is “not concerned about the very poor,” have appeared to hinder his efforts to connect with working-class Americans.
If multiple candidates remain in the race past April, Oregon voters could play an important role in deciding the outcome. The state’s Republican primary is scheduled for May 15, making it one of the last contests before the party’s nominating convention in August.