WASHINGTON -- After Newt Gingrich vowed to take his campaign all the way to the Republican convention in Tampa, Fla., this summer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Tuesday compared the increasingly bitter GOP battle to the epic struggle four years ago between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
Asked about the damage the daily back and forth was doing and whether it would be better for the GOP if there was only candidate left -- a question often asked of Democrats in 2008 -- McConnell pointed to that Democratic slugfest as evidence his party would be just fine.
"I don't think the primary voters out in the presidential contests need any advice from me, particularly about who to support or how quickly to end it," McConnell told reporters on Capitol Hill. "It will end when it ends. And at that point I think we're going to have a nominee who's very competitive."
He went on to suggest that the charges flying in the GOP fight could help.
"I think we have an excellent chance to have a new president next year, and we're just all watching, like you are, the drama associated with this contest," McConnell said. "It's reminiscent of the contest between Obama and Clinton on the other side in 2008. Obviously that ended at some point. I think it was about June. And it didn't seem to have done them any harm in the general election, and I don't think this contest is going to do us any harm either."
In one big difference between 2008 and this year, however, Democrats were largely excited by their candidates, while Republican voters have shown little enthusiasm for their White House contenders in 2012.
A potentially worrisome sign for the GOP is that this year's lack of excitement for the Republican field is similar to how voters felt in 2008, when Arizona Sen. John McCain beat Romney before losing to Obama.
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