The ongoing Republican presidential debates are doing little other than to provide campaign fodder for the Democrats. Texas Gov. Rick Perry - once a frontrunner - has stumbled himself to the middle of the pack while Herman Cain has proven himself a force with which to be reckoned.
These inter-party debates are more a game of tag football than tackle. The candidates walk a fine line between promoting their positions without inflicting too much damage to the central party philosophy.
But voters will quickly tire of these squabbles. It's nearing the time when the frontrunner - whomever that may be - should separated from the pack. And to me, it's time for the lower-tier candidates - Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich and even Michele Bachmann - to step down.
Ron Paul and Herman Cain have a clear and worthwhile message. They embrace many of the core values of the conservative movement. And both are more than capable of giving this current administration headaches throughout the coming year. But they lack the funding and the national name recognition perhaps to compete.
I would not mind being wrong on both points.
But as the one-year countdown approaches, it's time for the Republicans to focus the picture and provide the stark and critical differences between the two parties.
I see no way - given the miserable track record of this administration - that this President deserves re-election from the American people.
But I can envision a fractured Republican party that lacks the clarity of positions to frame the election accurately. And the result is that this administration - fueled by a billion dollar union-funded war chest - can control the message.
Given these circumstances, we could face the most polarized and divisive four years in the history of our country.
From time to time, I find myself in casual political small talk with my fellow travelers.
I rarely have to convince anyone that our country's direction is clearly misguided. So instead, I have started eliciting promises that those voters will in fact vote come next November.
The absolute essential key to the election next year will be voter turnout. Obama's media-created aura has long since faded under the spotlight of reality. Yet the minority community and the union soldiers will still organize in lock-step fashion.
To match that force, the GOP needs to focus on those few who can deliver the message and explain the realities that a second Obama term would bring.
I always remind people that the election is still over a year away. And somewhat to my amazement, I also recognize that a substantial amount of voters will remain undecided even a year from today.
So the GOP must diminish the sideshow and narrow the field. The sooner the starting lineup is finalized, the sooner the differences can be illuminated.
There should be no problem framing the issues in 2012. Never have the positions been so separated nor the stakes so high.
But it's nearing the time the GOP should agree on the messenger.