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GOP primary is helping.... Barack Obama.

Iowa Republicans are just days away from kicking off the presidential nominating contest, and Republicans ought to hope the primary ends sooner rather than later.

The GOP’s ultimate goal, of course, is to make Barack Obama a one-term president, but as 2011 draws to a close there are signs the volatile primary has done more to damage the party for the general election than help it.

The year has been defined largely by the lack of enthusiasm most Republicans have for frontrunner Mitt Romney and serious shortcomings in other leading candidates to replace the president. Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich have all surged to the top only to be dragged down by doubts about their fitness for the nomination.

“At least we’ll know who we’re electing. It’s good to get everything on the table. I truly believe the man that will be left standing at the end will be the best,’’ said Rose Rauschkolb, a Republican activist and retired real estate broker in Miramar.

Rauschkolb supported Cain in Florida’s Presidency 5 mock election in September, but remains undecided at this point: “There’s something about every one of these candidates I don’t like, but we’ve got to get rid of what’s in there now. I don’t care if Mickey Mouse runs, he would be better.”

No president since Franklin Roosevelt has been re-elected with the unemployment rate close to as high as it is now (8.6 percent), so Obama’s vulnerability is not in question.

But the perception of Obama’s alternative (only 20 percent of Americans approve of the performance of congressional Republicans) is strengthening Obama’s position. His approval rating has ticked up from an average of 43 percent at the start of December to 47 percent today, according to RealClearPolitics. He now leads Romney by about 3 percentage points, after trailing him in October.

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