Did Obama’s ‘bye weeks’ help or hurt him?

Matt K. Lewis | Senior Contributor

I’ve long argued that the primary process, despite all the hand-wringing that it could doom the ultimate GOP nominee, would have a mostly salutary impact. (There are negatives, of course, but they are largely offset by the positives. Competition — free marketers ought to understand — makes us better. Protectionism does not.)

Based on the last 10, or so, days, it appears that Mitt Romney’s campaign — having endured the slings and arrows of a heated primary — is hitting its stride. Meanwhile, as we head into summer, Team Obama — having had months to prepare — looked rusty and sluggish last week.

Could it be that having all that time to rest and prepare wasn’t such a blessing after all?

We’ve seen this before. Every year during football season, NFL players vie to clinch a first-round playoff bye. There are obvious reasons for them to desire this coveted week off, including the obvious: You can’t lose if you don’t play.

Most teams, however, are probably thinking of other factors, including rest, getting injured players healthy, and an additional week of preparation. But consider this:

After the Green Bay Packers lost at home to the New York Giants in the 2011 NFC Divisional Round we are once again left to ask the all-important question, does the first-round playoff bye benefit the NFL’s top teams?

Consider these facts, in 9 out of the last 11 NFL seasons we have seen at least one team with a bye in the first round of the playoffs gone on to lose their first playoff game. This is all-the-more shocking since these top teams are playing at home against lower-seeded opposition.

To be sure, it’s still early, and politics isn’t football. But I think it is now clear that much of the fear about a heated Republican primary — and the damage it could do — was overwrought.

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