As I have mentioned in the past, there is a significant possibility for Republicans to see their first brokered convention since 1976. In his post “Hollow Victories”, MDuminak cites several factors that could lead up to such an event. They include the penalties which strip several states of half their delegate counts for holding earlier than allowed primaries and the proliferation of states that have moved to a proportional allocation of their delegates rather than the usual winner-take-all system that dominated the process in the past.
Even so, while right now it does look like there is a good possibility for a brokered convention , I am convinced that all the speculation will be proven wrong and by the time September comes along, many will find it hard to remember just how contested the nomination seemed to be, or that most of us tried to make it out to be.
Many may find that hard to believe, but if history is any indication, that is exactly the way it will be when Mitt Romney accepts the nomination and nominates his running mate. To believe that though, requires an interpretation of exactly where New Hampshire leaves us.
Romney finally cracked that 25% mark that has helped many to question his electability as a Republican. But it was in a state friendly to Mitt and that is seen as less conservative than many other states. Nonetheless, he did exceed his 25% high watermark and achieved what can only be called a landslide victory.
But there is more to consider as Romney moves on to the next battleground.
Mitt has played it safe. He has not offered a single bold initiative or major reform other than his promise to repeal Obamacare. This has made it difficult for him to win over the reform minded TEA movement wing of the G.O.P. and nearly impossible for him to tap in to the general anti-establishment mood that permeates the electorate. His lack of innovative, revolutionary, ideas have left many uninspired by him, myself included. Yet all that Romney has carefully proposed can not be considered anything less than conservative. They are just not things that could easily be painted as “extreme”. That may not be a big hit with conservatives, but it does give Romney an advantage in the general election and that is exactly what Romney is trying to do…….run a general election campaign. It was, and is a calculated risk that he decided on many months ago. when it became clear that conservatives were not going to have a single conservative alternative to Romney to unite behind.
So Romney has been playing it safe, and for good reason.
While the rule of thumb is that Republicans must run to the right to get the nomination and then run to the middle to win the election, that old concept may not apply in 2012.
With Barack Obama accumulating a war chest of more than a billion dollars, Romney knows that if he runs too far to the right to get the nomination, Obama’s money may make it impossible for him to run back to the middle. Obama’s historic spending could go a long way in painting Romney as the extremist who is more out of touch with Americans than the President himself is.
Then there is the fact that Romney is not exactly quite as condemned by conservatives as many would like you to believe. Here is a man who for several years priors to 2011, was elected the favorite conservative by CPAC. In 2008, Mitt Romney was also the conservative alternative to John McCain. And since then, Romney has only become more conservative, not more liberal.
This is probably why recent exit polling showed Romney beating all other candidates among even conservatives. In many ways, according to the voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, Mitt Romney is the conservative alternative that conservatives were looking for.
Add to that the most well financed and organized campaign, combined with significant endorsements from people like South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, and what you have is candidate who can buy, organize, and win over all the delegates he needs to win the nomination.
Then of course there are all the factors working against each of Mitt Romney’s rivals;
Ron Paul is performing far better than he ever has before. Some may see this as a sign that his rhetoric is resonating. And it is. But not with Republicans.
While Republicans agree with much, if not all of Paul’s fiscal ideas and platitudes about the Constitution, they know that he is really not quite as unique as some of his worshippers think he is. Many Republicans understand that Paul is more rhetoric than action and that when it comes to foreign policy and national defense, he is just irresponsible. This is why polling, including exit polls from both the Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire Primary, show :
a).- Ron Paul losses among self identified Republicans.
b).- Ron Paul loses among self identified conservatives.
c).- Ron Paul, the mythological father of the TEA Party, even loses among those who identify themselves as TEA Party members and supporters.
Which leads us to the electoral irrelevance of Ron Paul.
Ron Paul’s inflated vote totals are arrived at through a unique coalition of liberals, independents, and youth who look upon their parent’s days as hippie, love and peace, revolutionaries, with nostalgic admiration and see it as the days when America had meaning.
Some suggest that we must thank Ron Paul for bringing these people in to the Republican Party. Some do, but I don’t.
First of all, I have no need for liberals in my Party. It’s bad enough that as a New York born resident of New Jersey, I am living among far too many Rockefeller Republicans already. But more than that, none of these people are going to stay in the Republican Party, and none of these Paul fanatics are going to ever vote Republican. They will either cast their lot with President Obama, vote for a third Party candidate, or not vote at all. No matter which one of those three alternatives they choose, none of them were or are ever going to vote Republican. Not unless Ron Paul becomes the nominee and that is just not ever going to happen.
So when it comes to Ron Paul, relax.
He has little to do with the G.O.P. and this is still the Republican presidential nomination we are talking about. Will Ron Paul continue to get his message out? Yes. Will it change the results of the Republican presidential nomination contest? No.
So Ron Paul is merely a distraction.
Huntsman did well in New Hampshire, but third place behind Ron Paul does not make him a rock a star and while he claimed that third place was his ticket to South Carolina, he better hope it’s a roundtrip ticket. His 3rd place finish will not swing big money his way as it did for Rick Santorum after Iowa, and with the lack of money that he has to invest in South Carolina, what you get is a candidate with no momentum and not enough tread on his wheels to get the type of traction he needs in South Carolina.
Huntsman like Paul, is now merely a distraction.
At this point, the only reason Perry is still running is because he wants to be there if the other candidates trip and fall as badly as he did. Perry does not want to miss the chance to become the nominee by default if Romney or any combination of the others become the next Gary Hart and fall out of favor because of “Monkey Business”.
Perry is not even a distraction. He is just standing by and waiting to fill a vacancy that may never open up. His only other hope is that the field stays relatively muddled until he can rack up a significant number of delegates from Texas and the rest of the deep South, West of Florida. And even then he has to hope that fate provides him with a brokered convention that make his delegate count important enough for him to have a big say as to who the nominee is.
Santorum still has a chance to show some life in South Carolina. Like Iowa, it is dominated by social conservatives and no one else has really established themselves yet as the social conservative candidate. On top of that, he now has money. After raising significant amounts of money following his virtual tie with Romney in Iowa, he could not spend it in New Hampshire because its primary was so close to Iowa’s caucus, that all the air time was already bought up. That is not the case in South Carolina.
However, that is about all the momentum Santorum has left going in to South Carolina. He was unable to turn his strong Iowa showing into a strong New Hampshire finish and coming in behind Newt Gingrich did not help at all.
So Santorum is not likely to defeat Mitt Romney in South Carolina but he could still emerge as a conservative alternative to Romney in Florida.
Gingrich is fading fast. He really needed to at least beat Jon Huntsman if not Ron Paul too. Instead he now goes in to South Carolina as an underfinanced, unorganized, bottom tier candidate. Yet if there is any place he could turn things around, it is South Carolina. Sadly though, I do not see him doing that. Gingrich failed to ever accept the fact that although he may be an unconventional leader, there are some conventional aspects of a campaign that are so basic, that even he, Gingrich the Great, needed to employ them. But he didn’t. between that, a lack of structure,as well as a lack of a clear theme and message, and his experiment with attacking Mitt Romney from the left, it looks like South Carolina may be Newt’s last stand.
Even if Newt does surprise us all in South Carolina, I am afraid it is too late for him to do much with it. Florida will be tougher for Newt and easier for Mitt than South Carolina, and with Newt’s lack of funds and Romney’s abundance of funds, Florida is where the inevitability factor may settle in for Mitt and help to dry up any remaining opportunities that his rivals might still have.
Does this mean it’s all over?
Not at all.
The game will still be played.
If for nobody other than Ron Paul, the race will remain contested at least until Super Tuesday and probably beyond. But the game won’t be a very serious one. It will mainly be talked up by political junkies like myself and rating starved talking heads who will claim Ron Paul is tearing the G.O.P. in half, and that he may go to the convention with enough delegates to change the Republican platform or determine who the presidential and vice presidential nominees are. But such talk will be mere fantasy because in the end, Mitt Romney will reach the 1,128 delegates he needs for the Republican presidential nomination by March 20th or earlier. And if he happens not to get it by then, he will do so no later than Tuesday, April 24th, when 231 delegates are up for grabs in the Mid-Atlantic version of Super Tuesday that will see the Romney rich states of Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island all hold their primaries.
Then, mark my words, all this talk about about how incompetent the Republican field was and how competitive it was, will all be a part of a hard to remember past, and no matter how much you dislike Mitt Romney now, you will not be disliking quite that much after he delivers his acceptance speech in September at the Republican National Convention.
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