While Rick Santorum’s Super Tuesday results were far better than predicted, they did little to make a difference other than in the headlines we will be reading and in the cable news teasers that we will be hearing.
While it is true that the results from the ten state Super Tuesday contest can allow one t0 go so far as to say that Rick Santorum came out a winner, his clear victories in Tennessee, Oklahoma, and North Dakota, and his second place finish in Ohio that was too close for comfort for Mitt Romney, have undoubtedly established Rick Santorum as the other man in what seems to be a two man race and it will go a long way to energize both Santorum supporters and Romney haters. However, the psychological perception, as undoubtedly important as it is, does not change the reality that Mitt Romney has created for himself and despite himself.
Although it is too early to establish precise electoral vote counts after yesterday’s returns, the combined results of the nearly 20 states that held binding contests to date, make it clear that Mitt Romney has a much clearer shot at the 1,144 delegates needed to win the Republican presidential nomination, than do his remaining rivals in the race. On Wednesday, Romney’s campaign chief, Rich Beeson, will make a rare public appearance designed to stress that if one does the math, Mitt is the only candidate left in the race who can realistically collect enough remaining delegates to win the nomination. While mathematics does make it for possible for Santorum to win the nomination, reality does not because it dictates that Santorum would have to rack up at least 60% of all the remaining delegates. To perform that well, Mitt Romney would have to be caught in bed with an underage boy and Newt Gingrich would have to be caught cheating on his latest wife, Callista and neither are likely to occur between now and the Republican National Convention in September.
Yet Santorum’s outperforming and Romney’s underperforming in many Super Tuesday states, ends nothing except the unlikely ability for Newt Gingrich to comeback.
For Newt, Tuesday’s win in Georgia, the state which he represented throughout his entire political career, was a gimme and barely enabled him to call himself a regional candidate. Losing to Santorum and Romney in other Southern, Super Tuesday states, denied Newt even that title.
As for Santorum, he has become the last real hope for those who wish to deny Mitt Romney the G.O.P. nomination. It will allow Santorum to continue raising decent amounts of money and will provide him with a small degree of momentum as we head in to the next contests of Kansas and Mississippi, two states that should be fertile territory for Santorum. In between those two states, several American territories will be voting and Romney should easily win them, but Santorum’s anticipated strong showing in Kansas and Mississippi will most likely make Illinois the next major and possibly decisive contest to come up. If Santorum does as well as expected in the next two states and manages to make Illinois as close as Ohio and Michigan were, or worse yet for Romney, was to defeat him there, the race will remain in flux for weeks to come. At least until Texas on April 3rd, and ultimately the Mid-Atlantic version of Super Tuesday, on April 24th when Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island vote on the same day.
Still though, all the the numbers are on Mitt Romney’s side.
Santorum may be able to hang on much the same way that Mike Huckabee did in 2008 after Mitt Romney saw the writing on the wall and realized that the numbers were on McCain’s side. But hanging on and winning are two different things. Sure Santorum may go for a ride a little longer, but unless the small chance of brokered convention arises, he has no shot at the nomination. And in a brokered convention, with the establishment clearly behind Romney, Santorum still has no chance at winning the nomination. Even though the race is competeitve with Santorum doing far better than ever expected or predicted, any perception that the outcome of the nomination is in doubt is a deceptive one.
However; the problem is that just having the numbers on your side does not mean you can win the one thing that that all this is for. The presidency.
As I pointed out, Mitt Romney saw that John McCain had the numbers in 2008 and dropped out. But Barack Obama went on to defeat McCain. In 1996 after winning only 4 states, even Pat Buchanan saw that he could not defeat Bob Dole for the nomination. But Bill Clinton defeated Dole. Those defeats occurred because the eventual nominees won the nomination not because they inspired people, but because they were just more acceptable than the other choices. A similar scenario exists now with with Mitt Romney. But in some ways its even worse, because a substantial numbers of conservative oriented voters and anti-establishment types, just refuse to accept Mitt Romney. At least so far.
Ultimately, Mitt Romney has to begin winning Republicans and Independents over because they like him, not because they don’t like his opponents. If that is the formula Romney is banking on to beat Barack Obama with in November, then let us all just throw in the towel now because it won’t work. With a billion dollars to spend, President Obama will have the ability to not only make people briefly like him, he will also have the ability to make people hate Mitt Romney, something which Romney seems to make easy to do.
Meanwhile, regardless of how exciting the results of Super Tuesday seem to be on the surface, below the surface is a reality that dictates a fate which gives the Republican presidential nomination to Mitt Romney. And while Rick Santorum can tempt fate, no matter how promising he may look after Super Tuesday, he will not be able to change fate and we Republicans can only hope and pray that Mitt Romney eventually gives us more reason to vote him than just the fact that he is not Barack Obama.
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