Commentary Magazine


Topic: Super Tuesday primaries

Romney’s Good Night

I have a more hopeful take than some others, especially Jonathan, regarding the outcome of Super Tuesday. To be sure, Mitt Romney did not wrap it up. But he did very well, taking six of the ten states up for grabs. Crucially, he took Ohio, which was favorable territory for Rick Santorum, with a large rural and evangelical population. Romney had been down by double digits only two weeks ago, and he fought back to a victory. It was a narrow one, but, in this case, winning was what was important.

Even more important is the new delegate count. Romney now has 415, Santorum 176, Gingrich 105, Paul 47 (and drop-out Huntsman 2). 1144 are needed for the nomination. As Dick Morris pointed out on “Fox and Friends” this morning, for Santorum or Gingrich to eventually catch up and pass Romney, one of them will need to take two-thirds of the delegates yet to be selected, an almost impossible task unless Romney commits a really major mistake. Nothing if not cautious (and perhaps with his father’s infamous “brainwashing” gaffe firmly in mind) he is unlikely to do so.

Read More

I have a more hopeful take than some others, especially Jonathan, regarding the outcome of Super Tuesday. To be sure, Mitt Romney did not wrap it up. But he did very well, taking six of the ten states up for grabs. Crucially, he took Ohio, which was favorable territory for Rick Santorum, with a large rural and evangelical population. Romney had been down by double digits only two weeks ago, and he fought back to a victory. It was a narrow one, but, in this case, winning was what was important.

Even more important is the new delegate count. Romney now has 415, Santorum 176, Gingrich 105, Paul 47 (and drop-out Huntsman 2). 1144 are needed for the nomination. As Dick Morris pointed out on “Fox and Friends” this morning, for Santorum or Gingrich to eventually catch up and pass Romney, one of them will need to take two-thirds of the delegates yet to be selected, an almost impossible task unless Romney commits a really major mistake. Nothing if not cautious (and perhaps with his father’s infamous “brainwashing” gaffe firmly in mind) he is unlikely to do so.

This mathematical reality, I think, will begin to permeate through the Republican ranks in the next few days. And as Romney’s “political gravity” increases, more and more Republicans will flow into his camp. Belief in inevitability begets inevitability. More, everyone realizes the sooner the nomination is settled, the better for Republican chances in the fall. There will be more money left for the general campaign and more time for the party to heal any wounds (although I think the wounds have been greatly exaggerated). And winning in the fall, according to yesterday’s exit polls, is far and away the most important consideration for Republican voters, well more than two times as important as conservative purity.

Barring a major mistake or other unforeseeable development, I think Romney won the nomination last night.

 

Read Less

Only Path for Santorum: Gingrich Has to Go

Despite Mitt Romney’s less-than-exceptional performance last night, neither Newt Gingrich nor Rick Santorum has a viable path to the nomination from here. At Frontloading HQ, Josh Putnam crunches the numbers and finds that while it’s not mathematically impossible for either candidate to get to the 1144 delegates needed to win, the chances are so low that it might as well be.

For Santorum, the possibility is more likely if Gingrich – who has been trailing in the race, but still siphoning off potential Santorum supporters – drops out. The Wall Street Journal describes the impact this had on the primaries last night:

Mr. Santorum and Mr. Gingrich effectively split the southern states in Tuesday’s contest: The former Pennsylvania senator won in Tennessee, Oklahoma and North Dakota, and the former House speaker claimed the richest delegate prize in his home state of Georgia. Mr. Santorum also claimed North Dakota. Both men used the results to argue they were the conservative alternative to Mr. Romney. …

Mr. Gingrich has siphoned off just enough votes in key states to cost Mr. Santorum wins and delegates, [campaign strategist] Mr. Brabender said. In last week’s Michigan primary, Mr. Santorum lost to Mr. Romney by 3 percentage points.

Read More

Despite Mitt Romney’s less-than-exceptional performance last night, neither Newt Gingrich nor Rick Santorum has a viable path to the nomination from here. At Frontloading HQ, Josh Putnam crunches the numbers and finds that while it’s not mathematically impossible for either candidate to get to the 1144 delegates needed to win, the chances are so low that it might as well be.

For Santorum, the possibility is more likely if Gingrich – who has been trailing in the race, but still siphoning off potential Santorum supporters – drops out. The Wall Street Journal describes the impact this had on the primaries last night:

Mr. Santorum and Mr. Gingrich effectively split the southern states in Tuesday’s contest: The former Pennsylvania senator won in Tennessee, Oklahoma and North Dakota, and the former House speaker claimed the richest delegate prize in his home state of Georgia. Mr. Santorum also claimed North Dakota. Both men used the results to argue they were the conservative alternative to Mr. Romney. …

Mr. Gingrich has siphoned off just enough votes in key states to cost Mr. Santorum wins and delegates, [campaign strategist] Mr. Brabender said. In last week’s Michigan primary, Mr. Santorum lost to Mr. Romney by 3 percentage points.

Realizing the problem, Santorum’s campaign is now all but calling for Gingrich to drop out:

Senior campaign strategist John Brabender said the key for the campaign going forward will be creating an opportunity to challenge Mitt Romney one-on-one, though Brabender maintained the Santorum campaign would not directly call on Gingrich to drop out of the race.

Based on Gingrich’s speech last night – in which he enlightened us with a protracted, completely inaccurate history of the race so far – he seems to have no intention of dropping out anytime soon. As untenable as his path to victory is, he may just be delusional enough to think he can pull it off.

Read Less

Mr. Inevitable Survives Another Scare

It was not the easiest of nights for Mitt Romney, who spent much of the evening on Super Tuesday watching Rick Santorum pile up unexpected victories in three states while taking an early lead in the big prize of Ohio. Yet when the dust had settled, Romney wound up squeaking out a 10,000-vote win in Ohio and could claim triumph in six of the ten states that held elections. This allowed him to pad his already large lead in delegates.  Just as important, Newt Gingrich’s win in his home state of Georgia gave the former speaker an excuse to stay in the race and therefore deny Santorum the opportunity to go head-to-head with Romney as the sole conservative in the race.

Santorum can claim to have exceeded expectations and to have held his own across the nation despite the grave financial and organizational advantages Romney holds over him. That Romney is a weak frontrunner who will continue to be damaged by a lengthy and nasty race cannot be denied. But unless Santorum can get Gingrich to drop out almost immediately — something that is not going to happen — the only reasonable conclusion to be drawn from a long evening of watching results from around the country is that Romney is still the only one of the GOP quartet who has a path to the nomination.

Read More

It was not the easiest of nights for Mitt Romney, who spent much of the evening on Super Tuesday watching Rick Santorum pile up unexpected victories in three states while taking an early lead in the big prize of Ohio. Yet when the dust had settled, Romney wound up squeaking out a 10,000-vote win in Ohio and could claim triumph in six of the ten states that held elections. This allowed him to pad his already large lead in delegates.  Just as important, Newt Gingrich’s win in his home state of Georgia gave the former speaker an excuse to stay in the race and therefore deny Santorum the opportunity to go head-to-head with Romney as the sole conservative in the race.

Santorum can claim to have exceeded expectations and to have held his own across the nation despite the grave financial and organizational advantages Romney holds over him. That Romney is a weak frontrunner who will continue to be damaged by a lengthy and nasty race cannot be denied. But unless Santorum can get Gingrich to drop out almost immediately — something that is not going to happen — the only reasonable conclusion to be drawn from a long evening of watching results from around the country is that Romney is still the only one of the GOP quartet who has a path to the nomination.

Romney is still losing conservatives and evangelicals as the GOP grassroots continue to resist the likely nominee. That’s why he had such a scare in Ohio and lost Tennessee, Oklahoma and North Dakota to Santorum. If he had but one conservative opponent that might be fatal, but so long as Gingrich continues to drain right-wing votes from Santorum, it will allow Romney to squeeze by with pluralities.

Yet, Romney is also the only candidate with the organization and the financial wherewithal to compete in every region of the country, allowing him to amass wins one way or the other. With Massachusetts, Vermont, Virginia, Idaho, Alaska and Ohio now in his column, Romney’s share of delegates will grow. At this stage of the race, the delegate math is more important than Santorum’s moral victories, meaning that despite the bad optics of the near loss in Ohio, Romney must still be considered the eventual nominee.

But so long as his opponents continue to win states, they will not drop out. The exception to this is Ron Paul, who failed again to win a single state but who will continue flogging his libertarian extremism. In the case of Gingrich’s taking Georgia, that is very much to Romney’s advantage. So far, Gingrich has flopped everywhere but in Georgia and neighboring South Carolina. In his speech last night, Gingrich again put on display the petulance and lack of grace that has become the hallmark of his presidential run as he spent most of his half-hour address whining about opposition from elites, “Wall Street” and Romney’s negative ads. Though his continued presence in the race seems motivated as much by spite against Romney as his own ambition, it is no small irony that by doing so he is providing inestimable aid to the former Massachusetts governor by taking away support from Santorum.

Santorum cannot help but be encouraged by his three wins as well as by the narrow loss in Ohio. That will allow him to continue to raise the money he needs to keep running though not enough to compete with the Romney juggernaut. One can look at the Pennsylvanian’s candidacy and ponder just how well he would be doing if Gingrich had dropped out weeks ago when it became apparent he had no chance of being the nominee. But even another couple of months of Santorum upsets and near-wins are not likely to accomplish anything more than to do further damage to the eventual nominee.

That’s a problem for Romney, who will spend the rest of the spring trying in vain to convince conservatives he is one of them while being belabored by Santorum for his Massachusetts health care law. But as trying as this process is for him, he must content himself with the fact that most of those now voting against him in GOP primaries and caucuses will eventually rally to his side once the alternative becomes another four years of Barack Obama.

Read Less

Santorum Wins Mean Trouble for Romney

Mitt Romney may well emerge from Super Tuesday with an enlarged delegate lead as well as the biggest prize if he holds onto his slim lead in Ohio. But the evening will be no blowout for the frontrunner. With Rick Santorum winning in Tennessee and Oklahoma and Newt Gingrich taking his home state of Georgia, there’s no doubt the race will go on for some time, with both conservative underdogs continuing to drain Romney’s resources and undermine his chances of uniting his party.

No matter what would have happened tonight, it’s doubtful that either Santorum or Gingrich would have dropped out. Yet, by preventing Romney from sweeping the map, the pair has ensured the outcome of the GOP contest is, if not exactly in doubt, still to be determined. The only unalloyed good news for Romney is that the victory of a bitter and resentful Gingrich in Georgia guarantees he will continue to benefit from a split conservative field.

Read More

Mitt Romney may well emerge from Super Tuesday with an enlarged delegate lead as well as the biggest prize if he holds onto his slim lead in Ohio. But the evening will be no blowout for the frontrunner. With Rick Santorum winning in Tennessee and Oklahoma and Newt Gingrich taking his home state of Georgia, there’s no doubt the race will go on for some time, with both conservative underdogs continuing to drain Romney’s resources and undermine his chances of uniting his party.

No matter what would have happened tonight, it’s doubtful that either Santorum or Gingrich would have dropped out. Yet, by preventing Romney from sweeping the map, the pair has ensured the outcome of the GOP contest is, if not exactly in doubt, still to be determined. The only unalloyed good news for Romney is that the victory of a bitter and resentful Gingrich in Georgia guarantees he will continue to benefit from a split conservative field.

Romney will rightly claim any result that leaves him much closer to the delegate count he needs to be the nominee is a big win. And if he can combine that with taking Ohio — an outcome that is still very much in doubt at the moment — it will be reasonable for him to spin Super Tuesday as a triumph for his candidacy. However, Santorum’s victories in Tennessee and Oklahoma not only will pump new life into the Pennsylvanian’s campaign, the results also reinforce Romney’s problems with conservatives. Rather than spending tomorrow talking about Romney’s inevitability, the discussion may be more about his continued difficulty in closing the deal with his own party’s base.

Unless either Gingrich or Santorum drops out — something that is highly unlikely — Romney is the inevitable GOP winner. Gingrich’s continued presence in the race all but guarantees that Santorum will never be able to get the one-on-one matchup with Romney that he thinks will bring him victory. But Santorum’s ability to beat him in two states despite a fundraising disadvantage and spending much of the last few weeks on the defensive about his views on social issues illustrates the frontrunner’s weakness. Combined with the likelihood that a nasty and expensive race will continue for weeks if not months deeper into the spring, that’s not a hopeful sign for Republicans. At a time when some slight improvement in the economy has put some wind in Barack Obama’s sails, the ongoing slugfest in which Romney remains the piñata of the right can only make it harder for him to eventually prevail in the fall.

Read Less