Mitt Romney wins Super Tuesday!
This must be the most pathetic Super Tuesday victory in modern history. Romney, who outspent his opponents 4 and sometimes 5 to 1 in many states, eked out a victory in the essential state of Ohio. This was the type of victory that feels like a defeat; waiting until the wee hours of the morning, worrying about votes from Cuyahoga county to put you over the top.
After a similar type of victory in Michigan, Romney needed a decisive win, but again failed to attain it. Besides Ohio, Tennessee was an utter disaster, with Romney falling to Rick Santorum by double digits in a state which is the least conservative of the southern states. Other than Virginia, where neither Newt nor Santorum were on the ballot, Romney only took states in the Northeast, including his home state of Massachusetts, and in Western states which he was favored to win for various other reasons.
The exit polls are telling. So which groups gave Romney trouble? Well, all of them. Yes, in Ohio Romney won women and was even with men. He lost strong conservatives but won somewhat conservative voters as well as moderates. He beat Santorum among Catholics. But frankly, all that doesn’t matter…ultimately, he tied Santorum in Ohio, which is bad enough.
So the real question, now that we are into March, is where are we, and where are we going?
1. The only candidate with the CHANCE TO WIN the nomination is Gov. Mitt Romney.
This is a truth most of my conservative brethren don’t want to except. Erick Erickson however has basically conceded as much. Numerically, there is no path to the nomination for Newt Gingrich nor Rick Santorum.
The argument from the Santorum camp is they have a chance if Newt leaves the race. First of all, does anyone believe Newt will just walk away now? Me neither. Second, several polls have shown that the beneficiary of Newt leaving would be…Mitt Romney. Whether this would bare out in reality is a question mark, but enough of one to wonder if Santorum has any strategy that would outright provide him victory.
How big a hill does Santorum have to climb? To win the nomination, he would need to win 61% of all remaining delegates. If you assume Romney wins the northeast delegates remaining, that means Santorum would have to win 67% of the other delegates. And if the unbound delegates (the approximately 100+ delegates who can vote whatever way they presume to) vote for Romney as expected, Santorum would have to win 71% of all remaining delegates. This is virtually impossible, and shows you the basic problem: there is no realistic path to the nomination for Rick Santorum.
So most likely, Mitt Romney will win the nomination.
All that said…
2. Even Mitt may not be able to close the deal.
Now, to be clear, even Romney’s path to 1144 is difficult. If all four candidates stay in the race, and races go as predicted, I added up and got to 1100 delegates for Romney…or 44 short of winning the nomination. That was a conservative approach to the delegate count, but shows how razor thin this margin is going to be. Romney will be digging and scraping for delegates well into the summer. I believe ultimately Romney will win enough delegates, and some states will break his way late that today we would not expect. However, that shows how uncertain this entire game is.
3. The only anti-Mitt strategy is the convention.
‘Open convention’. It sends conservatives into a frenzy.
The reality is, there is only one strategy to stop Mitt Romney, and that is to block him from enough delegates in order to send this to a convention floor fight in August. Prevent him from reaching the magic 1144 delegates he needs, and all of a sudden, the power is out of the hands of voters, and in the hands…of the establishment.
And this is precisely the problem with this strategy. It is not base conservatives that will decide our convention’s fate, but the very establishment that created this mess.
That is not to say we would not possibly be better off with an open convention. I think at this point, many of us would take a Chris Christie, for example, over Mitt Romney. Names such as Jeb Bush and Sarah Palin have been thrown out there, but are much more divisive names that would be harder to get the country to coalesce around.
Additionally, if Romney is short only 40 or so delegates, as I stated above, he could probably sway delegates simply by naming someone like Marco Rubio as his Vice President. Or, in an crunch, could sway Rick Santorum, though that would likely be disastrous for his general election campaign. In either case, even in the open convention scenario, you have to believe the most likely outcome is Mitt Romney is our nominee.
4. Mitt Romney can defeat Barack Obama.
I know in recent weeks, it has been conventional wisdom that this election is over, with people such as George Will stating it with virtual certainty. That entire thinking process is an utter joke.
First, lets look at history. In August of 2004, John Kerry led George W. Bush by 8 points…and lost by 3 points. In March of 1992, George H.W. Bush led all Democrat candidates (a divided contest at the time, much like this year) by large margins. In 1980, the few polls available showed Jimmy Carter defeating Ronald Reagan by double digits. Reagan won by 10 points.
Is this primary season brutal? Yes. Is Romney so far a pathetic candidate? Absolutely. But there is one thing that is quite clear: most long, arduous primary fights that don’t involve an incumbent tend to make candidates stronger, not weaker. Romney is going to improve as a candidate because of this fight, not be weakened because of it.
There is no historical reason to believe this election is over.
Furthermore, Obama is a weak candidate. If the economy is improving, Americans are barely feeling it. Numbers matters, such as the unemployment rate, but never matter as much as what the public sees on the ground. If they see their neighbors and relatives find work, Obama’s approval numbers will skyrocket.
That is not happening yet. Obama’s job approval rating, as measured by Gallup, is 45 percent or lower in 12 battleground states — Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. That is not conducive to re-election.
Let us remember: a GOP candidate does not need a huge shift to win the Presidency. We are likely to take Indiana, Virginia, and North Carolina back. Then, we need to win Ohio, Florida, and a combination of states for 14 more electoral votes…or Pennsylvania. That is not an easy task, but extremely doable…even for Mitt Romney.
Conservatives and the GOP need to take a deep breath. This nomination process will drag out, probably until May or June. If Mitt wins, he wins. If not, it goes to the convention. But the reality is, there will be a GOP candidate standing in September, and that candidate will be a viable legitimate alternative to the current occupant of the Oval Office. Simply put, despite all the gloom and doom, we have a realistic shot at defeating Barack Obama on November 6th.