So did Mitt shut the door? Are we ready for a coronation? Almost everyone who responded to that question thought “not,” that plenty could happen over the coming months. Allie, however, said if Newt lost by 10+ points, he might go home. She may be right!
What will Newt do? He has vowed to stay in until the convention (“46 States To Go” said the waving placards). Newt did not congratulate Romney for his victory, and as Steve pointed out to me, it seems like it is very personal now. Romney’s attacks have likely denied Newt the nomination, and hell hath no fury like this Speaker scorned. He may stay in it just to keep punching Mitt, as long as Super-Shelley Adelson is there to foot the bill. (Obviously, this is David Axelrod’s dream.) Newt’s hope is to remain relevant for the next month until some southern states begin to check in on Super Tuesday – a strategy somewhat compromised by his inability to get on the Virginia ballot, the state he calls home today! Newt has shown amazing comeback potential, but without a debate for another three weeks, or a major primary for Super-Shelley to toss some more anti-Mitt ads around on Newt’s behalf, it will be hard to dent Mitt’s armor.
Rick Santorum, standing in Nevada as I write this, is ready for a stealth campaign, waiting for Newt to blow up, explode and/or exit so he can assume the mantle of the far right. And also continue to demonstrate his chops as a potential VP for Mitt – he’s certainly articulate, a great attack dog, gives Mitt heft on the right and some energy for the base, he’s got the anti-Obama lines down, and he’s from Pennsylvania, a key swing state.
And Ron Paul will carry on, as he did in 2008, at least until June. Who knows what his endgame is…that is, he’ll have some influence with the delegates he accumulates, but what he wants in return is unclear to me. Thoughts welcome!
Larry Levit and I dethroned Steve in the projection game, each of us 15.2 “off” or about 3 per candidate (including the all others) in Florida. Once again we all missed the size of the rout, although Steve came closest on Mitt, but badly missed the Newt/Santorum split and overcalled Ron Paul. Tom Cox went wild in projecting the “all other” category, throwing in about 5% each for Marco Rubio, Mitch Daniels and Eli Manning! If I apportion those calls back to the serious candidates proportionate, he would have indeed won! (This may also explain Tom’s rather desultory annual results in Fantasy Baseball….)
If one considers the 2011 winnowing process leading up to Iowa as “Phase 1” and the heavily media-covered Iowa-New Hampshire-South Carolina-Florida contests as “Phase 2,” we now head into a breather of sorts, the “Phase 3” quiet month of February, a month that consists of four caucuses and two primaries. And then comes “Phase 4,” a.k.a. “Not Quite as Super a Tuesday As in the Past” -- but still 437 delegates will be at stake on Tuesday, March 6, which is about 100 more in one day than will have been up for grabs up to that date.
Here’s a thumbnail sketch of the upcoming February contests. It is quite a kind group of primaries to a Mr. Mitt Romney. You’ll follow the pattern soon enough…
- Feb 4: Nevada caucus, 28 delegates, proportional allocation. Next door neighbor to one of Mitt’s “home states,” Utah, Nevada went for Romney by a huge margin in 2008, 51% to 14% for Ron Paul and 13% McCain. A lay down for Mitt in 2012? Sure, but Rick Santorum is out there now courting the Tea Party folks, Sherry Angle and the like.
- Feb. 4-11: Maine caucus, 24 delegates, nonbinding. Maine has a crazy process that takes a week to select non-binding delegates. Even I’m not planning on being glued to C-SPAN or whoever might cover this. Even if it was a scintillating process, Maine too is a neighbor for Mitt, and he won 52% of the vote there in 2008.
- Feb. 7: Minnesota caucus, 40 delegates, non-binding. At least they do this caucus in one day! Notice the pattern…isn’t Minnesota next door to Michigan, another Mitt home state? (Actually not, but only due to an 90-mile sliver of Wisconsin.) He got 41% of the vote here in 2008, trouncing McCain.
- Feb. 7: Colorado caucus, 36 delegates, non-binding. Colorado is next door to Utah! Mitt won 60% of the vote in 2008! (Mitt did lose the nomination in 2008, right? He sure had a nice run with these states)
- Feb 28: Michigan primary, 30 delegates, a hybrid primary (don’t ask!). Mitt was born and raised in Michigan!!! His father was Governor there, two terms! He won 39% of the vote in 2008 and beat McCain!
- Feb. 28: Arizona primary, 29 delegates, winner take all. Ah finally, a primary Mitt lost in 2008. Not because he wasn’t a neighbor…of course Arizona shares a border with Utah. But Arizona was John McCain’s home state, and he did lose to him, 47% to 36%. Mitt was therefore a good enough neighbor to get within 11 points of the home-state Senator, wow.
Just for fun, I did a forecast of every remaining primary and caucus, using the following assumptions:
- All four candidates stay in
- Romney wins most Northeast, Midwest and West states; Gingrich takes the South
- The winner gets 40% in most primaries but 50%+ in “home states” and some neighbors
- Paul and Santorum get a steady 15% in most contests
- Follow allocation guidelines in each state re proportional versus winner-take-all
- Certain exceptions along the way, e.g. Virginia where only Romney and Paul are on the ballot, and Santorum doing well in Pennsylvania and Paul in Texas
This is HARDLY scientific; I have not investigated each state for its unique considerations, but I think the above assumptions are decent for the purpose of the drill. I’ve attached the results. It’s pretty remarkable! Romney ends up with 1,156 delegates….just 15 more than he needs to win the nomination.
That basically shows you that Romney has a very strong hand, albeit not a lay down. He can smell it now, and his biggest decision is how much time to spend attacking Obama versus Newt. A tricky game, since an unchecked Newt seems to resurface.
None of the other candidates really have a path to the prize. The South can’t really deny Mitt the nomination, but a weak showing in the South will underscore Romney’s inability to excite the base and that would certainly hurt the turnout come November. It’s hard to imagine Newt ever winning the nomination given how effectively the negatives hurt him, especially when lobbed by people like former and future candidates Bob Dole and Chris Christie.
Perhaps there are only two paths to deny Mitt the nomination:
- Newt finally packs in it, bowing to the reality of protecting his standing in the party and thereby keeping his pundit income flowing. Santorum catches on with his sympathetic family story, his razor sharp debate performances, and his compelling message as the candidate who offers a true contrast to Obama. Charles McLean points out that the media coverage of Mitt’s certain win in Nevada will likely focus on the depth of his support from the Mormons, news that could result in evangelical Christian backlash. This obviously would help Santorum, and if he could start to surpass Newt in some of the caucus states (and keep the coffers flowing), he might offer a credible challenge on Super Tuesday.
- A third party Tea Party run….people like Bloomberg and Huntsman will not challenge Romney, but Sarah Palin might! She announces she may run, and it all leads to a deal being cut where Palin exits if, say, the establishment goes for Mitch Daniels at the convention….with Palin as VP! Ha ha!!!!
Any other scenarios people can see?
Back soon with updates on the caucuses….