Terrance Heath

The GOP's Primary Race to Oblivion

Filed By Terrance Heath | March 19, 2012 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: GOP presidential campaigns, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Republican Primary, Rick Santorum, road to oblivion, Ron Paul

The other day I wrote that Mitt Romney will have a long, humiliating road to the GOP convention. Michael Tomasky has detailed the stops along and humiliations along that road, and it’s not pretty. He predicts Romney may end up with enough delegates to win the nomination, but at the cost of losing more that 20 states “to a candidate who was a joke four months ago.”

What looks like a long, hard slog for Romney may also be a road to oblivion for the GOP.

Tomasky predicts that Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Indiana, West Virginia, Texas, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Nebraska will likely end up in Santorum’s column. The District of Columbia, Maryland, Thumbnail image for confusing-road-sign-large-web-view.jpgNew York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Oregon will end up in Romney’s column. Illinois and Missouri seem up for grabs.

Tomasky doesn’t make predictions for California, New Jersey, New Mexico, Montana, South Dakota, and Utah. I’d put California, Utah and possibly New Jersey in Romney’s column. That leaves Montana and South Dakota to Santorum, in my book. And if I had to guess which way New Mexico will end up, I’d lean towards Santorum.

I don’t know what the delegate math looks like after all of that, but Tomasky seems to think that it places Romney’s “inevitability” in question.

Show me where in that schedule Romney lowers the boom. It's hard to see. Maybe if he pulls off Texas. Kind of hard to see that happening, but he will spend more money than Jerry Jones did on his stadium. And he probably will win California, at the very end of the process, although again, we're talking about a fairly conservative GOP electorate. The Romney knockout-punch dates have already come and gone, and no one is prone on the canvas.

Now, the different delegate rules in the various states, combined with the obvious fact that the voting hasn't taken place yet, makes assigning delegate counts impossible. Santorum may yet have more slip-ups here. In Illinois, for example, his campaign didn't file delegate slates in three of the 18 congressional districts. But can Romney hit 1,144 given the menu of remaining states? He is only 43 percent of the way home right now, with 495, and more than half the states have voted or caucused, although four big ones remain.

It’s still hard for me to believe that Rick Santorum could end up the GOP nominee, but it would could happen. Some people think he’s looking more electable in states like Pennsylvania, and looking more presidential over all.

As a progressive, the thought of “President Santorum” causes me to lose sleep at night. But should he get the nomination, I’ll take some comfort in knowing that 20 percent of Romney’s supporters would chose Barack Obama over Rick Santorum.

The big-picture narrative of the Republican race has always focused on Romney’s struggles to win over his party’s base, and with good reason. But the Pew data suggests the gulf works both ways and that if Santorum or anyone else in the party assumes Romney’s fans would automatically get on board with a more conservative alternative, they’re mistaken.

Conservative columnist Michael Medved believes it doesn’t have to be this way. With GIngrich and Ron Paul out of the way by November, he says that no matter who gets the nomination — Romney or Santorum — should stop using the moderate as “a curse word,” so as not so scare away what moderates and independents haven’t quite made it to the exits — yet. Has he listened to these guys lately? Has he listened to Romney? Has he listened to Santorum? Not gonna happen, Mike.

Unless Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul stage a miraculous comeback (and we’re talking biblical proportions here), it looks like Republicans will end up with a severely weakened nominee in Romney, or a deeply divided party with Santorum as the nominee.


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