I’ve been quiet lately, and not because there isn’t a lot going on: The Supreme Court is hearing arguments about the healthcare law (“Obamacare” to some), the story of the shooting in Florida continues to evolve and grow as a movement, and the Republican Primary is still grinding on, albeit with a couple new bumps in the road. Since I don’t want to talk about the healthcare law and I can’t do the Martin case justice right now, I’ll stick to my comfort zone and hash out the latest Republican Nomination craziness.
So, what has happened?
Newt’s “Southern Revival” has become a Southern Foreclosure. The Gingrich campaign is underwater on its mortgage. It’s not that it hasn’t had its ups and downs, and it’s not even that it hasn’t been worse off before, but now that it is crunch time they simply didn’t deliver when they needed to in the southern states. With Santorum taking Louisiana and no potentially Gingrich friendly states until May, there’s good reason for even his most ardent supporters to be cynical. I think there is one main reason behind Newt’s decline, and I’d be surprised if his campaign staff didn’t agree: No full debates since February and no new ones on the calendar. Newt’s strength is in his verbal performance, and when he can’t show that off and doesn’t have the money to beat back negative ads or campaign as effectively as the others, his campaign loses steam. Now that they’re laying off a third of their campaign staff and losing his campaign manager to “refocus” the campaign, it is difficult to impossible to see a scenario where Newt will have the funds, let alone the momentum or delegates, to make another splash before Tampa.
Santorum shouldn’t want Gingrich out after all. Santorum has said for weeks that if Newt Gingrich dropped out of the race he could beat Mitt Romney in the primaries. Gingrich said similar things about Santorum back when momentum was on his side. What is proving really interesting is that likely neither are correct, but Santorum is almost certainly wrong. Yes, Santorum has won a fair number of states and he did win Louisiana recently, but he has gone from leading Romney nationally to trailing him by 10 points. I know, these things seem to change every week in this election cycle and this may be a fluke, but I don’t think it is. In addition to slipping poll numbers, recent polls show that more Gingrich supporters back Romney as their second choice than Rick Santorum. If Gingrich was out of the race and the numbers were run again, Romney’s lead over Santorum actually expands to 15 points. Apparently, despite what Rick has been saying lately, he and Gingrich don’t have the same base of support and his numbers against Romney actually look worse in a more head-to-head situation. What does that mean for Santorum? There’s trouble on the horizon, and any Tampa strategy against Romney is looking less and less feasible as time goes on.
Romney, despite his best efforts, is gaining momentum. The man who brought you the trees are the right height, the $10,000 off the cuff bet, and some less than believable southern pandering about grits continues to be the Teflon warrior. I don’t doubt the man’s intelligence, but he has a knack for saying things that the media loves to replay non-stop and would give most campaign managers a heart attack. That said, his numbers are improving nationally, his financial situation is rebounding, and it looks like he can actually wrap up the nomination before Tampa if things go well. So why all the “good” news for Romney? Personally, I think the voters are tired. We all liked the idea of being involved and many of us liked the idea of the 2012 primaries lasting long enough for our states to make a difference, but after three full months of this mess and its unpredictability, people are getting weary of trying to stay informed about each week’s gaffes, polls, and primaries and are looking for something stable. That something is Romney, and the chaos that threatened to take him down may actually propel him to the nomination. And now that polls show that Gingrich supporters are more likely to support Romney than Santorum, bad news for Newt is good news for Mitt, and it looks like there’s going to be quite a bit of bad news for Newt in the next month. Romney may not have it wrapped up yet, but Santorum is slipping (not surprising given his own unpredictable and polarizing nature) and Gingrich never bounced back, so it’s his to lose right now.
Ron Paul… You know what, I just don’t know anymore. I get mail and emails from all the campaigns, and Ron Paul’s comes across as the most angry and self-deluded. Despite the delegate math, the inability to win a single state’s primary or caucus (remember the Paul’s campaign strategy to win the caucus states?), and no momentum of any sort in the polls to indicate things will change, Ron Paul’s campaign continues to proclaim that victory is within their grasp and they’d be doing better if things weren’t stacked against them, and so on. That would be a lot more believable if they hadn’t been saying the same thing in these emails for months and that victory was actually even within their field of vision much less grasp, but it’s a campaign line they haven’t tired of. Apparently his supporters haven’t either, since money bomb after money bomb raises millions to pour back into the campaign. I don’t understand this, to be honest. I like a lot of things about Paul but also have big reservations, which I’ve discussed previously. But at this point in the game, who in their right mind thinks he can somehow pull off a convention strategy and overthrow not just Romney, but the other two as well? It just doesn’t add up. Polls show that Paul’s supporters are very loyal, but he’s barely a blip on the radar as a second choice candidate from the others. If any one of them drops out, it strengthens one of the others, not Paul. It’s not the media, or the establishment, or whoever that is “against” Paul or somehow keeping him down, it’s reality. The reality is that despite all the excitement, the seemingly endless supply of grassroots money and vocal support, and the unique ideas, the overwhelming majority of people are not willing to vote for him in the primaries. Potential national election match up polls are pointless when no one will vote to make you a national candidate. If Paul supporters are still donating millions to make a statement or express dissatisfaction, that I can at least respect. Otherwise, I can dig a pit in my back yard if they’re looking for a place to dump money.
Well, that’s all for now. For things coming up, I think that Romney will sweep the upcoming April 3rd primaries and strengthen his delegate count further, Santorum will continue to fight to get a stronger foothold in the Romney-friendly April contests, Gingrich will likely conserve what resources he has left and stay visible but low-key until May when the calendar looks friendlier, and Ron Paul will continue on.