Well, most results are in and I’m going to call it: There’s no clean closure to this Republican Race in sight.
At this point, that’s basically bad news for all Republican nominees involved since the results ensured that no candidate will drop out and this carnival will continue. Here are my thoughts on each of the candidates and what tonight meant for them.
Mitt Romney: Mitt Romney will most likely be crowned tonight’s big winner thanks to a win, albeit a close one, in Ohio. No, his campaign isn’t really in better shape than it was before. No, he didn’t win virtually any counties outside the major metro areas in Ohio. But he won, and that’s what matters for delegates and momentum. Romney’s real problem is that stubborn elephant in the room that he still isn’t winning over those that call themselves “very conservative” or people making less than $100,000 a year in these important swing states. Even more concerning, at least in my opinion, is that he was only able to garner 60% of the vote in Virginia against Ron Paul. 40% of voting Virginians, a state supposed to be friendly to Romney (if pundits are to be believed), wouldn’t vote for Romney when the only alternative on the ballot was the “weakest” candidate in the race from a national electability standpoint. Virginia shows that there are still a lot of Not-Romney voters out there, and they’re just not willing to come around to him yet. Personally, I think most of them will come around in November if it comes to that. Still though, at the end of the night he has the most delegates and won the most states, all of which were pretty predictable outside of Ohio, and that is what will matter for momentum. He’s still the “inevitable” nominee to beat and he will still have the most delegates, the most machine-like campaign, and likely the most money. The overall dynamic of the race really hasn’t changed one bit from the Romney perspective, and that’s at least “okay” if you’re a Romney fan. The crater the Romney campaign has been driving themselves into is that independents and conservative Democrats, must-win candidate groups if he wants to beat President Obama in November, like him less and less as the campaign goes on. Whether the ads come from him or his Super PAC, the negative tone and frequent gaffes have really hurt his image and he’s got a lot of work to do if he wants to improve it before November.
Rick Santorum: Rick Santorum did relatively well tonight too, which means he’ll be sticking around a lot longer as well. Tennessee and Oklahoma were significant wins for him, especially since Gingrich was coming from behind and hurting Santorum enough to possibly propel either Romney or Gingrich into the winner’s seat in those races. Unfortunately for both of them, Santorum hung on and won those states. Unfortunately for Paul, Santorum also won North Dakota pretty handily. Winning Ohio would have been huge news for Santorum, but as it is he didn’t come out of the day too badly. Interestingly, if he had been able to win over the voters who cast ballots for Rick Perry or Jon Huntsman (I really, really, really don’t see the point in voting for people not even running anymore, by the way), he could have won Ohio, but those people made their stubborn views known today. His numbers with women are still weak and he still doesn’t have a lot of appeal to the more moderate or independent voters, both of which could be major issues if he ended up with the nomination, but I find it unlikely that he can come from behind in the all-or-nothing states and grab the reins away from Romney, who already has a significant delegate lead.
Newt Gingrich: Tonight was a disappointing night for Newt Gingrich, no matter what his campaign may be saying right now. Yes, he won Georgia, his delegate-rich home state and a state he worked very hard in the past few weeks. Yes, he came from behind in the polls in Tennessee and Oklahoma and did considerably better than most would have predicted, but he really needed a couple wins to get some momentum back on his side. The good news for the Gingrich campaign is there are a couple more contests in the next few days he may fare well in, and with a decisive win in Georgia his campaign can continue fighting on. However, and I really don’t love saying this, I think his campaign is probably done for in the next several weeks. Gingrich isn’t doing that badly in delegates in all honesty, he’s only 40ish behind Santorum, but as long as both of them are in the race it will be almost impossible for either of them to grab enough delegates away from the other to stop Romney. Even combined they would trail Romney, but there are some factors that can’t be predicted that might have allowed either of them to perform better if the other weren’t in the race. At any rate, Santorum’s moment in the spotlight appears it is going to continue, and that’s bad news for Gingrich. Unless Santorum somehow implodes spectacularly and releases his delegates to Gingrich, a highly unlikely event, Gingrich will need an act of God to get enough momentum back on his side to seize the nomination. I don’t necessarily think he should drop out, the voters have delivered enough delegates to both Gingrich and Santorum to let them know that they are liked, but they can’t all be liked at the same time and beat Romney.
Ron Paul: Tonight was a mixed night for Ron Paul too. He performed pretty well against Romney in the two-man Virginia contest, and he came in second in North Dakota and Idaho, all of which will be loudly proclaimed as wins by his exuberant campaign spokesmen who like to keep my inbox flooded with lengthy emails. Despite the fact he didn’t win any of them, he just did better than most people were willing to give him credit for, the Paul campaign will still happily jump up on the soapbox that all but his most ardent supporters are growing weary of and claim the establishment is afraid of him and he’d be winning if it were a fair fight. Considering he has received a good bit of air time and debate time this election cycle and he’s one of the most consistently financed candidates, I have a hard time believing it’s not a fair fight for him, but that’s not the point. The point is Virginia, North Dakota, and Idaho all went pretty well for him. More interesting than those states, or the Paul campaign’s pattern of rhetoric, at least in my opinion, is that Paul came in second in Vermont. I hadn’t heard near as much speculation about his performance in Vermont, so his ability to beat Santorum and Gingrich on the east coast will be a legitimate strength to proclaim for the Paul camp in the weeks to come. Alaska’s results aren’t all in yet, but it appears he will not do nearly as well as many had predicted there. Not only will he not get the win he was needing, it looks like he won’t com in second either, which is disappointing considering he was the only candidate to visit Alaska. This Super Tuesday performance means the point I made last time, and have been making for some time now, still remains: Ron Paul cannot, and will not, win the nomination proceeding like this. Before you send me angry messages or comments about how he’d win in a fair fight (and in the future, please explain to me what a fair fight is, I really don’t know what you’re talking about there), do the math. Paul hasn’t won a single state, despite claiming several times he was about to win one. He just can’t appeal to enough voters overall to deliver a win for his campaign, and without some wins, and some big ones, he can’t rack up enough delegates to get the nomination. Right now he has less than a sixth of the delegates that Romney has. If Gingrich, Santorum, or both, choose to drop out and release their delegates, you know damn well they’re not going to ask them to support Paul. Don’t get me wrong, I like Paul. I like some of his ideas and I respect his consistency and conviction, but if you think he can still win the nomination with a shortage of friendly states ahead for him on the calendar and all-or-nothing state contests nearing, you’re living in a fantasy world.
Anyway, I’ve rambled on long enough for now. The bottom line is that there is still no decisive winner and the Republican voters are still very divided. Super Tuesday took us one big step closer to a brokered convention, and the Obama campaign must be loving the thought of that.
As always, your thoughts, questions, and rants are welcome.