Quote of the Day: Why the Republican Presidential Nomination Race Is Not Over

Our political Quote of the Day comes from The Daily Beast’s John Avlon, who explains why the 2012 race for the Republican nomination is not over despite the blowout victory of mega-funded former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney over his chief rival, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Avlon begins his post with this:

Yes, Mitt Romney had a big win in Florida last night. He’s won two of the first four primary states, totaling 84 delegates to date. But he needs 1,144 to clinch the Republican nomination—he’s just 7 percent of the way there. So call off the coronation—give people in the other 46 states a chance to vote.

I worked in the news media for many years and that is indeed typical of what happens with news types and analysts. An election sparks all kind of assured pronouncements on what it “really” means and what “will” happen in the future. Yes, it is indeed (a f the old conventional wisdom (a form of pack journalism, pack analysis and group think) which is quietly filed, deep-sixed, swept under the rug, exiled so no one sees it, if it is proven wrong. Think of all the analysis about how Texas Gov. Rick Perry was a virtual sure bet to enter the race and capture the nomination. Think of all the obituaries for Gingrich. MORE:

“We’re in the first quarter,” says John Brabender, chief aide to Rick Santorum, responding to suggestions that the race is over with a simple, “Are you kidding?” Likewise, Team Newt and Ron Paul’s campaign have sworn to carry this fight on.

And while momentum and money and media perception are all very important, in the end math matters the most when it comes to capturing the nomination. And it is mathematically impossible for any candidate to win the requisite number of delegates until late April or early May. So unless the other candidates cede the field entirely, there will be a contest. And given the debates still going on inside the GOP, that’s healthy.

A significant obstacle in the Romney march to the nomination is the fact that most states in the next two months are proportional rather than winner-take-all—meaning that Ron Paul’s strong supporters can start adding to their delegate count even if they don’t win outright, just as social conservatives might rally around Santorum and Newt supporters around Newt. Given that each of the remaining candidates represents a separate conservative constituency, the march to 1,144 is likely to be long. Proportional allocation of delegates “will slow Romney down until he can be defeated,” argues Brabender, with just a hint of overconfidence.

Avlon then examines Romney’s strengths. I’d argue that a KEY factor to watch is whether GOP talk show titan Rush Limbaugh comes out and backs Romney. It’s no joke: whatever Limbaugh eventually decides in Republican politics today will determine how many Republican partisans will fall in line. If Limbaugh seems sympathetic to Gingrich; it goes on. If not and he says this thing needs to be over to focus on beating Barack Obama? Gingrich is toast and Democrats would be dumb in thinking the Republican Party won’t unite behind Romney because if Rush is on board all of Limbaugh’s reasons and rationalizations for supporting Romney will pop up among many GOPers (I’ve always been amazed at people who verbally and in writing virtually regurgitate Limbaugh to me). Serious: watch Limbaugh and you’ll know if it’s going to go on or is over.

Avlon then articulates what many of us who are registered independent votes feel:

As an independent, I don’t have a dog in this fight. But I do have an old-fashioned civic notion about people being able to vote and have their voices heard. The primaries are not just a media exercise—and despite our penchant for short-attention-span theater, we shouldn’t just fast-forward to the general election.

He ends his post this way:

Nonetheless, it won’t be until winner-take-all states—like Texas, with its 155 delegates, more than one 10th the total needed—start taking hold in April that the nomination really starts to be a done deal. And that’s called earning it.

The point is not that I don’t think Mitt Romney will be the eventual Republican nominee, barring a mutiny at the Tampa convention. And I fully expect that Romney staffers and spinners will be arguing for the other candidates to drop out ASAP. What bothers me is other people being complicit in their con, the cynicism, and/or insider arrogance of observers who want to call the game before it’s over, before more people have a chance to vote.

In our political process, we spend the better part of a year looking forward to the primaries, following candidates on every step of the early stages of the campaign. And then when the primaries actually start happening in the real presidential year, we can’t be bothered to let the process play out.

“It’s not over” isn’t a statement of defiance, denial or wishful thinking. It’s a fact. The other candidates can continue on—and more voters deserve to have their voices heard.

Meanwhile, New York magazine’s Dan Amira offers these five reasons why Gingrich “Should Keep Running, Forever.”

And Andrew Malcolm notes that with Newt politically “dead,” Rick Santorum is the only surviving, authentic anti-Mitt.

The copyrighted cartoon by Parker, Florida Today, is licensed to run on TMV. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

2 Comments

  1. Well, Gingrich will be riding that wave of momentum generated by Herman Cain’s mammoth endorsement :-)

  2. Nah, its over. Romney’s got this locked up. I’m not saying that tens of millions are not still going to be blown by SuperPac’s in an orgy of negative ad campaigning still, but unless there is a major scandal breaking there is no candidate that can win in a general, and it seems the GOP is finally ready to swallow their pill and get Romney nominated.

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