Why Romney Will (May) Win
The Republican presidential nominee will be Mitt Romney. Here’s why.
As Josh Marshall points out, John McCain got stomped in Michigan among self-described Republicans. He also got stomped among Republicans in Iowa, and even lost (though closely) among Republicans in New Hampshire. Independents might like him, but basically, John McCain just isn’t doing well among Republicans in the Republican primary.
Elsewhere, Ezra Klein highlights Rush Limbaugh’s spittle-flecked hatred of both McCain and Mike Huckabee: “I’m here to tell you, if either of these two guys get the nomination, it’s going to destroy the Republican Party.” Ouch.
Put those things together with the fact that future primaries are mostly closed, which means that only Republicans will be voting in the Republican contests, and McCain’s chances suddenly don’t look so good. Ditto for Huckabee, who’s shown very little ability to appeal much beyond his evangelical base. And ditto for Rudy Giuliani, who might very well be dead before Super Tuesday even rolls around.
Like Kevin, I see Romney as the eventual winner of this race — and, if I may pat myself on the back, I have been saying so for a long time. I never bought into Huckabee — he did well, as he should have, in Iowa, but his appeal is narrow and he peaked early after a sudden rise to the top. McCain did well in New Hampshire, as he should have, and he may yet win South Carolina, but I can’t see the GOP establishment and the conservative movement (other than the neocons, who are on the fringe anyway) fully accepting him as their preferred nominee. He will have renewed momentum if he wins South Carolina — and he is well ahead in the polls — and greater legitimacy in the party if Thompson drops out and endorses him, but it will be tough to beat Romney in the closed, all-Republican primaries to come. (And, yes, Giuliani may be a non-factor now.)
A major concern for Romney, as Kevin mentions, is that he is doing poorly in national polls, but that could change, and likely would change, if the race turned into a two-man contest between him and McCain. Presented with those two options, Romney would look pretty good, and much better than he is looking now, to many Republicans.
McCain’s post-Iowa “comeback” has been impressive, to be sure, and he has a solid base of support not just among independents but within the Republican Party (a base that would possibly be expanded and reinforced with Thompson’s support), but I just don’t see how he can attract majority support in a party that considers him something of a disloyal maverick. It will be difficult for him to win the all-Republican primaries and it would be nearly impossible for him to win a brokered convention. His only hope may be for Huckabee and Giuliani to remain in the race and to squeak out narrow victories in a crowded and divided field — and to maintain a formidable enough lead in national polls to look like a clear frontrunner.
Still, nothing is clear. See Marc Ambinder: “Four primaries and three winners have exposed, according to the dominant media, a Republican party that is listless, demoralized and casting about for unity. There aren’t many Republicans who would disagree.”
A prediction: Romney-Huckabee. What do you think? Any other suggestions?
On our side, another prediction: Clinton-Feingold. Again, what do you think? Any other suggestions?
(Cross-posted from The Reaction.)