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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Alabama and Mississippi: Spin

What a night! For the third time this primary season, an ostensibly certain Romney march to the nomination turned out to hold a sizeable skirmish. If Romney is Napoleon, last night was Borodino. The question we're now forced to ask: What will be the state of Moscow (Tampa and the Republican National Convention) when Romney finally gets there?

With Santorum's double-victory in the south, and Gingrich's double runner-up, and Romney's double-third, how will each of the candidates spin these results in the coming days? Santorum and Gingrich's deficits actually grew, so the primary standings look rather similar. For further reference, here's the upcoming Republican Primary schedule:

March 17: Missouri (Caucus)--52 (actually counts this time)
March 18: Puerto Rico (Caucus)--23 (Winner Take All)
March 20: Illinois (indescribable)--69 (big one)
March 24: Louisiana (primary)--46 (proportional, southern)
April 3:
Wisconsin (primary)--42 (Winner Take All)
Maryland (primary)--37 (Winner Take All)
Washington DC (primary)--19 (Winner Take All)
=98 on April 3

Then a big break until April 24's New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island primaries, worth 231 delegates combined.

On to the spin, in descending order of finish in the southern states. And heck, how about some movie quotes for each spin?

The Santorum Spin
Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!

After Super Tuesday, things looked rough for Santorum. Romney won a majority of the states. He extended his delegate lead. He won primaries and caucuses. He was the only candidate winning states in multiple regions of the US. Rick Santorum was on his last legs as his poll numbers continued to flatten while Romney pulled away.

And then March 13 happened. Moving forward, Santorum will repeatedly point to the current primary map. Mitt Romney has yet to win a state in middle or southern America. (The only possible exception--Virginia--was a state where only Romney and Ron Paul were on the ballot, and still Romney couldn't win a supermajority.) How can the Romney Campaign continue to claim inevitability for the Republican nomination when he does so poorly in Republican states? It's wholly nonsensical. Last night, 70 percent of two conservative states voted against the so-called "inevitable" nominee. That's unprecedented in primary history this late into the primary season, barring the anomalous home states of the favorite's opponents.

Simply, Mitt Romney cannot be considered inevitable, and the Republicans in the blue states will eventually come to this realization. Last night was the tipping point toward that shift in thought. Santorum won't catch Romney, but he'll stop Romney from reaching 1,144 delegates. Moreover, Santorum will have all the momentum after the primary season and can therefore make a serious challenge to Romney at August's Republican National Convention.

The Gingrich Spin
I love the smell of napalm in the morning. It smells like victory.

Gingrich is a fully loaded, erratically aimed, potentially lethal weapon, attempting to destroy anything in its path. He lobs grenades at Mitt Romney's position as the media's candidate. He sprays bullets at and around Rick Santorum in an attempt to be a more legitimate challenge to Romney and the standard-bearer of conservatives. To serve both ends, he's continually dropping napalm across the entire field of the Republican Party, hurting its chances to line up behind either candidate before the convention.

And if his napalm attack gets the primary to the convention? That would be a victory for Newt Gingrich. After the primary season, he's counting on a "whole new conversation"--two months for delegates to debate who the best nominee would be to stand up to President Obama. Gingrich thinks that in such a conversation, he comes out on top.

Short of that, if Gingrich amasses a few hundred delegates and neither Romney nor Santorum reach 1,144 before the convention, Gingrich is in the position of a "kingmaker." How glorious would that be for Gingrich--Romney and Santorum wooing him, offering untold benefits ranging anywhere from national chairman to cabinet position to the vice-presidency. He might enjoy that more than actually being President!

The Romney Spin
Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.

It's not as bad as it looks. I swear. The Real Clear Politics Standings:
1. Romney--495 (+40 from before Tuesday)
2. Santorum--234 (+35)
4. Gingrich--142 (+25)
3. Paul--64 (NC)

Of the 935 delegates projected thus far, Romney has won 52.94 percent. There are still 1,351 delegates left to allocate. Romney needs to win 649 of those to get to 1,144. That's 48 percent of the remaining delegates, below the pace Romney has set thus far. Moreover, almost all remaining "winner-take-all" states favor Romney, meaning he only needs to win about 40 percent of the delegates from other contests. Only a few southern states remain, as do many superdelegates, all of which will run to Romney once he's in position to secure 1,144.

So, let's take a look at the primary calendar, shown earlier in this post. Santorum will win Missouri, but then Romney will take Puerto Rico (winner-take-all) and sizeable Illinois (proportional, but Chicago will act as Romney's savior). Then a close race in Louisiana on March 24 will mark the end of a hectic stretch. The next set of primaries are ten days later, when Wisconsin, Maryland, and DC will go to the polls--all winner-take-all--with Romney winning at least two of them. Then a three-week break before the April 24's New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island primaries, worth 231 delegates combined. They're all proportional. Santorum will win Pennsylvania, but Romney will take larger New York and the other three. This would give Romney six or seven of the most recent eight contests, and eight, nine, or ten of the most recent eleven. Momentum will be back in his corner.

By then, in terms of delegate count, Romney will surpass 800 delegates with 14 states remaining, including Texas (155 delegates), California (172 delegates), New Jersey (50 delegates), and Utah (40 delegates). He has a strong chance to win all of New Jersey (Thank you, Chris Christie) and Utah (thank you, Joseph Smith) and their winner-take-all rules, so we can estimate Romney at 900 without even counting the 200-plus he'll get from Texas and California. Thus, he eclipses 1,100, and I haven't even accounted for North Carolina, Indiana, West Virginia, Nebraska, Oregon, Kentucky, Arkansas, South Dakota, or Montana, which shoul talk on another hundred.

Of course, it's impossible to accurately prognosticate this many states that far out. After Santorum wins in Missouri on Saturday, maybe Romney's numbers collapse across the board and he won't win by the margins estimated. And if Santorum ever "steals" a Romney state--say, Illinois or New York--then the numbers really would have to be crunched again.

That order for Santorum, however, is tall. So what's Romney's plan?

Just keep swimming.

The PPFA Spin
Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!

It honestly seems like the Republican Party has no idea what to do. They want unity, but can't decide on a candidate. They want strength, but only if they get their guy. They want Romney more than anyone else, but not as much as they don't want Romney. They don't want their candidates to fight, but negative ads are moving polls. A party that once prided itself on being organized and in control can't decide on their last two candidates, to say nothing of their nominee. All the while, Romney marches on, hoping that math trumps momentum.

Prediction: Ultimately, Napoleon reached Moscow, only to find it flames. Tampa will be in slightly better condition.

But it gets cold in eastern Europe, Romney. You better bundle up.

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