Friday, March 9, 2012

Conventional Wisdom – the Republican Race Has Not Yet Been Decided; Real Wisdom – Mitt Romney Will Be the Republican Nominee

 Facing an Unpleasant but Accurate Truth - Only a Revolt By Delegates at the Convention Can Deny Mr. Romney the Nomination

It could Happen, Many of the Republican Delegates Will be Revolting

[Update:  The Fivethirtyeight Forum in the New York Times by Nate Silver, the premier political analyst based on mathematics shows it is almost impossible for Mr. Santorum to win.]

Those who report the news, those who comment on the news and those who comment on the commentators of the news need to continue the myth that the race for the Republican nomination is not over.  These people need something to write about and something to talk about.  So they have to ignore reality, which is that Mr. Romney will be the nominee of the GOP in the fall Presidential election.

In order for Rick Santorum to overtake Mr. Romney and be the nominee three things have to happen.

  1. Mr. Gingrich needs to drop out of the race
  2. Mr. Santorum needs to win all or almost all of the remaining primaries and caucuses.
  3. The Republican Party establishment must accept and support a Santorum nomination.

Josh Haner/The New York Times
Newt Gingrich danced with his wife, Callista,
in the lobby of a Hilton hotel in Jackson, Mississippi,
 early Thursday morning. The couple danced
 for about an hour.
 All three of these things have to happen for Mr. Romney to lose.Only one of them could happen.  Mr. Gingrich may be too much in love with himself to leave the race, but he is setting the stage by saying the Alabama and Mississippi primaries are critical.  Losses there could be the reality club that batters Mr. Gingrich into sensibility.

For example, this is not the behavior of someone in the race for the long term.

Did he know that the Gingriches were up until 2 a.m. the night before dancing to an oldies band in their hotel bar?

Mr. Gingrich, alternately rotating in early “American Bandstand” style and twirling his wife, Callista, unwound for an hour or so after a long day on the campaign trail. They danced to “All My Loving” by the Beatles, “California Girls” by the Beach Boys and, by special request, Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” which could be a defiant theme song for Mr. Gingrich after the flak he has caught for calling to revive the moon program.

Some observers mused that with the unusually intimate display, the candidate and his staff seemed to be celebrating in a nostalgic way a possible end to their long, winding journey.

At one point during his appearance the next morning, he used the past tense to describe his campaign, beginning a sentence, “I ran in part because ....”

The campaign is taking a physical and mental toll on Mr. Gingrich.  He is suffering from stress and it shows in his face.  He is not in good physical condition and does not appear to have the discipline and stamina to continue.  Mr. Santorum has the exhuberance of doing better than expectations, and Mr. Romney has the benenfit of at least one, and maybe several personal physical trainers (that's what wealth will do for you) and physical strength and discipline.  Mr. Gingrich is angry and bitter and that takes a toll   He does not look like he is physically or mentally capable of continuing.

What is that last stage of death, Acceptance? Let's all hope the good citizens of those fine states do the right thing and pull the plug on the Gingrich campaign.  Despite the dislike here for Mr. Gingrich, this is not meant to be a cruel statement.  The voters of Alabama and Mississippi will be doing Mr. Gingrich a big favor as far as his health and well being are concerned if they gently ease him out of the race. 

So the first thing could happen, but two and three look iffy.  Mr. Santorum will win some primaries but not all of them and the Republican leadership will not endorse or even accept Mr. Santorum’s candidacy.  In fact, the damage that was done by Mr. Santorum’s comments that President Kennedy’s speech on separation of church and state made him want to throw up, and his comment that President Obama was a snob for wanting everyone to have the opportunity to go to college did not matter with the radical Conservative base.  They love that stuff.  But it did matter with the Republican leadership who see comments like that creating electoral disaster if Mr. Santorum were the nominee.

But what about the likelihood that Mr. Romney will not get a majority of the delegates promised to him at the convention?  Not to worry, there are what are called “Super Delegates” who are party leaders and uncommitted.  They will commit to Mitt.  Mr. Paul may well release his delegates with instructions to support Mr. Romney.  That could put him over the top.

But suppose Mr. Romney does not get a majority of the vote on the first ballot at the convention?  In that case after the vote Mr. Santorum or Mr. Gingrich, or probably both will climb the podium and move that the Convention unanimously select Mr. Romney.  This solidarity will then carry the day and Mr. Romney will be nominated by acclimation.  Mr. Santorum may get the consolation prize, which is a ticket into the 2016 (or if Mr. Romney wins, the 2020)  Republican primaries.  The alternative, that Republican leaders will replace Mr. Romney with someone who did not even run in the primaries, would severely splinter the party. 

Mr. Romney has made the case that his nomination is inevitable, because there is no other choice and no other possibility.  Loosely translated the mesage to the party from Mr. Romney is "you may not like me, but you have to take me, you have no other alternative", not exactly a great wining message but the truth is ugly sometimes. 

With his choice of either Florida Senator Marco Rubio or Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell as his VP choice Mr. Romney will attempt to quell any revolt against him.  For this reason Mr.Rubio has now become the odds on favorite to be the VP nominee. This is because Mr. Rubio is now exploiting this situation by putting his name on social legislation that appeals to the extreme right.  Mr. McDonnell is trying to distance himself from the ugly stain of the attempt to force women to undergo invasive procedures before an abortion.  This race for the VP nod is a fascinating one, but for the most part totally unrecognized by the ineffective press in this country.

A good indicator of how desperate Mr. Romney sees his situation will by how quickly he chooses a running mate.  If Mr. Rubio is chosen soon after the end of the primaries it will mean Mr. Romney is running scared, and needs the conservative credentials of Mr. Rubio to support his candidacy and head off a revolt at the convention.  If Mr. Romney waits, dangling the VP position in front of several candidates it means he is more confident, and feels he can afford to wait.  The deal Mr. Romney will ultimately make is this, he will pick an ultra conservative running mate in return for conservatives accepting his candidacy.  This means Mr. Rubio or Gov. McDonnell of Virginia are almost certain to be the choice.

The one scenario where Mr. Romney loses is if the delegates throw off any control by party leadership, revolt and try to nominate Mr. Santorum. This could happen if the delegates turn out to be the very Conservative rank and file citizens who are so divorced from reality that they think their positions are shared by the majority.  In a second ballot their revolt could mean a large loss of delegates by Mr. Romney, thus dooming his candidacy and leaving the door open for the runner up, Mr. Santorum.  At that point the leadership would try to thwart Mr. Santorum's nomination by getting Mr. Romney to bow out in favor of a compromise candidate, possibly former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, maybe current New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.  That would be worth staying up to watch.

Mr. Romney has been running for almost eight years.  For him to readily agree to withdraw in favor of someone who has not endured the monetary cost and personal humiliations that Mr. Romney has endured is almost unthinkable.  For Mr. Santorum to readily agree to withdraw after coming close, when nobody gave him any chance to win is also almost unthinkable.  So at the end of the day a ticket of Romney and Rubio (America's needs a little R and R they will say) seems inevitable.  To paraphrase Sherlock Holmes, when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever Republican ticket is left, however implausible, must be the result.

This ugly process should not give a whole lot of comfort to Mr. Obama.  He will have at least three major problem in the fall election, (four if the economy is not doing well)  in order of importance.  The first problem will be the up to $1 billion in negative ads broadcast against him with money from Conservative billionaires.  The second problem is the seeming incompetence of his own campaign staff.  The third, problem which is really not all that important compared to the first two problems is Mr. Romney.

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