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Tonight’s Analysis This Afternoon


I think Jamelle has all the essential points down in advance of the Florida results being announced. I think most people are going to accept what should have been obvious as soon as Rick Perry (the one candidate who could have been a conservative alternative to Romney with enough establishment support to compete) imploded: Romney is the Republican nominee. I doubt Gingrich would have had any chance even if he was running a serious campaign from the beginning, and he wasn’t. At any rate, after tonight nobody is going to think Newt can win, so anybody wanting to avoid acknowledging Romney’s inevitability is going to have to contrive some kind of white knight scenario. But that’s obviously not to happen — it will be literally impossible for a new candidate to win, and while it’s theoretically possible for a new entrant to force a brokered convention Jamelle is right that nobody has the “considerable fundraising and organizational ability, a national constituency, and a message that can appeal to a broad swath of the Republican Party,” that would be necessary. (And, in addition, there’s the fact that Bill Kristol’s fantasy candidates just don’t want to run. It’s not as if Romney’s vulnerabilities weren’t obvious last year; if Daniels or Ryan or whoever wanted in they would have done it when they could win. And after tonight, Romney will be a lot less vulnerable.)

Romney will be the candidate, and Republican voters will reconcile themselves with him very quickly. I very much doubt that Newt or Santorum are in this for the long haul, but I also don’t think it matters.

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  • There is one legitimate– altho barely credible– scenario, and it could end up happening even if the field (except Ron Paul but I’m not crediting him with pulling this off) skips out. It doesn’t see Mitt missing the nomination, but it does see him limping into the general election with a divided party.

    There is a *strong* anti-Mitt sentiment in the rank and file. The establishment has reconciled with the notion but hoi polloi have not. If Newt can continue to get sufficient superPAC funding that he can shunt the advertising work off on them, and run a barebones direct campaign, he could force Mitt to run the table to a convention where he still comes up short of 1144 delegates.

    If Mitt ends up the primary season well short of 1144 (let’s call it 1075, just because that was a cool year…saw the birth of the poet, Vitalis) such that even if the superdelegates lined up behind him, Mitt would be forced to negotiate critical platform time to, well, Newt.

    Which is what I think ultimately he’s looking for. Then we could have the Pat Buchanan 1992 speech all over again.

    Yes, the nomination is his, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to walk to it. He might actually be better off throwing superPAC money behind Gingrich to keep his knives sharp.

    • Murc

      If Newt can continue to get sufficient superPAC funding that he can shunt the advertising work off on them, and run a barebones direct campaign, he could force Mitt to run the table to a convention where he still comes up short of 1144 delegates.


      Serious question. The Republican primaries from here on out are winner-take-all. Newt has to actually WIN SOME in order to get delegates. Tell me how he does that with a bare-bones campaign.

      You say your scenario is ‘barely credible.’ I think you are overselling its credibility greatly.

      • Actually, no, they are not winner-take-all.

        I count at least two dozen primaries going forward that have at least some proportionality.

        • Murc

          Which is totally bogus.

          Those states are ‘proportional’ the same way South Carolina was; that is, they’re proportional by congressional district.

          Meaning that Newt needs to win pluralities in congressional districts in order to win ANY delegates at all. Romney got almost no delegates from SC, and Newt, assuming he continues his campaign at all, will get no delegates at all unless he can manage to WIN.

          • elm

            Wikipedia could be wrong, but they claim that SC was winner-take-all and many later states are split, with proportional for the at large delegates and winner-take-all for those by congressional district.

            Further, a lot of states, including some biggies like Ohio, Virginia, and New York, are proportional unless a candidate gets 50% of the vote, when it becomes winner take all. So, if Newt and Paul stay in the race, Romney very well could fall short of 50 in some of these states.

            This all assumes that Wikipedia is right.

    • R Johnston

      I’ve got to agree with Murc about the credibility of your scenario. More plausible, although not quite rising to the level of “barely credible,” is a scenario in which Ron Paul has a “revelation” and suddenly starts to preach the virtues of bombing Iran back to the stone age. A Ron Paul who decides that gratuitously blowing up as many things as possible is a legitimate function of the Federal government is a theoretically plausible notMitt. The real problem with this scenario, aside from the unlikeliness of the “revelation,” is that I don’t see how Paul would be able to convince enough Republicans of the sincerity of his changed beliefs, but if he could then I don’t his his racism, religious extremism, goldbuggery, or other signs of insanity as holding him back much.

  • Njorl

    You’re casually dismissing the possibility that all of reality is just an illusion we’ve created for the purpose of fooling you. In that case there is no Mitt Romney or even a Republican nomination to be won.

    There’s still a Newt Gingrich, though. We couldn’t make him up.

  • Jonas

    While I agree that Romney will be the nominee, I don’t think Florida settles it. Florida is being penalized half its delegates for going early in the process, so while Florida is a big state, this is not a big state win as far as delegate count goes. Iowa was a caucus with delegates selected later on, and Santorum won there anyway. So as far as delegates go, there is just NH and SC and now a shrunken FL delegation giving Romney a slight advantage. I think Newt can rationalize staying in it until Super Tuesday. And he would be right to do so, in a political sense, with the delegate counts and the various anti-Romney poll spikes that could give hope that there is still yet another pro-Newt spike. He still won’t win though.

    • elm

      This is my prediction, too: Newt (or Santorum, but not both) stay in until Super Tuesday hoping that with the other gone, and some luck, they can dominate on that day and ride that to the nomination. Newt wins a few states on Super Tuesday (and maybe even one before then) but falls far short of dominating and concedes shortly thereafter.

      • Murc

        Romney ought to get a nice shot in the arm from Nevada; it’ll be an easy win and a couple days of highly favorable coverage.

        (Nevada is a machine state for both parties and the Republican one is totally in the bag for Mitt and has been for a long time.)

  • I don’t think that’s going to be tonight’s analysis.

    I think we’ll hear about how Romney couldn’t put it away, the race is still fluid, and Gingrich is in it at least until Super Tuesday.

    I still think it’s a mistake to underestimate Mitt Romney’s ability to fail as a campaigner, and the Republican electorate’s desire for More Cowbell.

    • Tom M

      I have no doubt that you’re right about what we’ll hear because the last thing the media want is a horse race that isn’t. Whether the Mitt can be stopped is irrelevant, the narrative must go on.

      Who does Mitt pick for Veep since he’s unlikely to make a McCain level error. Well, at least intentionally….

    • I still think it’s a mistake to underestimate Mitt Romney’s ability to fail as a campaigner, and the Republican electorate’s desire for More Cowbell.

      Campaigning ability only matters in a relative sense, and as Mitt absolutely crushing Newt in a neighboring state in the one-at-a-time stage of primaries where Newt’s massive financial and organizational disadvantages are minimized makes clear, Mitt is infinitely superior to his main competitor, who has never even won statewide office before. And while there are undoubtedly many in the GOP electorate who want more cowbell, Newt ain’t that.

      • Malaclypse

        While I am not quite willing to concede that I have lost our bet, I’m wondering if you would consider modifying the terms slightly to follow tbogg’s excellent suggestion?

        • Scott Lemieux

          At whatever point you choose to acknowledge the obvious, I would encourage you to do just that.

          • Malaclypse

            I still find the idea that the party of religious bigotry will nominate a polytheist to be hard to believe. But I admit that you will probably win. I’m just not willing to concede quite yet.

            • Scott Lemieux

              So, which member of the field do you have your hopes on — Santorum? White Knight Mitch Daniels? Morry Taylor? Zombie Ronald Reagan?

              • Malaclypse

                Well, my personal hope is that Newt and Mittens go over the cliff together, after a long bitter fight that destroys them both.

                More seriously, like I said, I think you will win. This is simply a non-rational belief on my part that bigots will remain bigots, which makes me want to wait before conceding.

            • Hogan

              Right now they’re choosing between a Mormon and a Catholic. The polytheism ship has already sailed.

      • where Newt’s massive financial and organizational disadvantages are minimized

        Actually, Romney outspent Gingrich by roughly 5:1 in Florida.

        So, no, not really.

        • Scott Lemieux

          Yes, but having multiple states in one day will make the effects of this disparity even worse, and the disparity isn’t getting any smaller now.

          • If the disparity is, on multi-state days, what it is now, then the effects of that disparity will surely be even worse than they are now.

            the disparity isn’t getting any smaller now.

            We’ll see. This is the key question – can Gingrich close the gap in the next few weeks, to where the playing field is level enough for his superior skills at messaging and tactics will come into play.

            Oh, btw, looks like Mitt is demonstrating how infinitely superior he is as a campaigner. Again.

            • Malaclypse

              Keep in mind that Mitt’s constituency is one which found it appropriate to literally applaud Ron Paul’s suggestion that the uninsured should be left to die.

              • Mitt has been campaigning with one eye on the general election since this campaign began.

                This was a screw-up. This was “corporations are people.” This was “I’m unemployed, too.” This was “and some income from speaking, but not very much.”

                Romney is working overtime not to look like Mr. 1%, and he comes out with this?

                I’m sorry, Romney is just not a clutch guy.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  There’s no question that Mittens, in an absolute sense, is not a good candidate. But all that matters is whether he’s better than two vanity campaigns and a quasi-vanity campaign by one of the most unpopular figures in American public life.

                • And he’s quite clearly not. He keeps shooting himself in the foot with his mouth. He’s worse than Gingrich; he’s worse than Santorum; he’s worse than Paul. He was better than Heman Cain, I’ll give you that.

                  If the situation was reversed, there is no way in the world that insurgent Mitt Romney could pull off what Gingrich has done by using “earned media.” He’s just not good enough.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  And he’s quite clearly not.

                  This really isn’t true. That boring stuff like raising money, lining up endorsements, and building campaign organizations is a major part of a successful candidacy. and Newt isn’t good enough at that stuff (or doesn’t care enough about that stuff) to stay in the game.

                • He fared pretty well at that stuff in 1994.

                • Bill Paxon fared well at that stuff in 1994. Gingrich just took the ovation.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  I dunno, Newt showed some amazing political talents getting elected as a Republican in a wealthy white flight Atlanta suburb.

  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    We’re definitely in dead-girl-or-live-boy territory now…and today’s GOP would probably be kinda ok with “live boy,” provided Willard sounds contrite enough.

    • patrick II

      I think they’d prefer the dead girl, but other than that I agree.

      • DrDick

        Frankly, I do not think it even matters anymore, as long as you pretend you are sorry. It really is OKIYAR.

        • pete

          Hmmm, could be tricky for the Mittster, who’s not all that convincing at contrition. OTOH this whole thing could be in very poor taste considering Ann’s various ailments, though she seems to be functioning just fine.

          • firefall

            Well he’s as convincing at contrition as he is at simulating any other human emotion.

            • DrDick

              I never said that you have to be convincing, just that you have to pretend.

              • pete

                Good point. I guess you get credit for trying (IYAR).

        • Njorl

          Why should Mitt be sorry? He has earned that dead-girl/live-boy. Any complaints about it are merely envy, and fan the flames of class warfare.

    • Rarely Posts

      I disagree. Today’s GOP would never accept the “live boy” scenario: it’s only type of sex scandal that really will kill a Republican candidate’s career. Part of it’s the homophobia, and part of it is the sexism. In contrast, “dead girl” might actually help Romney with the Republican base (and live girl almost certainly would).

  • Xenos

    So what is the best time to push the ‘White Horse’ prophecy (as in, the uncomfortable fact that Mitt was, in the ’70s, president of an organization that recognized him as a future president who would bring about a Mormon theocracy?

    Should it be flogged now, to screw up and extend the nominating process, or should it be flogged in October to depress evangelical voting?

    • Malaclypse

      I’m stunned Newt is not taking this path. Also, you get bonus points for flogging a white horse.

  • wengler

    Let’s reflect on what we’ve learned from our first Citizens United election.

    1) Lots of rich people in the ‘broke’ country, and they are willing to spend billions of dollars to control the country.

    2) Broadcasters are HUGE winners. Networks and cable news will have wall to wall election ads, and their election year inflation will be much more than the standard 15 percent.

    3) Rich corporations picked a sucky candidate. He has the charismatic appeal of a toaster oven. Not that they had much else to work with. Investing everything in Romney would be like shooting the moon. Making sure Obama stays within the corporate fold should be a greater priority for them.

    4) The Occupy movement has fertile ground to grow after it gets out of its winter slumber.

    • Uncle Kvetch

      And thus did wengler provide more substantive analysis than Chris Matthews will produce in an entire year of hyperactive yapping.

      Why can’t we have a real media?

      • Njorl

        We have mediacraties.

  • Anderson

    I doubt Perlstein grasps the fundies’ aversion to Mitt. The man is to them avowedly not a Christian.

    Their gripe with Obama is personal. He hasnt done anything to them; his alleged beliefs (socialist unAmerican) are the problem.

    So against that, you put a candidate who is quite literally a follower of an Antichrist?

    It’s a real problem.

    • Njorl

      They voted for the essentially irreligious Reagan against the evangelist Carter.

      • Anderson

        “Essentially irreligious” is not the same as “Mormon.” And try googling faith “Ronald Reagan” sometime.

        Chime in, anyone with evangelical acquaintances – are they really cool with Mormons?

        • Scott Lemieux

          And make sure to add “If the other option is a Communist Muslim from Kenya?”

          • Anderson

            Of such stuff are Ron Paul write-in votes made.

        • Malaclypse

          Chime in, anyone with evangelical acquaintances – are they really cool with Mormons?

          Well, my mom did marry my dad, but in general, hell no.

  • rea

    Frankly, I can’t imagine a major party nominating the likes of Mitt Romney for president.

    On the other hand, I can’t imagine a major party nominating any of these other guys, either.

    • Njorl

      Once you eliminate the impossible, whoever remains, no matter how improbable, is who you nominate.

  • jim

    Gingrich will stay in as long as Adelson continues the funding. Once Adelson stops funding, Gingrich will drop out.

    But, yes, Romney will be the nominee.

    • Anderson

      N.b. I don’t disagree that Romney will get the nomination. I just wonder how firm his support will be.

  • wengler

    While I agree that Romney will be the nominee, I wouldn’t be surprised if some Tea Party faction worked to cut him off at the knees in order to a) push for their own power base and b) deny any rational reason for a loss to Obama.

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