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It’s Still Mittens

[ 135 ] February 17, 2012 |

Since I’ve been baited, I suppose I should point out that Santorum is almost certainly not going to win the Republican nomination, for reasons that should be obvious:

Here are some things to keep in mind when assessing Rick Santorum’s chances of beating Mitt Romney. He has no pollster, no campaign headquarters, and no paid advance staff. He’s currently getting outspent on television in Michigan by a ratio of 29-1.

You know the part of the campaign ad where the candidate identifies himself and says he approves this message? The completely ubiquitous feature of modern political advertising? Santorum’s new ad seems to have forgotten it.

He also failed to get his name on the ballot in such states as Virginia and Indiana. Perhaps you have heard of them.

Citing Citizens United is not a serious response. It may make the extent to which Romney can outspend Santorum on ads a little less dramatic, but it can’t come close to eliminating the gap and it does nothing to solve any of the other problems.

The fact that Romney has spent a lot of time in national polls behind vanity and outright joke candidates does, in fact, reveal that he is a very weak candidate, and would clearly lose to a minimally competent, relatively orthodox conservative with a serious, well-funded campaign. But he’s going to win anyway because he hasn’t faced one, and once Perry — the one poll frontrunner who could have seriously contested the nomination — failed the “minimally competent” test, it was clear sailing. The hapless Gingrich actually fails to meet any of the criteria for a serious contender. Santorum will remain standing for a little while longer because he’s a little better than Newt — his negatives aren’t as high, he’s actually won state-wide office in a purple state (granting that he also lost said office in a landslide), and his failure to build a serious campaign infrastructure seems more than a question of resources than will (although at this late date I’m not sure the distinction matters.) Santorum could certainly challenge Romney given a rough parity of resources and reasonably spaced-out primary dates, but in the actually existing race he has almost no chance.

Comments (135)

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  1. I haven’t seen the word “serious” used in that sense since the runup to the Iraq War.

    Given how your predictions keep turning out, don’t you think it might be a good idea to write your predictions posts in more of a “here’s what I think” tone, as opposed to a “for reasons that should be obvious, Mitt Romney won’t lose any contests after February 1st” tone?

    Just to make the crow go down more easily in the unheard of event that you wind up having to eat it?

    You make a perfectly plausible argument, but this pretense that you have some kind of special insight and are in a position to condescend to us rubes is no more legitimate now than it was when Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal was going to fail.

      • I’ve seen it used in the sarcastic manner Krugman employs a lot, just not in the straight-faced manner Scott used it.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          I’m not actually using “serious” in the “Very Serious Thinker” sense, but in the “is this person running for president or on a book tour” sense, which is in fact perfectly reasonable. It’s not actually that hard to distinguish a real from a vanity campaign, and I can’t believe you really think that it doesn’t matter.

          • I’m not actually using “serious” in the “Very Serious Thinker” sense

            I was referring to:

            Citing Citizens United is not a serious response.

            I think the difference between a real campaign and a vanity campaign matter very much indeed. That’s why I never bought into Hermann Cain, Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, or vanity-campaign-era Newt Gingrich. Although given how belatedly it took most analysts to recognize that Gingrich had shifted gears from his “I think I’ll go an a Greek cruise” stance to a real campaign, I’m not sure I believe that it’s always that easy to distinguish the two – at least not until the actual contests are imminent.

            • pete says:

              Um, I was tweaking you both (in a friendly way) … one also thinks of McEnroe … and Yogi Berra … but at this stage I am beginning to think of Ed Muskie. Citizens United has clearly affected the Republican race (kept it alive) but more to the point is that Romney is a disaster, a vacuum waiting to be filled. Santorum doesn’t win, but I no longer think that a hung convention is off the table.

          • Tybalt says:

            Santorum really is running for President, though; he’s just not all that good at it.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Given how your predictions keep turning out

      My central prediction that Romney will win the race is still, as far as I can tell, working out just fine. Unlike, say, your assertion that Gingrich was the Republican frontrunner in January.

      • Your evidence for your predictive abilities is…a prediction? See, Scott, the way predictions work is that we don’t know whether they were good or bad until the event about which the prediction was made has come to pass.

        And as you quite legitimately explained about Perry, noting that someone is a frontrunner isn’t a prediction. It’s a statement about the current state of the race. Donald Trump, Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, and Newt Gingrich actually were frontrunners in their own times.

        The only prediction I’ve made about Newt Gingrich was that he would be a legitimate competitor in the race. Since I made that prediction, he spent two stints as the frontrunner, and won the South Carolina primary.

        Want some more? OK:

        Newt Gingrich will win at least one state on Super Tuesday.

        Newt Gingrich will win multiple southern states during the primary campaign.

        That’s what I think, anyway, but it’s tough to be confident (as opposed to false bravado) when making predictions about this race. If anyone out there predicted Santorum would win Iowa more than a week before the contest was held, or that he would win the contests in Minnesota, Colorado, and Missouri, I’d like to meet him. You just never know with this year’s Republican electorate.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          Donald Trump, Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, and Newt Gingrich actually were frontrunners in their own times.

          The thing is — they weren’t. “Leading national polls” is not the same thing as “being the frontrunner,” which implies an actual substantial likelihood of winning the nomination. Trump, Cain, Gingrich, and Bachmann (and, yes, I was wrong to briefly think the last one was a serious candidate) were never actual “frontrunners,” which requires meeting at least some of the criteria outlined in the post. Perry, who had establishment support and could fundraise with Romney, was a different story.

          • Njorl says:

            Bachman vanished without flaming out. She never got her shot as AnyonebutMitt. Rick Perry eclipsed her, and when Perry was gone, so was Bachman.

            I suppose she could have been the frontrunner when she was the only declared candidate.

          • The thing is — they weren’t. “Leading national polls” is not the same thing as “being the frontrunner,”

            Ah, then we’ve got a communication problem.

            I use the term “frontrunner” to mean “the candidate that is running in front.”

            frontrunner – definition of frontrunner by the Free Online Dictionary …
            front-run·ner also front·run·ner (fr nt r n r). n. 1. One that is in a leading position in a race or other competition: the front-runner for the presidential nomination.

            • John says:

              Surely that definition is not specific enough for it to provide much support to your argument? The “leading position” could mean “the candidate leading the polls,” but it could also mean “the candidate with the best chance to win the nomination.” Either meaning fits that dictionary definition.

              • I can see how both definitions make sense, and how it’s easy to read a statement that includes that term as saying something different than what the speaker intends, so I’m not going to use it anymore, to avoid that confusion.

                But my explanation of how I was using a term is not an argument. My intention in using that work is not something I might or might not be right about. It’s a statement of fact.

                • John says:

                  Okay, fair enough.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  But Cain was not “running in front” unless you think that he was actually the most likely person to win the nomination. There’s no vote by a single national primary electorate, so your definition doesn’t make any sense. Joe Lieberman was never the “frontrunner” for the Democratic nomination in 2004 in any useful sense, his one-time lead in national polls notwithstanding.

                • Look at the chart, Scott. Between October 20 and November 10, Herman freakin’ Cain was leading in the national polls.

                  There’s no vote by a single national primary electorate, so your definition doesn’t make any sense.

                  Does not follow. Prior to the advent of the actual contests, the national polls are the best measure of who is actually leading at any time. You’re welcome to disagree with this assessment of polls-as-snapshot, and national polls as the best snapshot early on, but no, your opinion on this issue does not, in fact, change my intention in using the term “frontrunner.”

                  Joe Lieberman was never the “frontrunner” for the Democratic nomination in 2004 in any useful sense, his one-time lead in national polls notwithstanding.

                  I disagree. I think it’s pretty well-established at this point that I was using the term in a manner that would make Lieberman the frontrunner during the period he led – that is, in a sense that is not a prediction, but a description of the contemporary situation.

                  All of which is to say, you’re just going to have to let go of the attempt to characterize my observation of Gingrich’s standing immediately after South Carolina as a prediction so you can say I was wrong about something.

                  Tell you what: I spent 2007 writing that Hillary Clinton’s support was a mile wide and an inch deep, and that her lead would vanish as soon as other viable candidates entered the race. Say I was wrong about that.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  I am not denying that Herman Cain was leading the national polls, in the tradition of Joe Lieberman and Rudy Giuliani. I am denying that this makes him “the frontunner,” since I think the term can’t actually apply to someone with essentially no chance to actually win the nomination.

                • Anonymous says:

                  I am denying that this makes him “the frontunner,”

                  Yes, you’ve made that quite clear.

                  Also quite clear: I was using the term to mean “whomever is leading the race,” not as a prediction.

                • Pseudonym says:

                  I might be able to sprint briefly to the head of a marathon.* That would make me the front runner. It would not make me the most likely competitor to win the marathon.

                  (*Not really.)

    • Walt says:

      I agree with Joe here. Romney still seems like the most likely nominee to me, so I don’t feel the urge to argue the substantive point, but the tone of these posts is just infuriating. Someone who thinks that Romney is going to lose isn’t crazy. Why be patronizing towards anyone who thinks otherwise?

      Romney will probably win, but I would put his chances of losing above the chances of the Patriots losing Super Bowl XLII. Obama winning the nomination in 2012 is inevitable. Romney winning the nomination is merely likely.

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        But your High Broderism is just begging the question (as High Broderism usually does.) I don’t actually agree, on the merits, that Romney is merely “likely” to win the nomination, based on the arguments outlined above. If you’re not willing to actually defend your bare assertion that Santorum has a reasonable chance of winning the nomination, then the civility arguments are silly.

        • Anonymous says:

          Let’s get down to specifics, rather than parse terms like ‘likely’ and ‘probably’. I’d like to see the numbers here. Specifically, What kind of odds would you need to put a wager on Santorum winning the nomination? I think I’d probably pass on 10-1, but I’d seriously consider 12-1, and I’d jump on 15-1.

          I’m curious where Scott, Joe, and other participants would set the line.

          • I would not put money on the outcome of the race. I don’t put money down unless I’m highly certain – which is more of a characterization of how I handle money than of my level of confidence

            I have no freaking idea how the race is going to turn out – I think Gingrich and a White Knight at a brokered convention are still in the realm of the possible – and I think anyone who claims to know, with any degree of confidence, is talking through their hat.

            I think Romney is a little more likely to win than Santorum, but that his chances of winning are less than 50/50. Howzat?

            • Scott Lemieux says:

              I think Romney’[s]… chances of winning are less than 50/50

              Wow. Just wow. I think I can see why Joe isn’t willing to make it interesting.

              As for the odds question above, 15-1 on Santorum is probably about right, although I personally wouldn’t put anything on it unless it was at least 20-1.

              • Doug M. says:

                I’d put Romney’s chance of victory at comfortably north of 90%. And I’ve been saying so on my blog since June.

                Joe, if you won’t bet money, what about bragging rights? Or “loser writes an I-was-wrong blog post”?

                Doug M.

                • Anonymous says:

                  I’m not willing to be anything, because as I’ve been saying for several months now, I have absolutely no confidence in my, or anyone else’s, ability to predict the outcome of the race with with any plausible level of certainty.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  Whoops. Above was me.

                • R Johnston says:

                  Mitt Romney by 1200 delegates, +/- 600 delegates is a prediction offering a tremendous degree of uncertainty, yet having a clear winner.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  Joe, if you won’t bet money, what about bragging rights? Or “loser writes an I-was-wrong blog post”?

                  What would I be wrong about? I’ve said that Romney still has the best chance of winning the nomination, but that I’m not confident about any predictions. What set of circumstances would make me wrong – the guy who I think has the best chance of winning the nomination winning?

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  Mitt Romney by 1200 delegates, +/- 600 delegates is a prediction offering a tremendous degree of uncertainty, yet having a clear winner.

                  OK. And?

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  Hey, Doug M. and Scott, I’ll bet on the predictions I made above:

                  Newt Gingrich will win at least one state on Super Tuesday.

                  Newt Gingrich will win multiple southern states during the primary campaign.

                  Surely, Scott must be willing to make that interesting, since he assured us weeks ago, with the same smug certainty with which he wrote this post, that Gingrich won’t win a single contest after February 1st.

              • joe from Lowell says:

                I think Romney’[s]… chances of winning are less than 50/50

                Wow. Just wow. I think I can see why Joe isn’t willing to make it interesting.

                So, it’s finally sunk in that I don’t feel confident about predicting the outcome of the race?

                Good. I don’t know what all the drama was about.

              • joe from Lowell says:

                BTW, Scott, the last time you used the phrase “make it interesting” with me was just before you called me out on the front page for being so silly as to predict that DADT would pass the Senate.

                So, clearly, my lack of interest in placing a bet must be because I realize my predictions are so very, very deluded.

          • Malaclypse says:

            FWIW, there is a bet, at 1:1, between Scott/Romney and me/not-Romney. That bet was made a while back. I’d probably ask for 1.5 or 2:1 now.

            I still find it hard to believe that the party of religious bigotry will nominate someone who believes Satan and Jesus were brothers in the Preexistence.

        • But your High Broderism

          Only on the internet could there be a derogatory term for the concept of “not acting like a dick.”

          • R Johnston says:

            Pretending that a mildly uncivil tone is an excuse for ignoring substantive argument is, in fact, being a grade-A asshole.

            • joe from Lowell says:

              Good think nobody’s ignored substantive arguments then.

              Seriously, are you in so over your head that you don’t think I’ve been making and disputing substantive arguments?

            • joe from Lowell says:

              Oh, I get it! Your comment is self-referential irony!

              You’ve read a thread in which I’ve written a rather enormous amount of substantive commentary and responses to the substantive ideas of other, and then ignored it all to whine because I used the word “dick.”

              Clever.

        • Walt says:

          High Broderism? Seriously?

          I put the chances of Santorum winning at around 5%, same as you apparently. Things that have a 5% chance of not happening are not inevitable. By that definition, the 18-0 Patriots winning the Super Bowl was inevitable.

          Anyway, the civility point is my whole point. Some arguments are so offensive that they deserve contempt, like every Republican argument about abortion ever. But thinking that Romney has a 35% chance of winning the nomination because the base hates him is just not in the category of offensive opinions. It comes across like you find the very idea that someone disagrees with you offensive.

          • Pseudonym says:

            Offensive? No. Google Chrome must be malfunctioning again, because it can only locate three instances of the word “offensive,” all of which are in your comment.

            Silly? Perhaps. This is a blog on the interwebs. Silly is the point. Silly statements about silly comments about silly arguments about serious issues are what the series of tubes is for. If I am wrong I will eat my hat.

  2. actor212 says:

    Rick’s been lucky so far: the primaries have either been spaced out, which has allowed him a lot of free advertising in the form of news coverage, or when they’ve been compacted, they’ve been in very friendly states like South Carolina or they’ve been caucuses, which may be his real strength.

    Once he faces Super Tuesday, he’s done.

    • the primaries have either been spaced out, which has allowed him a lot of free advertising in the form of news coverage, or when they’ve been compacted, they’ve been in very friendly states like South Carolina or they’ve been caucuses, which may be his real strength.

      Certainly, Santorum has benefited from the shape of the primary calendar, but it’s not “luck.” The Republicans deliberately designed it that way, for the specific purpose of making sure that no one front-running candidate could win the race before it really began, and underdog candidates had a chance to compete. You’re right that, if the nomination contest had opened up with a Super Tuesday-type event, he never would have had a chance.

      The question is whether the two-month runup to Super Tuesday, the success he’s had during that time, puts him in a position to compete that day. I think it’s a very open question.

      I also think that the regional dynamics of this race – Romney is the northeast candidate, Santorum the midwest, Gingrich the south, and the west divided among them and Paul – is going to make it hard for anyone to dominate on Super Tuesday, given how geographically-distributed the list of contests are.

      • actor212 says:

        If he had a machine in place and financial resources, I think he might put up a fight.

        As it stands? He’s dead in the water after this month. He’ll pick up some pity wins after ST but he’s done.

        • After Super Tuesday, which has ten states up for grabs, the number of contests on each election day is as follows:

          2 + Guam and USVI
          3
          1
          0 + Puerto Rico
          1
          1
          April
          4
          5
          May
          3
          2
          2
          June
          5
          1

          That’s pretty spread out.

          • Doug M. says:

            True — but if Romney just does okay on Super Tuesday and then picks off most of the other contests that week (KA, WY, USVI, Guam, Hawaii, Mississippi and Alabama), that’ll do the job. The week after Super Tuesday sees nearly 200 more delegates allocated, which could be enough to build an unassailable lead.

            Note that the two biggest states in play on Super Tuesday (OH and GA) are NOT winner-take-all. They’re a combination of congressional district wins and proportional distribution. Santorum failed to qualify on the ballot in three OH congressional districts, so right away Romney is guaranteed 9 of Ohio’s 66 delegates. Native son Gingrich currently leads in GA polls, but he’s not campaigning there right now (too busy fundraising), meaning a lot of delegates are still up for grabs.

            Doug M.

          • actor212 says:

            I did say he might win some meaningless contests after Super Tuesday.

            • Anonymous says:

              And why are they supposed to be meaningless?

              The schedule is spread out enough that Santorum can campaign one or two states at a time, like he’s been doing so far.

              • actor212 says:

                Because after Super Tuesday, Mitt has this thing pretty much wrapped up, I think, barring either a major miracle or major fuck up. Perhaps Santorum, Gingrich and Paul can run some kind of scortched earth thing if Mitt doesn’t have quite enough delegates, but I doubt the party leadership will let them.

                • Doug M. says:

                  Arizona (where he’s looking good to win) is winner-take-all, while Michigan is proportional. So the worst case scenario is something like a 40-20 split for Romney.

                  Doug M.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  Because after Super Tuesday, Mitt has this thing pretty much wrapped up

                  Yes, I’ve figured that much out, but I’m asking why you think that.

                  Do you think Romney will be so far ahead in delegates that he can’t be caught? Do you think that he’ll have scored so many wins up to that point that he will, once again, look inevitable?

  3. Steve LaBonne says:

    The great thing is that from the standpoint of Sane-Americans, there’s just no bad outcome here. Romney has already been damaged to such an extent that he hardly runs any better in polls against Obama than Frothy Mixture does, and continued carnage and continued Republican pandering to medieval lunatics will only make the November outcome that much better (Speaker Pelosi, anyone?)

    • Spud says:

      Mitten’s best chance right now is to keep his head down for most of this anti-contraception crap.

      Its not a position which is popular among most voters. Its one which will alienate anyone whose first name is not Reverend or Cardinal and Evangelical wackadoodles don’t like Mitt anyway.

      • Steve LaBonne says:

        I just don’t think he can restrain himself from further clumsy attempts to pander to the talibangelicals. He wouldn’t be Mitt Romney if he had that kind of backbone or political smarts.

      • I don’t know if he can, Spud. I don’t know if the Republican primary electorate will let him.

        Right now, opposing contraception coverage has become Something That Pisses Off Liberals. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to Republican primary voters. Can Romney, who already suffers from the perception that he won’t fight for conservative causes, afford to ignore the issues that conservatives are really riled up about right now?

        • Spud says:

          Somehow I don’t see this playing out well for Santorum in the states where evangelicals are not the primary GOP voters. There are areas where Rommey probably has a major leg up on his competitors as corporate America’s darling.

          If he gets involved with this, its probably going to cost him more votes. It will be seen as weak pandering and more evidence of a waffley, say anything for a vote, nature.

          • Somehow I don’t see this playing out well for Santorum in the states where evangelicals are not the primary GOP voters.

            Right, and I don’t see ignoring the issue playing out well for Romney in states where such voters are the primary voting electorate.

            If you were running for the Republican nomination in 2012, which group of states would you rather have?

            • John says:

              Don’t the Republicans also give more delegates to states that vote more Republican? So that Oklahoma has more delegates than Massachusetts, or whatever? That certainly doesn’t help.

              • Indeed.

                Like your comment below says, this stuff hasn’t mattered for decades, so nobody knows about it.

                I wonder if Romney has a Mark Penn figure telling him not to worry about those mountain states, because Massachusetts and New Jersey are so much larger.

                • Doug M. says:

                  This is why Wyoming, the least populous state, has 29 delegates — more than South Carolina (28), Iowa (25) or Oregon (27). Wyoming has 1/6 as many delegates as California (172) despite having about 1/70 as many people.

                  Mind, the real winners here are the island territories; the Northern Marianas islands (population 48,000) will send 6 delegates to the convention.

                  But yeah, a small state strategy could pay off big — even more so than on the Democratic side.

                  Doug M.

            • Spud says:

              If you were running for the Republican nomination in 2012, which group of states would you rather have?

              The ones who can contribute the most money the quickest and get your name on the ballot and your ads on TV ASAP.

              Darlings of the religious right started off way behind because the religious wackadoodles were splitting their contributions to a wide swath of candidates pandering to them. They diluted themselves

              They only became a force to be taken seriously once the field thinned out. But their people have to play catch-up now to Rommey’s well financed, experienced, organized campagin machine.

      • I thought Cardinal was a middle name.

        I also think Newt does pretty well on Super Tuesday.

  4. ploeg says:

    You know the part of the campaign ad where the candidate identifies himself and says he approves this message? The completely ubiquitous feature of modern political advertising? Santorum’s new ad seems to have forgotten it.

    Not factually accurate. But what do you expect from Politico?

    • ploeg says:

      After further review, it seems like Politico has a problem with the notice not being at the end of the ad (as they claim that the FCC requires). The notice is at the beginning of the ad. So one point for Politico (though I’ve seen so many ads where the notice is at the beginning that I wonder whether the FCC actually enforces the rule as written).

    • He’s currently getting outspent on television in Michigan by a ratio of 29-1.

      Also not factually accurate. Frothy’s billionaire just made a huge ad buy in Michigan, bringing the disparity to 3:1. Bad week for Politico.

      BTW, during the period that Santorum was being outspent 29:1 in Romney’s home state while the advance team for the vastly-superior Romney organization sat in their palatial campaign headquarters polishing their monocles and comparing the heights of their top hats, Rick Santorum built up a 9 point lead in the polls.

    • elm says:

      Actually, the problem here is with NY Mag’s summary of Politico: it wasn’t the approve the message part that Politico claims is missing but the photo of Santorum that is supposed to accompany the message. On the other hand, Politico updated their story to say that while the youtube version doesn’t comply, the campaign sent a version that did comply with FCC rules to television stations.

  5. DrDick says:

    Frothy has also been winning mostly in states where the Talibangelical vote is dominant. It remains to be seen how he performs in those, generally much larger, states where they are less important. I would also add that if anything Citizens United favors Romney over most of the rest, since he is the favorite of the billionaire set.

    • Njorl says:

      Citizen’s United might make the spending difference worse for Santorum, but it makes the ratio better. I think that’s more important.

      • Absent Citizens United, no one else can even play in the same ballpark as Romney.

        The difference, in terms of effectiveness, between people seeing two of your ads a day and seven of your opponent’s is small. The difference between people seeing one of your ads every two weeks and two of your opponent’s every day is quite large.

      • DrDick says:

        I think that remains to be seen. It is currently the case, but that could well change if it begins to look like Romney is in trouble. So far, there are really only a small number of sugar daddies backing the notRomney’s and I think his pockets are still substantially deeper.

    • Imagine, Doctor, that the Yankees add $129 million to their payroll, and the Pirates add $90 million.

      Do the games between those two teams become more competitive, or less so?

      • DrDick says:

        Imagine, JfL, that the Yankees respond to this increasingly competitive environment by adding $5-10 million to their payroll.

        What you describe may be the current situation, but I suspect that his backers will be willing to significantly up the ante if he seems in danger of losing.

        • Malaclypse says:

          If Mittens actually seems in danger of losing to Frothy, I think Mitten’s backers pull the plug, knowing that Mitt is the worst campaigner since Martha Fucking Coakley.

          They did not become billionaires by consistently backing losing sides.

          • DrDick says:

            That is entirely possible. Indeed, if things get bad enough, they may strategically retreat in hopes of destroying the credibility of the social conservative loons (which I do not think will work even if it is a blowout). At this point, I think it depends on how badly Mittens is doing. I am not as convinced of the inevitability of Mitt as Scott is, but I still think he is the presumptive nominee.

          • Tybalt says:

            Man, if whiny loser Rick Santorum is enough to make you fold your tents, you wouldn’t have been on the field in the first place.

        • But the point is, Romney/the Yankees are already well into diminishing-returns territory.

  6. Uncle Kvetch says:

    The hapless Gingrich

    Eh…his “campaign” will probably end up netting some sizable cha-ching. We should all be so hapless.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Oh, right — I was pretending that he was an actual candidate for president for the purposes of the post, but you’re right that on its own terms his campaign will be perfectly successful.

  7. Njorl says:

    I think most of the winner-take-all states will go for Romney. Combined with the delegates already won, they’ll give Romney about a 400 delegate lead. Santorum would need to do better than 3-to-2 in the rest of the races. I won’t say it’s impossible, but it is more likely that Mitt would die than Santorum would win by other means.

  8. scott says:

    We’ll see. The primary schedule gets more crowded and meaningful in the mext few weeks, and the votes will tell. You can have all the institutional advantages in the world, but if people wind up not liking you none of them means anything. The direction of the GOP electorate and the polling on Romney’s favorability is pretty starkly negative. At a certain point, the voters might realize that the reason they’ve flirted with like 19 other candidates is that they don’t really like Romney and don’t want him. And if they choose a semi-viable alternative like Santorum that doesn’t make them (them, not us) vomit, that might make them happier than choosing someone they really don’t want. We’ll see how that plays out, but I agree with joe that predicting how actual humans will behave without some level of humility is off-putting and fairly stupid.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Really? Is it immodest to expect Barack Obama to outpoll Rosanne Barr? Was it immodest to say that anybody who won the Democratic primary in 2008 would be an overwhelming favorite given the economic conditions?

      Look, nobody with Santorum’s threadbare infrastructure has come remotely close to winning a modern major party nomination. Of course nobody can predict exactly how a specific individuals will vote, but the question at issue is the big picture. If you have an argument about how Santorum can overcome these issues or why they don’t matter, make it. Based on the fact that the counters are Broderite civility arguments rather than arguments on the merits, I assume there isn’t one.

  9. Bill Murray says:

    awould clearly lose to a minimally competent, relatively orthodox conservative with a serious, well-funded campaign.

    Isn’t this why Obama will win in November?

  10. WinterOwl says:

    Actually, I think you’re spot on. Romney would ;lose if he faced a credible conservative candidate. But he’s running against a bunch of circus freaks, so he has to win. It’s just a question of how much damage he takes doing it.

    Now, sure, it’s always possible that the extremely unlikely event occurs. The GOP could have a collective Sharon Angle moment for the ages, but that’s not the kind of thing a reasonable person assumes. It’s the kind of thing you just laugh yourself silly watching if it actually happens.

  11. Anonymous says:

    The last couple of months have been the most fun I’ve had since I don’t know when. The Republicans are in chaos, there’s no end in sight and it gets better and better every day. I actually look forward to reading the news each morning – what a difference that is!
    Romney is the most detached, tone deaf and arrogant politician ever. He just can’t help stepping on his own dick – and he isn’t just their best hope, he’s their only hope.
    Santorum is a proven loser and a freak of nature. That he has any numbers at all only proves how accurate the above description of Romney is among Republicans .

    By all means we should enjoy this while it lasts, and hope and work for it to last as long as possible. At the same time, in between pointing and laughing we should also be organizing for the kicking them after their down finale. It would be a shame if we didn’t use this opportunity to turn out 70 or 80 million voters (now including a lot of formerly Republican women — see what I mean?) in November.
    It’s an election, yes. But it could be so much more: A “piss on their grave” party or a “kick their crippled remains just for the fun of it” party.
    They are doing their best to destroy themselves. I really think if we help them out a little, this could be it for the Republicans.

    • now including a lot of formerly Republican women

      Ding ding ding.

      Imagine that you’re a 29 year old white woman. You and your husband work blue collar jobs, or maybe you stay home with young children. You’re family has taken a beating in this recession.

      Does Mitt Romney represent your interest and values? How about the contraception guy?

    • Joshua says:

      This. I’m watching this purely for the lols.

      But I do want Santorum to get the nomination. Because if he does, he would win what, 5 states? Maybe then, the whole movement conservative thing can be dead and buried once and for all. They got their way, look at what happened, go away.

      If Romney wins then yes, the conclusion will be that he isn’t right-wing enough, and we need “purer” conservatives that have not Failed The Party to lead the way. More of the same, in other words.

      • If Romney wins then

        That depends on what Romney wins.

      • Malaclypse says:

        They got their way, look at what happened, go away.

        Which is why nobody ever heard of conservatives after Barry Goldwater.

        If Santorum somehow gets the nomination, then loses the general, it will be because he was not conservative enough. Après Santorum le déluge.

        • Hogan says:

          Also too Obama stole the election with his Chicago-style vote stealing voodoo. I saw a bus! With black people in it!

          But yeah, clearly Santorum was squishy on, well, it must have been something.

        • Joshua says:

          Goldwater was the catalyst of the modern wingnut movement.

          A Santorum ass-kicking in 2012, after 3 decades of Republicans building the country they want, would, I think, prove that there’s nowhere else to go. What are they going to do, start another Fox News?

          Of course these people aren’t going to go away (the lunatics have taken over the asylum), but it would prove that this country is not interested in wingnut purity like they are.

          • R Johnston says:

            A Santorum ass-kicking in 2012, after 3 decades of Republicans building the country they want, would, I think, prove that there’s nowhere else to go. What are they going to do, start another Fox News?

            Rand Paul/Steve King 2016!

            Things can always get wingnuttier.

            • Rick Santorum has expressed concern for poor people and the loss of manufacturing jobs. Even though his solutions to these problems are completely in line with conservative orthodoxy, that would be enough these days to characterize hims Not A True Conservative.

          • DrDick says:

            I fear that you give conservatives far too much credit for rationality and sanity.

      • djw says:

        But I do want Santorum to get the nomination. Because if he does, he would win what, 5 states?

        I basically agree with Scott on the Santorum’s chances to win the nomination. (Not quite as confident; I might take Santorum at 10-1). But should he drown in a sea of Santorum, I can’t share your confidence. I think Romney’s electability advantage over Santorum in the general is quite modest. Nate Silver agrees.

        • Anonymous says:

          Just as I enjoy watching the Republicans eat themselves, I also enjoy all the wonky, geeky handicapping and Nate Silverizing of the meal itself. It seems a little masturbatory though, in that it particularizes the fatal condition the Republicans brand is in — that is, it treats each chart and graph as the thing itself — and thereby risks obscuring the historic unravelling that’s going on. But then who doesn’t enjoy masturbation, right?

          While we savor each of the courses in and of themselves, let’s not forget to take in the whole table set before us. This feasting of theirs, one freak upon the other, is an opportunity none of us has seen before.
          As Substance McGravitas said above, for example: “What does Romney win?” Even if he gets the nomination he has a constituency of what? 25%? 35% at best – within his own party! Even if the so-called Republican Establishment gets everything they want, at the end of this thing they will only have a minor share of their own party to depend on. Bill Clinton’s axiom about their “falling in line” doesn’t hold anymore. The primaries will look like a walk in the park compared to the work they will have to do after they’re over. They are doing our 1972 better than we did.

          When I look at what’s happening I think about printing 50 million “Obama O Muerte” bumper stickers in pink right now.
          I think about the pink twisted coat hanger bumper sticker someone suggested a couple of weeks ago. Or one with Romney’s face photoshopped on JP Morgan . . . whatever.
          This is big is what I’m saying. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to destroy the Republican party and create a massive constituency to move Obama and the Democrats to the left in the process.

        • djw says:

          and thereby risks obscuring the historic unravelling that’s going on

          This is vastly overstated. Yes, that’s how it looks right now, but it’s exactly the sort of thing we shouldn’t trust our perception about. This sort of thing is almost always less dramatic than it appears in real time, which is why Silver is right to ignore it as noise when analyzing the election.

          As Substance McGravitas said above, for example: “What does Romney win?” Even if he gets the nomination he has a constituency of what? 25%? 35% at best – within his own party!

          This is silly. All the evidence suggests that Republicans will unite around their nominee. They’re vote was always going to be mostly negative anyway.

          The reality is the most likely outcome is the Republican party will trundle along as one of the two major parties in our political system. If they have several bad election cycles they’ll re-tool and come back, or come back for reasons that have nothing to do with their message and politics (like 2010). The narrative about party collapse you present isn’t wholly implausible, but it’s highly unlikely.

          This belief–that one of the two parties is on the verge of collapse–is surprisingly common in political discourse. It’s almost always wrong.

  12. Incontinentia Buttocks says:

    I can’t argue with you on the delegate math (which is ultimately all that matters), but I think it’s important to mention that unlike all the other clowns in the not-Mitt car (Paul, Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich, and–after he actually became a candidate–Perry), Santorum is wholly acceptible to the party establishment…and much more acceptable than Willard to some sectors of it. I don’t think that earns Santorum enough delegates to win this thing, but it does make the process of showing him the exit much more complicated. I still think that Romney wins this nomination. But, perhaps unlike you, I think this will drag out for months and months (and thus look something like last time’s Democratic primary process).

    • John says:

      If he’s so acceptable, why does he have basically no endorsements from any prominent Republican elected officials?

      • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

        Endorsements aren’t exactly a measure of acceptability. They’re a measure of support and, at least coming from elected officials, also something of a prediction of victory (politicians want to attach themselves earkt to a winner to reap the spoils of victory).

        What you’re not seeing with Santorum that you saw with Gingrich (and, say, Huckabee last time) is people in the party establishment publicly attacking him. That absence is a measure of acceptability.

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        I think you’re both right — Santorum is certanly acceptable to GOP elites in a way Newt wasn’t, but that’s different than saying he has the support of said elites. Which returns us to square 1 — he could win if he had the resources and infrastructure, but he doesn’t.

  13. [...] So says Scott Lemieux, rather authoritatively: [...]

  14. IM says:

    Well, I am still with Mitt too. I always said he would win, even when some people on this blog declared Pawlenty the front runner. The usual reasons: The others have more baggage, organization beats no organization etc.

    That said I thought he would wrap this thing up in South Carolina or Florida.

  15. Colin Day says:

    Romney may have one problem: he has (relatively) few donors who have given $2,500.

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/zekejmiller/is-romney-going-to-run-out-of-money

  16. [...] so while baiting Lemieux is entertaining, I have to concur with his basic assessment; Mitt Romney remains overwhelmingly [...]

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