Published on TheHill.com on March 6, 2012
This column is being written on Super Tuesday. We as yet do not know the outcome of the 10-state match-up, but let’s assume that Mitt Romney wins the bulk of the caucuses and primaries. Give Georgia to Newt Gingrich. Give Oklahoma and Tennessee to Rick Santorum. Assume they split Ohio (owing to its proportional representation, it doesn’t really matter — in delegates — who narrowly wins). Then give Romney Massachusetts, Virginia, Vermont, North Dakota, Idaho and Alaska. He already won Washington state Saturday. If the final lineup is slightly different, it’s not that important.
So, as of Wednesday morning, when this column will appear, 34 percent of the delegates will have been allocated. In some states, the caucuses have been held but the delegates themselves not yet chosen, though we know how much each candidate will win. At this point, Romney has close to half of the delegates. Santorum and Gingrich should have about 22 percent each, and Ron Paul should have about 9 percent.
So here’s the basic point: Neither Santorum nor Gingrich nor Paul can win this nomination prior to the convention unless one of them gets two-thirds of the remaining delegates. That is not going to happen. It is very unlikely that even together Santorum and Gingrich can win two-thirds of the remaining delegates.
So the only way either man can win the Republican nomination is by triggering a deadlock, denying Romney a majority and fighting it out on the convention floor.
That would be OK if the convention were in early July. But it is to be held during the very last week of August. If the Republican Party does not have a nominee until Sept. 1 and we have to spend the next six months watching these candidates beating the living hell out of one another, you can kiss our chances of defeating Obama goodbye.
So the bottom line is that Santorum’s and Gingrich’s only path to the nomination is to create a situation that virtually guarantees an Obama victory. Is it worth it, at that price? Can Santorum or Gingrich credibly challenge my math? Can they really maintain that deadlock is good for our party and that it is OK not to have a nominee until Sept. 1? Are they seriously going to argue that another six months of candidate-bashing is not going to irreparably injure our fortunes in November?
Already, both Gallup and Rasmussen have Obama’s job approval back down to 45 percent. But trial match-ups have him beating Romney 50 percent to 44 percent, and Santorum and Gingrich by similar or larger margins. So why are 5 percent of the voters backing a president of whose job performance they disapprove? Because of the candidate-bashing in our Republican primaries.
As Romney’s victories mount, it will become increasingly obvious to voters that they have to back him or precipitate a deadlock that would be lethal. His victories will be more frequent and his margins greater.
It is one thing to say that Santorum or Gingrich has less of a chance to defeat Obama than Romney does. That’s a matter of opinion and political theory. But it is quite another to note that the very process that either Newt or Rick needs to take to win the nomination will, by itself, destroy its value and our chances of winning.
All this difficulty stems from the incomprehensible decision of the Republican National Committee to allow half of the delegates to be chosen by proportional representation. This system is akin to the old requirement that a candidate get two-thirds of the delegates in that it promotes deadlock, elongates the process and harms our chances of winning. Next cycle, please, let’s switch back to winner-take-all primaries.
But, for now, it’s getting to be time for Santorum, Gingrich and Paul to say goodbye.
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