According to various news outlets, Mitt Romney’s campaign is quite confident that Romney will be the eventual GOP nominee. However, if I were in their position I am not sure I would be quite so optimistic. While Romney does have a sizeable advantage at the moment, he has not yet won the nomination.
Let us begin with basic arithmetic. It takes 1,144 delegates to win the GOP nomination. So far, Romney, according to his campaign’s calculations, has accumulated 430 delegates, while his two chief rivals, Rick Santorum and New Gingrich, have collected 185 and 106 respectively. Ron Paul’s delegate totals were not included in the Romney campaign’s memo. The Associated Press has slightly different delegate counts, but Romney still possesses a commanding lead according to those figures. Mathematically, Romney has a sizeable lead. However, pundits, analysts, and even some voters are surprised that Romney has not yet pulled away from the field and sealed up the GOP nomination. It was well-publicized that last night’s Super Tuesday results were an opportunity for Romney to land a knockout blow against at least one of his competitors. Well, it is Wednesday, the results have been tabulated and it does not appear that Santorum or Gingrich is ready to leave the race.
A top aide for the Romney campaign noted that, “the nomination is an impossibility for Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich.” Mathematically this is not yet a reality, but it will definitely be an uphill battle for Santorum and Gingrich. According to the Romney campaign’s calculations, in order to win the nomination Romney needs to win 48% of the remaining delegates, Santorum would need 65% of those remaining, and Gingrich would need to win 70% of the outstanding delegates. While eventually the Romney aide’s claim might prove to be true, at the moment it is still a four-man race, if one includes Paul.
Victory by a candidate other than Romney does appear improbable at this stage, but declaring imminent victory, in my opinion, is premature. First of all, we have had multiple front-runners throughout the GOP primary, so at this point nothing would shock me. Second, the advent of the super PAC provides the opportunity for quick and substantial injections of cash into a candidate’s campaign. Third, and most importantly, Romney still has to survive the duration of the primary season.
This has been a hotly contested primary race, full of negative advertising and even personal attacks. Throughout all of this Romney has, of late, risen to the top. His position in the lead, however, is not guaranteed and the Romney campaign must do its best to protect their candidate. First and foremost, they must protect him from himself. Mitt Romney has proven himself prone to making gaffes and unforced errors. If he stumbles again, there could be very real consequences. Another consideration is the fact that Romney, as the front-runner, will continue to face attacks from all his competitors, and President Barack Obama’s campaign as well. The longer the primary drags on, the more attacks he will suffer and the more damage it may do to Romney. Not too long ago I argued that a drawn-out primary might prove beneficial to Romney. At this point, the race has dragged on for long enough that I think it can only hurt him. It sure looks to me like this contest might run all the way up to the GOP Convention in August.
It may end up being an extraordinarily long primary season to decide the GOP nominee for the general election, but it does appear that Romney will be the nominee. However, if I were a Romney aide, I am not sure I would be so smug about an eventual victory because there is still a long road to travel. And, even if Romney earns a hard-fought victory, the real fight—the one with Obama—is at the end of that road.
– Max Rava
Articles of interest: