ROUGH ROAD AHEAD?
Mitt Romney potentially faces some tough
challenges in Act II of this GOP nomination 'drama'
Friday, March 9, 2012
by Richard E. Berg-Andersson
In my Commentary of this past 9 February, I likened the 2012 Republican presidential nomination race up to that point to but the first Act of a drama on which the curtain had closed (after the delegate selection events of the previous Tuesday [7 February]- all of which former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum had won); there was now to be an intermission before Act II.
In this regard, the Arizona and Michigan GOP Presidential Primaries on 28 February were like the orchestra playing selected themes from the overture as incidental music after the house lights have come back on and while the theatregoers have all returned to their seats-- then the curtain rose and Act II was thereafter being staged, beginning with the exciting adventure of 'Super Tuesday' 6 March...
and what an adventure it was!: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich getting the first "call" of the evening as the very State in which his career as a national figure began- Georgia- gave most of its votes (and, more importantly, delegates) to him; unfortunately for him, it was to be Mr. Gingrich's only victory of the day. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney got the next "call"- in Virginia (albeit with an "asterisk", as neither Gingrich nor Santorum had qualified for the Old Dominion's Primary ballot [thus, Mr. Romney's only competition in that State was Texas Congressman Ron Paul]); not long thereafter, Vermont and Massachusetts both were seen as also having gone Romney's way.
It looked as if it might become a relatively big night for Romney, even should he not do well in the other Southern States- Tennessee and Oklahoma (this last considered a "Southern" State only because it- like most of the South- yet retains its old Runoff in its State and local Primaries later in the year as well as the fact that its overall Conservatism appears Southern in fashion [at least to this 'Yankee', born and bred!])- voting in Presidential Primaries that day; but Romney was not doing as well in Ohio as it originally appeared he might, given the early "exit polls" being reported in the media immediately the Buckeye State closed its polls (most interesting, considering that Mr. Santorum had failed to file slates of delegates in 3 of Ohio's 16 Congressional Districts!).
As the lead in Ohio see-sawed betwixt Messrs. Romney and Santorum while more and more returns came in, Santorum himself racked up victories in those two "Southern" contests mentioned in the preceding paragraph-- but the bad news for Santorum is that he didn't do all that well in the one Southern State that would have given him a competitive "lion's share" of National Convention delegates (that which really matters in the contest for the Grand Old Party's presidential nomination): thanks largely to Georgia's having such a large Republican Convention delegation, from the six Primary States (other than Ohio, of course) called fairly early 'Super Tuesday' evening, Santorum would not be able to so easily offset Gingrich's own delegate gains!
While the lead in Ohio continued to switch back and forth as the evening progressed, North Dakota went for Santorum-- ah, but Idaho went to Romney! To complicate matters, North Dakota's National Convention delegates are sort of-- well-- pledged, yet unpledged (because how this State's delegates might actually vote on the floor of the GOP Convention in Tampa late this coming Summer is still voluntary)...
then- finally!- it became clear who was going to win the big prize (if only because of its reputation as a "swing state" in national elections)- and it was to be Romney after all (although by less than a percentage point [yet Romney was aided and abetted, in the delegate count, by that failure of Santorum to have filed a complete, statewide delegate slate!]). Alaska- late to vote and, in addition, slow to come in- was almost an afterthought (the biggest news before bedtime in the East coming out of the Last Frontier being that its former Governor- Sarah Palin- had voted for Newt Gingrich in her own local caucus [her endorsement of him didn't much help: he still came in 4th there]) but Romney eked out a win over Santorum there as well.
So... what did this all really mean?
It means Mitt Romney, like it or not, remains the "front runner" for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination: for he alone gained triple-digits in delegates (actually cracking the 200 mark) on 'Super Tuesday' itself and- coming into that day leading Gingrich by 89 and Santorum by 101 in this website's "hard count" (our own count of Republican National Convention delegates already formally bound or pledged to presidential contenders) and leaving it leading Gingrich by 215 and Santorum by 228!
As for Rick Santorum: important victories, yes (when one combines Oklahoma and Tennessee with the Colorado Minnesota and Missouri Santorum won at the end of what I called Act I, there is clearly a swath of the country not so "Romney-friendly") and- by turning Ohio into a nailbiter (much like Michigan had been the week before [and remembering that Iowa- which started off this whole drama now over two months ago- was also close (albeit [eventually ;-)] a Santorum win)])- the all too evident weaknesses of a front runner who, otherwise, has such a commanding lead in pledged delegates are altogether clear!
Having said this, however, Santorum was also clearly hurt by his own failure to put more effort in Ohio (what if he had filed slates in those Congressional Districts, for example?): in a way- to here paraphrase NFL Head Coach Dennis Green- Romney was who Santorum thought he was and, still, he let him off the hook! ;-)
Santorum also still has Newt Gingrich to contend with for those conservative voters who might otherwise choose Santorum over Romney were Gingrich no longer in the race-- but Gingrich is still ahead of Santorum in the "hard count" and, compared to the situation immediately following Arizona and Michigan a week earlier, Santorum is actually 1 delegate further back of Gingrich! No wonder the former House Speaker feels no compulsion to drop out (despite the voices of many a conservative activist now suggesting just that!)
In short- as was the case after the South Carolina Presidential Primary back in late January- consider the 2012 GOP nomination race to still be officially a "mess"!
What's next, then?
Next Tuesday [13 March], the most important contests are going to be the Presidential Primaries in ALABAMA and MISSISSIPPI: not a whole lot of National Convention delegates are actually at stake here in that which is not "Romney country" (but 84 delegates to be bound to presidential contenders in toto), thus Governor Romney need not worry at all about losing too much of his "hard count" delegate lead here!
Essentially, this will be a battle between Gingrich and Santorum and the problem is- should Santorum not win both Primaries- Romney is happiest because the 'anti-Romney' conservatives remain divided for yet another week going into ILLINOIS [on 20 March], a State which ordinarily would be considered Romney-friendly, but for what have so recently seen in both Michigan and Ohio!
And, speaking of Michigan, a final word- if I might- about what has come to be known as "Dele-Gate":
What happened was that- due to Michigan having been sanctioned by the Republican Party US (the State was penalized half its GOP delegation) for holding its Presidential Primary "too early" ('Super Tuesday' itself was supposed to be the earliest States- other than the "chosen four" [Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina]- were allowed to begin their respective delegate selection processes)- the Wolverine State ended up with only 2 at-large National Convention delegates to be bound to presidential contenders based on the Primary vote statewide.
At least it appeared that these 2 delegates were to be split between the top two votegetters in the Presidential Primary (unless the winner happened to be the only one to meet the threshold requirement of 15 per cent)-- since Romney and Santorum finished 1-2 and both gained at least 15%, it appeared (on Primary night itself [Tuesday 28 February]) that they each would get 1 at-large delegate and, since Romney and Santorum ended up evenly splitting Michigan's 28 district-based National Convention delegates, 14-14, the Wolverine State's GOP Convention delegation appeared- at least at first- to be a 15-15 tie.
At this point, the Public Relations jostling (for that is what it really only was) between the Romney camp and those who were (and are) 'anti-Romney' became a veritable- as well as the proverbial- "pissing contest":
Romney, of course, claimed victory in Michigan to go along with a win for him called earlier that same evening in Arizona and, in fact, he did win in Michigan (that is: if you are willing to consider a Primary Election- even a Presidential Primary- an election!) 41% to 38%. But the 'anti-Romney' forces- led by the Santorum campaign and bolstered by various and sundry conservative and/or "tea party" groups in the Wolverine State- all too gleefully pointed out that, in terms of delegate count, Santorum had actually tied Romney (it was a variant of the same argument Santorum's people had used in the immediate aftermath of the Iowa caucuses ["variant" because National Convention delegates were not actually being bound to presidential contenders in Iowa]-- that is: until Santorum [a couple weeks thereafter] was seen as having been the one who had actually eked out a victory in Iowa over Romney [an age-old political dictum: "It is what we say it is... until saying so no longer benefits us... after which it's, of course, not and, indeed, never was!"-- I think one of the guys bucking to be High Priest under Sargon the Great in 3d Millennium B.C. Akkad/Sumer used that one!]... the chortling amongst the 'anti-Romney' crowd was particularly loud, considering that Michigan is, after all, Mitt Romney's old home State where his own father had once been its Governor.
But then, come the next day [that of Wednesday 29 February], it was learned- by all- that the rules for binding/pledging the 2 (count 'em-- two!) at-large Michigan delegates had been misunderstood: these two delegates, instead, both go to Romney (it had, so it was explained, all to do with the sanctioning: Michigan was originally supposed to get 14 at-large delegates [out of 42] and, had Michigan not been sanctioned [that is, had the Wolverine State "played nice" and waited at least a week before holding their Presidential Primary], Romney and Santorum would have then split the at-large delegates 7-7 but, or so it was said, the delegates- in essence- were supposed to have been assigned in "slots"- the top 7 such "slots" hypothetically going to Romney, with the remaining 7 "slots" to Santorum [as the only other candidate receiving at least 15% of the vote]... since the top 2 "slots" [of the original at-large 14] would have been Romney delegates in any event, the only 2 at-large delegate "slots" left after the sanctioning were to be Romney's)...
voila! The delegate count out of Michigan was now seen to have really been: Romney 16, Santorum 14.
It was as if New York Giants fans had awakened the morning after Super Bowl 46 earlier that same month and been told that, due to a technicality, the New England Patriots were the real Super Bowl champions!
The "victory" (it should be altogether obvious precisely why that word is in quotes here) of the 'anti-Romney' folks that was the originally reported 15-15 tie was, seemingly as well as unceremoniously, snatched away like "candy from a baby" and the resultant hue and cry, the wailing and gnashing of teeth, the rending of clothing and wearing of sackcloth and ashes coming out of the Santorum campaign- along with many others opposed to Mitt Romney's possibly winning the 2012 Republican presidential nomination- was, immediately thereafter, positively deafening (or at least the bandwidth available on the Internet as the blogosphere "lit up" like the proverbial "Christmas tree" in the wake of all this was itself very much reduced for a time)!
Saul Anuzis, Republican National Committeeman from Michigan, issued a memo on Thursday 1 March stating that the "slotting" I have noted above had been agreed upon back on Saturday 4 February (interestingly, the very eve of Super Bowl 46!), well before anyone could have known whether or not Governor Romney was going to win his old home State in any event and- if so (or not)- by just how much... but many, if not most, 'anti-Romney'ites (Santorum supporters or no, "tea partiers" or no) were having absolutely none of it!
Listen... I have absolutely no idea whether or not the rules were changed either midstream or even after we all already knew which "horse" was (barely?) fastest in fording that stream!...
nor do I really all that much care! (the reader will see why by the end of this piece)...
but it is never ever advisable to put yourself into a position- whether by mistake or by design- in which it can so easily appear that the rules might well have been changed (even where they might not have been so changed)--
simply put: the Michigan Republican Party, at best, screwed up on this one big time and, at worst, screwed Senator Santorum out of a delegate that might well have been rightfully his!
Having said this, however, I ever remain a generally sane person (as questionable as my own claim to such a status might well be, considering what one sees attached to my own name when one happens to access The Green Papers)- one who lives in the real world and, thereby, firmly (hopefully?) grounded here on planet Earth and this 'Santorum really tied Romney in his home State nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah- NYAH-NYAH' drivel belongs more on the kickball field during 4th grade recess than in any serious discussion about the American political situation!
Romney getting one delegate that otherwise would have been bound to Santorum does not, in and of itself, do anything the least bit significant to aid and abet Romney's nomination for President (should this, in fact, be the end result come the Republican Convention itself) other than the mere- and altogether arcane, in the long view- mathematical fact that Romney is now 2 delegates closer to that nomination (that's 2 out of a total of 1144 needed [a whopping 0.175%!!]) than he would have been had the 15-15 tie in Michigan, instead, all along held... and the fact of the matter is that- had Romney, instead, won the Michigan district delegates, say, 17-11 (with Santorum still getting at least 15% of the vote in the Primary in such a case) with what originally appeared to be 18-12 becoming- upon further review [;-)]- 19-11, I wouldn't even be so wasting my own good time (as well as that same Internet bandwidth) even typing these last several paragraphs right now because the matter would not, then, even have been cause for all that much discussion to begin with!
If the Santorum campaign- or, for that matter, all those who so hope to keep Mitt Romney from winning the Republican presidential nomination (Santorum supporters or not)- so needed to be able to so promote a tie (a freak-in' tie!) in delegate count in a single State's Presidential Primary in order to thereafter do well against Romney in future Presidential Primaries and caucuses, that is, indeed, one of the best examples of the quintessential Loser's Gambit and- by very definition- there is only one class of person who even plays such a gambit in the first place...
it would also be all too much "Action confused with Accomplishment" as well!
NOTE: Soon after the above Commentary was originally composed, updated Republican National Convention delegate numbers were posted to 'The Green Papers':
In this Commentary, there is a reference above to the following: Gingrich is still ahead of Santorum in the "hard count" and, compared to the situation immediately following Arizona and Michigan a week earlier, Santorum is actually 1 delegate further back of Gingrich! No wonder the former House Speaker feels no compulsion to drop out (despite the voices of many a conservative activist now suggesting just that!).
With the updated numbers, Senator Santorum is actually now (on the morning of Friday 9 March in the United States) exactly the same number of delegates  behind Speaker Gingrich in this website's "hard count" as he was on the very eve of 'Super Tuesday' 6 March...
yet this still does not change the main thrust of that which was expressed in the above-quoted sentences. REB-A