So far, this has been the week that was as follows:
On Sunday 18 March, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney won all 20 Republican National Convention delegates up for grabs in the Presidential Primary on Puerto Rico. Two days later (Tuesday 20 March), Romney won a decisive victory in Illinois over former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and collected another 42 such delegates (to Santorum's 12), giving him a net +50 in National Convention delegates relative to the Pennsylvanian and allowing him to put even more distance between himself and the Republican presidential contender who has emerged as his chief rival for this year's presidential nomination of that Party.
Now all eyes turn to Louisiana this coming Saturday (24 March) to see if Rick Santorum can gain at least some of this "distance" back (only 20 of the Pelican State's 46 GOP National Convention delegates are awarded as a result of this weekend's Presidential Primary but Santorum can- by winning at least 25% of the statewide vote [current polling- as of this typing- indicates a likely Santorum victory but who really knows until the votes are counted?] without any other GOP presidential contender reaching the same threshold- sweep all 20 of these, thereby reducing Romney's net National Convention delegate gain during this week of 18-24 March to a mere +30: however, having to share the Louisiana at-large 20 [especially with Romney, but even with former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich] would certainly be a "worst case scenario" for Senator Santorum).
I'm not going to, any further, comment more directly on Mr. Santorum's candidacy in the rest of this piece (except where doing so is itself directly related to what I might write from this point on) because- regardless of what might happen in Louisiana- I am certainly going to have to address it soon thereafter... besides, I have to have something to write about after this weekend's event!
Having said this: assuming Senator Santorum (whether or not "accompanied" by Speaker Gingrich as a fellow 'anti-Romney' conservative GOP presidential contender) stays in the race till the end (that is: through the end of the Primary/Caucus "season" towards the end of this coming June, if not the GOP Convention in Tampa itself), I can already see something similar to what took place as regarded the Democrats back in 1976 at least beginning to brew:
Jimmy Carter (eventually to be elected President that year) ended up- after all the voting on the "old" 'Super Tuesday' [the Tuesday immediately after the first Monday in June (which has been the traditional end of the Presidential Primary/Caucus "season"): on 8 June 1976, three States with a large chunk of National Convention delegates up for grabs (California, New Jersey and Ohio) held Presidential Primaries]- with less than 350 votes short of winning his Party's presidential nomination outright, but well ahead of any other presidential contender in terms of delegates. In the ensuing days, Party leaders- along with some of his current, and former, rivals for the nomination- came out in support of Carter's presidential candidacy (delegates thus released to him moved him even much closer to the "magic number" he needed in order to be nominated)... simply put: Carter was so close as to be "pushed over the line" by the leadership cadre of his own Party.
Now, in 2012 and on the Republican side, we have a rather similar scenario potentially building.
The key to look for here is in a comparison between the percentage of total Republican National Convention delegates in States (or their equivalent, in the cases of U.S, Territories and associated Commonwealths) that have already begun their delegate selection process (in other words: have already held either a Presidential Primary or first-tier Caucuses [or equivalent]) and the percentage of delegates- in terms of our own website's "soft" delegate count- Mitt Romney "has" in relation to the total number of National Convention delegates he needs to be nominated [1,144].
Right now, as of this typing, those States that have already held either a Republican Presidential Primary or Caucus are just shy of 50% of the total (1,141 of 2,286 [49.9%]); meanwhile, Governor Romney has- again, per our "soft" count- 558 of the 1,144 he needs in order to be nominated [48.8%]) so he is effectively running close to, but slightly behind, the other statistic...
Louisiana's GOP Presidential Primary this coming Saturday (assuming, as the polls seem to right now indicate, it is Santorum's to claim) will not help Romney all that much in this regard: however, the month of April now becomes downright crucial for Rick Santorum as, during that very month, States representing another 16.6% of the total Republican National Convention delegates hold Presidential Primaries and- as I've already indicated towards the end of my Commentary of this past 12 March- these very States are, for the most part (Pennsylvania on 24 April, the Keystone State being Santorum's own home State, here especially excepted [although, to be sure, Romney is competitive therein]), "Romney-friendly" territory (we're talking here about the District of Columbia and Maryland come 3 April and then- on the 24th- Connecticut and Rhode Island, Delaware and New York [Wisconsin on the 3rd is also now very interesting, considering that neighboring Illinois proved to be quite unlike neighboring Michigan or fellow Great Lakes State Ohio-- which of its neighbors here cited Wisconsin's own Presidential Primary more resembles will now have a major impact upon the fortunes of either Governor Romney or Senator Santorum, depending])...
once the "dust settles" re: all of these Presidential Primaries some 5 weeks hence, again make the very same comparison I have just made above: calculate how many Republican National Convention delegates are "soft-counted" here on 'The Green Papers' for Romney, figure out what that result is as a percentage of the 1144 needed to win the 2012 GOP presidential nomination and then compare that resultant percentage to 66.3% (the total delegates in States [or equivalent jurisdictions] that will have already begun their delegate selection process by then):
if Romney's percentage (as determined through the methodology just described) exceeds that 66.3%, we would then truly be looking at- at minimum- a "Jimmy Carter: '76 Dems" scenario for Governor Romney in the '12 Grand Old Party!
Somehow, then, former Senator Santorum will simply have to undercut this possibility in those aforementioned April contests (for, as I've said, he is not going to do all that much undercutting, even were he to take all 20 National Convention delegates in the Louisiana Presidential Primary)... but it is clear we are now fast heading towards a point where this is becoming less and less likely!
I will now close this Commentary with some observations about the presidential candidacy of former Speaker Newt Gingrich:
Whether he realizes it or not, Louisiana is- indeed- Gingrich's last real shot at being a viable challenger for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination; if, somehow, he can win the Pelican State (even if he has to share its 20 National Convention delegates being pledged this Saturday [and it is far less likely Gingrich is going to be alone above the 25% threshold, even should he himself get there and, thereby, qualify for delegates]), he likely gets to fight on (whether he can do so or not due to funding issues involving his own campaign might be another matter but, from the standpoint of what I analyze in my pieces for 'The Green Papers', Gingrich's candidacy would thereafter still be "alive")...
but a loss in Louisiana for Speaker Gingrich- even where his percentage of the vote might be comparable to what he got in Alabama and Mississippi back on 13 March- is almost certainly the proverbial "day late and a dollar short"; meanwhile, a third place finish for Gingrich in Louisiana (especially without qualifying for any of the Pelican State's 20 delegates) would be an unmitigated disaster for his presidential ambitions!
Yes, Gingrich could thereafter continue to talk about how many times his campaign has been written off and still came back from the brink: he could continue to opine that he is the one Republican presidential candidate who has the target on his back at which both the mainstream media and the Republican "establishment" has been firing their political arrows and/or continue to insist how he alone could turn the 2012 General Election campaign for the White House into a 21st Century version of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates back in 1858 (with President Obama forced to play Stephen A. Douglas in Gingrich's own "mind-movie")-- however, if Newt Gingrich does badly in Louisiana this Saturday, he simply then becomes a pest- more of an irritant within the 2012 GOP nomination race as a whole- the longer he continues to stay in a fight it becomes highly unlikely he can actually win.
Texas Congressman Ron Paul , by virtue of his continuing to represent that minority libertarian faction within the Grand Old Party, will be able to stay in the race (perhaps all the way to the Convention in Tampa [though one would then have to see if he alone, among the remaining GOP presidential contenders, is denied valet parking! ;-)])-- Gingrich, on the other hand, has no such advantage: in truth (should he stumble in Louisiana), he will have merely become a 'Man Without A Constituency' as hard-core 'anti-Romney' conservatives turn more and more to Senator Santorum while Governor Romney himself yet continues to rack up National Convention delegates on his own end.
As I've said- in the very title of my 12 March piece- it is fast becoming time to "fish or cut bait" among those yet to vote in Republican Presidential Primaries this year and, in general, they don't seem to be fishing for Newt Gingrich near as much as they were a week and a half back now. Louisiana this Saturday could, of course, yet prove me wrong here-- but, if it doesn't, the ever-growing pressure on Speaker Gingrich to, as soon as practicable thereafter, fold up his tents and go home will only get even more so!