As was tweeted by a few individuals, it is remarkable that a conservative, Catholic, Republican – who largely rejects JFK’s sentiments on religion in the public square to boot – won primaries in Alabama and Mississippi. It’s also becoming evident that exit polling means squat with regards to Rick Santorum.
Mitt Romney continues to be the weakest front-runner imaginable. It was funny to listen to John Batchelor and his parade of insiders smugly dismiss Santorum’s victories and chat away about the inevitability of Romney’s nomination while Santorum was winning two southern states in which Romney finished third. Yes, Romney still has an edge, and with victories in American Samoa and Hawaii Santorum’s delegate edge last night was minimal. But Romney has far from sealed the deal.
Speaking of Romney, his gaggle of supporters truly marked themselves by their utter gracelessness in defeat. As Mark Levin said, Romney supporters are quickly becoming as obnoxious as Ron Paul supporters. It’s true that partisans of all of the candidates can be particularly blind to their own candidate’s faults and to exaggerate the foibles of the others, but Romney supporters in all corners of the internet have been particularly bitter and have done little to actually sway others to their side. What might explain this phenomenon is that unlike the others, Romney voters aren’t particularly enamored with their candidate and are instead motivated by either dislike of the other candidates and/or fear that any other candidate would lose the general election. So they don’t really have any convincing arguments to make on behalf of Romney, but instead they kick and stomp their feet every time Romney fails to win a primary. I would suggest that calling those of us who don’t vote for Romney a bunch of hayseed hicks, and suggesting that social cons be banished from consideration this election might just not be a winning strategy. Just saying.
As for Newt, there is absolutely no compelling reason for him to stay in this race. He won his home state, the state neighboring his home state, and has otherwise been a distant consideration save for the states he lost last night in the south. Rick Santorum already had a slight lead in Louisiana, and I think that last night’s victories just about clinches the state for him (though that’s a rather dangerous prediction considering the wildness of this primary season thus far). That being said, his reasoning for staying in is not all that outrageous. He suggested that he didn’t want Romney to concentrate all of his fire on Santorum, something I said not that long ago. And while he has no realistic shot to win the nomination before or even during the Republican convention – is a brokered convention really going to nominate the guy with the third most delegates coming in? – he might be able to prevent Romney from securing the necessary number of delegates, and that seems to be his primary goal. After all, not all of his supporters will switch to Santorum. By staying in the race he is hurting Santorum, but he’s also hurting Romney by picking off a few delegates. Take away Gingrich from last night, and both Santorum and Romney would have won more delegates. That would have inched Romney closer to the nomination.
On the other hand, I don’t suppose Gingrich contributors are going to be all that enthused to continue propping up a candidate who has no intention of actually winning, and is instead motivated by nothing more than spite. Also, as was discussed last night, even if Romney fails to secure the precious 1,044 delegates by the time Tampa rolls around, he’ll still be the favorite at a brokered convention if he is significantly ahead of Santorum. There is no magical candidate that will emerge from the ashes of a brokered convention. It’s either going to be Romney or it’s going to be Santorum. Every delegate that Santorum doesn’t win from here until the convention is just as good as a delegate for Romney under a brokered convention scenario. If Santorum remains fairly close in the delegate count while neither candidate has the necessary majority, then Gingrich can play kingmaker at the convention. He would be well-advised to drop out sooner than later if he wants to achieve his twin objection of derailing Romney and having a hand in deciding the eventual nominee.