Saturday, March 10, 2012

Race for the White House

After Super Tuesday, Mitt Romney is closer than ever, both literally in terms of delegates and more importantly in terms of momentum towards the goal of the Republican Presidential nomination.

While Romney's six victories constituted a very good night, the three states won by Rick Santorum prevented a more accelerated end of the contest. The campaign has already rolled on today as Santorum easily prevailed in the Kansas Caucus, a contest dominated by social conservatives that he was expected to win and that his opponents had conceded. Romney added to his delegate lead by victories in Guam, the U.S. Virgin Island, and the Northern Marianas Islands. Additionally, Romney was declared the winner in what was apparently another round of the Wyoming Caucus process.

Of course, the big news of the past week was Super Tuesday, and especially the state of Ohio, which was finally declared as a victory for Romney late in the evening, after he trailed Santorum in the returns most of the night. The former Massachusetts Governor also won sizeable to massive victories in Alaska, Idaho, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Virginia. While late polls had showed close races, Santorum won both Oklahoma and Tennessee by at least a few points and North Dakota by a wide margin. Newt Gingrich, while having a very poor night elsewhere, easily won the one state he focused on; his home state of Georgia. Ron Paul was once again shut out and seems unlikely to finish first anywhere in the country.

While Santorum will get positive headlines today on his win in the Sunflower State, the main upcoming focus is down in Dixie where Tuesday might bring about two very competitive three way races in Alabama and Mississippi. Conventional wisdom has been that Romney, the "Massachusetts Mormon" had very little hope of doing well in those states, and that Santorum, the leading "anti-Romney" figure in the race would have the momentum there, aided by Evangelical Christians, as he has been in other states. There is also a school of thought that Gingrich, the de factor Southerner, who cruised to victory in South Carolina, in what feels like eons ago, would also have a claim on those two states.

For part of the week, there was talk that Gingrich needed to win those two states, and if he did not, would have little choice but to get out of the race, presumably to give Santorum a one on one shot against Romney. However, the candidate is saying that no matter what happens on Tuesday, he plans to stay in the race all the way until the Tampa convention. That remains to be seen though. Gingrich already has several events scheduled for the upcoming week in Illinois, as that will be the next big contest on March 20th. I have decided that while he will be very close to where I live, seeing Newt bloviate in person would not be worth my time or money. Instead, I will hope to be able to win at least a few votes here locally for Mitt Romney, in my capacity of a Cook County GOP Precinct Captain.

There have been a few polls out of Alabama and Missisippi since Tuesday and it has likely come as a surprise to people that Romney is competitive in every one and even ahead outside of the margin of error in both states in some. The Mittster, for all the disadvantages that come with running in the South and what he has termed an "away game" does have strong organizations and important endorsements in both states, including now having the one of Phil Bryant, Mississippi's new Governor.

Simply put, Gingrich, Romney, and Santorum may all finish anywhere between first and third in both states on Tuesday. Gingrich needs the wins the most and Romney needs them the least. It would be beyond the wildest dreams of Romney supporters to think he could finish first in one or both of those very Deep South states. He will remain a clear frontrunner either way, despite the somewhat unfavorable portion of the primary and caucus calender in March, but if Romney finds a way to win those states, it will be taken as a sign that the race is nearly all over.