GOP Primary 2012: When Will It All End?!
By Steffen Schmidt
A well-known European political reporter asked me when the Republican bid for the candidate to run against Obama would finally end. Here are my views on this issue.
1. How long can Santorum keep this up and will it weaken Romney or else strengthen him by buying him a lot of free airtime as media covers campaign breathlessly?
Santorum, Newt and Ron Paul can stay in as long as they hate Mitt Romney; which they do; thus until the Utah primary in June. There is lots of free media in every market and all three of them have enough money to schlep to the main media market (usually the capital of the state, check into a Holiday Inn Express for one or two nights, do as many TV, right wing talk radio shows as possible (EVERY state has Clear Channel and right wing radio), do three or four rally's at conservative Evangelical Mega churches (every state has at least one).
I think the blood letting and constant glitches by Romney or his staffers (see Etch-a-Sketch incident) are not good for his brand.
2. Jeb Bush finally threw his weight behind Romney after the Illinois win and there was a fair bit of pushback against Santorum for saying Romney is Obama-lite, “may as well stay with what we have.” Establishment is clearly closing ranks, but what about the base? Does Santorum have a point about Romney's enthusiasm gap?
The "establishment" has been "closing ranks" since McCain and Chris Christie endorsed Mitt and look how much good that did! You seem to have forgotten that this is 2012 and the very mention of "GOP ESTABLISHMENT" sends the Tea Party radicals and the Evangelicals and Opus Dei, true believing, Santorumite Catholics into a furious frenzy. Please remember that since 2010 GOP incumbents and "establishment" have been declared to be RINO's (Republican In Name Only), challenged in primaries, and generally excoriated by almost 2/3 of the Republicans voting or going to caucuses (starting with Iowa). Jeb Bush may be good to go with the OSR's ("Old School Republicans"), but Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, the "conservative first", Obama hating, faith-based, and Rush Limbaugh are NOT on board with Mitt Romney, Romneycare, "Romney Waffles," and other powerful symbolisms.
Enthusiasm gap? You Betcha! The turnout at Republican primaries has been miserable because there is a big gap for all four of the contenders and even Ron Paul is seeing some decline of the "Paul Revolution."
3. What's it going to take for this to wrap up?
I think it will wrap up in June but only if many super delegates finally say "Basta!" and declare themselves for Romney. Or, it may actually take a first ballot at the convention in August while a lot of very nasty maneuvering goes on over the summer.
We keep forgetting that fully half of all the GOP delegates in Tampa will be non-elected “super delegates” and “bonus delegates” (I wrote a column about that which you can find in the Des Moines Register.) These can normally vote for whomever they want at the convention. We don’t know yet what the disposition of these is towards the current field of candidates. It may be that many of them favor Santorum over Romney. So, if no one has garnered the 1144 delegates necessary to get the nomination by the end of the primary season then it may be possible to convince delegates that Mitt Romney couldn’t even get the minimum necessary after months and months of campaigning and that he is NOT the most electable. So Santorum may wish to pursue these delegates, maybe talk Newt into being “patriotic” and giving his delegates to him, and continue the fight.
Steffen W. Schmidt is a University Professor of Political Science and Public Policy (also Coastal Zone Management) at Iowa State University, an affiliate of Nova Oceanographic Center, the author of 11 books, he has more than 40 years analyzing the Iowa Caucuses, is a Des Moines Register blogger, a CNN en Español analyst and commentator and is the Chief Political Correspondent of InsiderIowa.com.