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Few surprises on Super Tuesday

Were there any big surprises Tuesday night?

The big sur­prise, if there was one, was that there were no sur­prises. “More of the same” is the theme. Romney is get­ting his votes; San­torum is get­ting his, poten­tially enough to be a viable can­di­date; Gin­grich has enough votes from win­ning Georgia where it might be impres­sive enough to get more funding to stay in the race; and Ron Paul is focusing on indi­vidual caucus states on the periphery, which has been his game all along.

For social con­ser­v­a­tives, there’s still no one oppo­nent to Mitt Romney. He will get the nom­i­na­tion, but he’s paying a price in these bitter pri­maries, where he’s veered off mes­sage way too much. Romney has been working on run­ning for pres­i­dent for eight years and he had a game plan: focus on the economy and his expe­ri­ence dealing with it as a cor­po­rate exec­u­tive; empha­size the fail­ures of the Obama admin­is­tra­tion, par­tic­u­larly in rela­tion to eco­nomic issues and unem­ploy­ment; and finally empha­size him­self as the only can­di­date who can beat Barack Obama. The more he focuses on side issues, which matter far more now than they will with the gen­eral elec­torate, the more Romney hurts himself.

A candidate needs the support of 1,144 party delegates to become the Republican presidential nominee. Is there a point when it becomes mathematically impossible for a candidate to stay in the race?

There cer­tainly is a point when it becomes math­e­mat­i­cally impos­sible to become the nom­inee, but under the present rules the Repub­li­cans are using in terms of pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion — an extremely com­pli­cated system for allo­cating votes — it’s also extremely hard for a can­di­date to pull away and win, which Romney is very much learning here.

But it’s not really about the votes right now; it’s about the money, espe­cially in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Cit­i­zens United deci­sion. Now, staying in the race is more about having the money, which can come from a few very wealthy donors con­tributing to a candidate’s Super PAC. If Gin­grich and San­torum can keep up the funding, then they can stay in the race up until the con­ven­tion. I’m not saying we’ll have a bro­kered con­ven­tion — because we won’t — but this race could come down to the very end.

After Super Tuesday, arguably the biggest day of the campaign so far, what comes next?

The mile­stones that are coming up in the next sev­eral weeks favor the social con­ser­v­a­tives, which will cause enor­mous prob­lems for Mitt Romney. The races in Kansas, Alabama and Mis­sis­sippi are going to favor San­torum, and pos­sibly Gin­grich. It will just reit­erate what is going on: the frac­tion­al­iza­tion of the party and the over­whelm­ingly neg­a­tive aspects of the race.

What’s really sig­nif­i­cant — whether you’re reading the polls of voters that came out of Tuesday’s pri­maries or tracing sen­ti­ments from all the way back in the fall — is that Repub­lican voters are saying two things over­whelm­ingly. One is that they want someone who will address the eco­nomic issues and the other is that they want to beat Obama. Those are the strengths of Mitt Romney, and the more he moves away from that the more he hurts him­self. As the race has gone on, he’s veered off track — he’s changed his mes­sage again and again — and that doesn’t make sense. He had a plan fig­ured out and he should’ve just fol­lowed through. Eco­nomics divides the country and divides the party — and that should be the basic con­cern for Romney.

– by Matt Collette

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