Playing out a scenario for the GOP primaries – help me out

Imagine if you will: Newt Gingrich wins South Carolina tomorrow by 5 points over Romney (could well happen).  Ron Paul comes in third, as usual, and Rick Santorum is a disappointing fourth.  Following that, Santorum, who is out of money and momentum, withdraws from the race and backs Gingrich in a last-ditch effort to undermine Romney’s candidacy.

Suddenly, the only not-Mitt candidate who isn’t Ron Paul, the GOP’s crazy uncle, is Newt Gingrich.  That allows Gingrich to go on a fundraising tear, pulling in millions in a few days, and also encourages his Super PAC to go hog-wild in Florida.  Furthermore, Gingrich now has Rick Perry and Santorum as surrogates.  Romney of course will hit back via his SuperPAC, as he did in Iowa, but remember that Romney has rarely exceeded 30% in national polling, and he didn’t hit 40% even in New Hampshire, one of his strongest states.  To what extent does the non-Mitt vote coalesce around Gingrich in Florida, and how well can he do in that very large, expensive state?

After Florida, there are a bunch of caucuses (NV, ME, CO, and MN), which are hard to predict because they’re not regular elections.  I don’t know enough about how those caucuses work to have a feel for whether a still-underfunded (though gaining ground) but momentum-feeling Gingrich could do well in those states.  The next major primaries aren’t until February 28, when Arizona and Michigan will vote.  That’s a lot of time in which a surging Gingrich could raise money and get boots on the ground in those states.  Furthermore, we know that Romney performs at his absolute worst when he is feeling the heat – he gets testy, his fake smile gets even more brittle, and he says stupid things.  Expect more of that if Gingrich gains strength.

How do you see all this playing out?


7 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Nope

    Here’s how it plays out. Mitt collects an absolute majority of delegates and the party falls in line.

    Maybe along the way he also collects enough wounds, either from the Gritch or self-inflicted, to damage him for the general. More likely it seasons him, makes him a better candidate, less dorky and more tractable to professional handlers.

    Just maybe, in a perverse way, it even inoculates him in the general against all the stuff he’s going though now. It’s already old news that he’s an out-of-touch poor little rich boy with no core, that he hid the jobs he sucked jobs out of companies in the Caymens, yadda yadda. So what’s new?

    Meanwhile being attacked by the likes of Newt and the crazies helps him win swing voters in the general. He’ll be a white guy who is not crazy! Voters will swoon. Short of Mitt’s own out-and-out self destruction anything that happens in your scenario rebounds to his benefit.

    • Ahem..

      “More likely it seasons him, makes him a better candidate, less dorky and more tractable to professional handlers.”

      If it hasn’t happened by now after all the time he’s spent running for president…

    • The primary fires up the bigots

      I agree that Mitt Romney will win a majority of delegates and be the nominee. I have a different interpretation of the effect of this bizarrely bigoted primary campaign.

      I think the effect of the primary campaign is to pander to and fire up the bigots hiding in the rocks and crevices of the national electorate. This GOP primary campaign is pouring gasoline on smoldering embers of fear and resentment — fear and resentment that eagerly seeks any scapegoat. Blacks, gays, immigrants, atheists, Muslims, women, Hispanics, it doesn’t matter (except to the rest of us).

      At the end of the day, Mitt Romney will run against Barack Obama, and Barack Obama will become the lightning rod for all that hate. The effect of this primary campaign (intentional or not) will be to motivate the haters to turn out. If the efforts of Barack Obama have so alienated the voters who surged to support him in 2008 that they stay home, bigotry and hatred will win.

      This election is already about hate, racism, bigotry, and class warfare, and it will stay that way.

  2. Don't see it

    Nevada is a guaranteed lock for Romney — it’s #2 on the Mormon all-time list.

    Gingrich pissed off so much of the Establishment during his time as Speaker that he’s not going to get much of it back. I think Gingrich has a notable ceiling, especially in places where it’s handy to have a framework in place.

    While I love the idea of a protracted fight to cripple the eventual nominee, I think the owners of the GOP have settled on Romney. The rest of the primary campaign in the US matters as much as the primary campaign in Russia.

    sabutai   @   Fri 20 Jan 8:52 PM
  3. The remaining four all get to Florida.

    Santorum has the backing of the Christian Right. Gingrich will keep it close in SC, but I’ll believe a win when I see it.

  4. I think Newt will pull it out in SC

    but I would be shocked if Santorum called it quits, even if he comes in fourth in SC. Why not at least get in one more Southern primary, especially after winning the endorsement of the evangelical leaders the other day? That will only serve to help Romney, but I think Santorum has little reason to help Newt (whom he dislikes pretty intensely, like just about anyone who has spent time with Newt).

    After SC, though, that will be the end of Newt-mentum. Indeed, I would not be surprised at all if SC is the one and only state Gingrich wins. If Newt wins SC, then many Republicans, some Tea Partiers included, will realize just how toxic Gingrich would be in a general election and concede that Romney is the only real option. They won’t like it, but for all the noise about how ideologically committed Republicans are, the main goal is to beat Obama.

    By September, Mitt Romney will in the minds of Republicans be quite possibly the greatest human being ever to walk the face of the earth. He’ll have little problem consolidating the base, Gary Johnson will play little role (maybe 1% of the vote or so), but Obama will still get 51%-52% and win reelection.

    • Heh

      “By September, Mitt Romney will in the minds of Republicans be quite possibly the greatest human being ever to walk the face of the earth.”

      Ain’t that the truth. On both sides usually…

      Though I do disagree, I think there is a mild but possibly important-to-the-margin-of-victory from self-suppression of the core Republican vote in the general, people who just cannot hold their noses and vote for Romney.

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