Sunday, March 25, 2012

How the Framing of the Story Changed, Newt - Get Out!, Looking Ahead to the General

The Inevitable Story Gains Legs
One of Mitt Romney's selling points to the GOP for the past couple of months has been that Romney inevitably would become the GOP nominee and had the best shot of beating President Obama in November and that the party should therefore line up behind him as continuing the primary fight only served to help the President's re-election prospects.

It was not a particularly sexy story - if you are a Republican, you'd much rather your nominee seek your vote because his views align with yours, his vision of the country is compelling, he has proven strong leadership, etc. versus "pick me, because you have no choice", but the story was more or less born out by the facts.  Romney wasn't and still isn't completely inevitable, but the math for anyone else to win is extremely difficult, as detailed in my last post.

The media - both the right (Fox News), the left (MSNBC) and the center (CNN) largely reported on but poo-pooed the assertion of the Romney campaign.  The reason is obvious - a competitive primary season that drags on generates more news coverage and ratings than an inevitable candidate just going through the motions.

The right wing of the Republican party largely rejected the narrative as well.  Romney wasn't conservative enough, was only winning pluralities, just COULDN'T be the choice of the home of the tea party if you were on the right.  So this odd marriage between the mainstream media and the right wing of the party kept the story of a competitive primary alive.

But a funny thing happened after Romney's victory in Illinois.  The GOP finally started circling the wagons.  Jeb Bush gave a belated endorsement to Romney.  Conservative king-maker Jim DeMint stopped just short of a formal endorsement, but made his support very clear.  The media started asking if the thing was over.

The odd thing is, the past week has gone exactly how anybody would have predicted it would have gone.  Romney won a large, urban state outside the south (Illinois) decisively, Santorum won a medium-sized deep south state decisively (Louisiana.)  It doesn't seem like the arc of the campaign has changed at all and yet the discussion has shifted entirely.

Maybe people are just finally realizing the math, maybe the election night coverage ratings are dwindling, maybe Republicans are starting to realize that losing to President Obama in November is quickly moving from a possibility to a probability, I don't know. 

At any rate, the race takes a little bit of lull this week with no contests going on (but surely lots of waving of Etch-a-Sketches), but confronts three winner-take-all contests worth a total of 98 delegates a week from Tuesday in Maryland, DC and Wisconsin.  Romney is leading all of those races and could pad his current delegate lead, which I estimate stands as follows (with some delegates yet to be decided in the last two races, pending final results):
Romney - 538 (53%)
Santorum - 254
Gingrich - 149
Paul - 67
Perry - 3
Huntsman - 2

Drop Out Gingrich - And You Too Ron Paul
I have long enjoyed the romantic story of Don Quixote, the Man of La Mancha, a man convinced he was a knight taking on giants (which were actually windmills.)  The term quixotic has entered our vocabulary as a romantically-inspired quest for a near-impossible goal.

But there comes a time to turn the sword in.  Newt Gingrich's time is here.

Newt Gingrich's power base has always been the deep South.  After having lost both the Alabama and Mississippi primaries, coming in a distant third in Louisiana clearly demonstrates that even his base has abandoned him.  If he can't do better than third in Louisiana, what states will he even be remotely competitive in?

Gingrich clearly cannot win the nomination.  He may be hanging around hoping that nobody gets to the magic number and he is a second ballot nominee.  But only an insane GOP would put him through on the second ballot.  In the unlikely event that Romney doesn't get to his magic number, he'd probably be able to build a coalition to get there.  Even if he couldn't, the GOP would be far more likely to broker a deal for a better candidate such as Jeb Bush or Chris Christie than to give the nomination to the third-place also-ran with more baggage than the cargo area of a 747.

Newt's funding has to be drying up - even rich Super-PAC donors want to know that they aren't just burning the money.  I actually expect that he will finally see the light and drop out soon.  He does like the spotlight, but the media has started ignoring him more and more.  It can't be much fun anymore.

And while we are on the topic of people who should drop out, let's talk about Ron Paul.  In the past 16 nominating contests, the man who has said over an over again that "it's all about winning delegates" has won a grand total of 11 of them out of 557 that were available in those contests.  Not only does Paul not have a shot at the nomination, his delegate total isn't gaining, so he isn't even winning any influence at the convention.

Paul, unlike Gingrich, will be able to keep raising funds for as long as he desires to continue.  But it is wrong for him to do so.  It's a free country and people are giving to Paul freely, but telling the devoted libertarians that give small donations to him that they are doing so because Paul has a real shot at the nomination (something that they are still utterly convinced of if you reading the comments section on any story on Paul) is disingenuous.  Paul had a good run, made some great points and had an unblemished legacy of supporting liberty and freedom in Congress and as a Presidential candidate.  It's time for him to stand aside.

General Election Catch-Up
Part of Romney's urgency to get the nomination locked up is so that he can get on to taking on President Obama, who has been quietly building a sizable lead while the Republicans fight for their nomination.

My average of averages has him up by 4.1% nationally in a heads up match with Romney, short of his 2008 victory, but a sizable lead that would surely deliver an electoral college victory.

In the key battleground states, here is the state of things:
Previously Lean Romney States:
Missouri - remains a Lean Romney - Romney +9% in recent polling
Indiana - remains a Lean Romney - no recent polling, but Obama needed a 7.2% national win to eek out a win in Indiana, so he would presume to trail by about 3% here
Florida - FLIPS TO LEAN OBAMA - Obama +3% in recent polling
North Carolina - FLIPS TO LEAN OBAMA - Obama +3% in recent polling
Ohio - stays with Romney...for now - the 2 most recent polls tell opposite stories, with one having Romney up by 6%, the other with Obama up a whopping 12%.  Based on the national margin, I'll leave it with Romney for now, but will keep an eye on it.
Virginia - FLIPS TO LEAN OBAMA - three recent polls all have Obama leading by margins of 9, 8 and 17% respectively.

Previously Lean Obama States:
New Hampshire - stays a Lean Obama - up 10% in the most recent polling
Colorado - no recent polling - stays a Lean Obama based on the national polling
Michigan - now a Likely Obama - up by 18% in recent polling
Pennsylvania - remains a Lean Obama - up 6% in recent polling

Other key states I am watching:
Arizona - remains a Likely Romney for now, but definitely one to watch - the two most recent polls have him leading by 5% and 11% respectively
Iowa - moves down to Lean Obama - Romney is leading in one of two recent polls (by 2%, Obama leads by 5% in the other poll)
Oregon - remains a Likely Obama for now, but his lead is 8 to 11% in recent polls, could be competitive if the race tightens
Wisconsin - another one that remains a Likely Obama but is one to watch, with Obama's lead at 5 to 14% in recent polling.
New Mexico - no sign of let-up for Obama, he is up by 19%.  Remains a Likely Obama and probably will not be competitive in November.
Minnesota - Obama up by 10 to 13% in recent polling.  Remains a Likely Obama.
Maine - Obama now up by 23% in recent polling.  Move from Likely Obama to Strong Obama.

So with all of that, we get the following map (assuming neither Nebraska nor Maine split their congressional districts):
Note: Map created with the help of

Clearly at 329-209, Mitt Romney has work to do in the general election.  He needs to take back Virginia, North Carolina and Florida plus one additional state from the Lean Obama column (either New Hampshire, Colorado or Iowa.)

And keep in mind, his war chest is oversized relative to the GOP field, but not relative to the President, who will surely be a fund-raising juggernaut again this year.

Of course, it is way early.  Michael Dukakis looked pretty good against George H.W. Bush at this stage in the race.  The economy, public perceptions, the foreign policy arena, it could all change a lot between now and November.

But what is clear is that Romney has an uphill battle.  Which is why he wants to wrap up the nomination now.

If you like this site, tell your friends.

No comments: