The MSM will try and keep audience interest in the Republican horserace alive – and its ratings up -- by spinning a post-Super Tuesday narrative of it "ain't over yet." Headlines like the one in yesterday's Detroit Free Press "Super Tuesday stakes are high—but the battle is far from over"—will remain typical.
Don't believe it. Unless the polls are totally flubbing it, the outcome will be clear tomorrow. And, like it or not, Mitt Romney will be the nominee.
His unexpected and resounding weekend victory in Washington (a state where Ron Paul had hoped to stage his first primary win), coming on the heels of wins in Arizona and Michigan, has given him a clear path to the nomination. What's more, after tomorrow, he will definitely have Massachusetts, Vermont and of course Virginia – a state where Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are not even on the ballot – in the bag. He is also likely to win Idaho, which has a heavy Mormon presence. He might lose the popular vote in Ohio, although, right now, the RCP average is giving him a very slight edge, a remarkable turnaround given that Santorum was several points ahead just two days ago. But he'll win the delegate race regardless because, thanks to Santorum's organizational incompetence, Santorum is not even on the ballot in nine Congressional districts, automatically disqualifying him from nearly a third of the state's 66 delegates. All of this adds up to five of the 10 Super Tuesday contests going for Romney tomorrow.
What's more, some polls show he's pulling ahead of Santorum in Tennessee, meaning that right now the only sure-shot win for Santorum is Oklahoma and for Newt Gingrich, Georgia, his "home" state. Incidentally, instead of resenting Gingrich's Super Pac backer Sheldon Aldensen for keeping Gingrich alive, Romney should thank him. That's because Gingrich's presence in the race pulls votes away from Santorum who otherwise would certainly have won most of Georgia's 76 delegates, the highest of any state, gaining much more staying power.
Despite all this, Romney does not have a sure-shot majority as of now. He needs 1,144 delegates to finally win the nomination, but many of the remaining primaries are in the winner-take-all Southern states, as opposed to the proportional primaries that are being held tomorrow. Indeed, only 437 delegates -- or about a quarter of the 2,286 total – will be in play tomorrow. About 67 percent of the delegates will remain on the table. And so Santorum and Gingrich could stay in the race in an attempt to deny Romney a majority, leading to a brokered convention whose prospects some in the media keep pounding.
But the problem is that neither one of them has a prayer of winning a majority themselves. Gingrich will have to raise funding to play the spoiler at the convention, not a winning pitch for too many donors. Therefore, even if he makes a decent showing in states other than Georgia tomorrow, his funding will likely dry up, forcing him to drop out. Meanwhile, Santorum, who, among other weaknesses, does not have an organizational structure on the ground to capitalize on his popularity with the GOP electorate, will sooner or later have to succumb to pressure from party elders -- not to mention a nice offer of a spot in the Romney administration. Bear in mind that Santorum's day job right now is at something called the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington D.C.!
Ron Paul of course is in it for the long haul, trying to gather as many delegates as he can before the convention. But given that the prospects of a brokered convention are remote, the question is to what end? (Not that Paul would have had any interest in playing kingmaker if there were a brokered convention. Engaging in the kind of political horsetrading that other politicians do would potentially destroy his credibility with a movement he has so painstakingly built.) Gingrich and Santorum are enough of a presence in the Republican Party to be guaranteed very respectable treatment at the convention in June. Paul, I think, is trying to gather delegates to gain similar respect. But will he? Or will be be treated like the GOP's stepchild as he always has been?
To get an answer to that question, read the opinion section of The Daily tomorrow – or watch this space for a link.