The Republican Presidential Primary may give all 50 states and US territories a say as to who will be the Republican nominee in the 2012 general election. Here is where the four candidates stand after Illinois:
- Ron Paul only wants the right be heard.
Ron Paul merely represents the democratic process in action. He has the right to continue and his supporters believe his Libertarian voice is critical to the national political dialogue.
- Gingrich is focused on Gingrich.
Newt Gingrich will take his fight to the convention because he wants a prime time GOP Convention speech and a shot at Vice President. Gingrich won't get VP because the GOP establishment sees him as a cancer and a sure way to lose to President Obama.
Gingrich's campaign surprisingly became formidable until the GOP establishment itself pretty much derailed Gingrich's campaign momentum. Rick Santorum's rise as a contender and viable Conservative alternative was also a significant factor.
It's less than 50/50 Gingrich gets a prime time speech. On one hand his rhetoric fires up the conservative base (hence his next probable job at Fox News) railing against the "liberal media", but he has the propensity to go off script, which makes the GOP nervous.
- Rick Santorum is fighting and pushing forward.
The Illinois contest was not game "game over" for Rick Santorum, but it allowed Mitt Romney to inch closer to the halfway portion in delegates needed to win the GOP nomination. The halfway mark carries a psychological advantage that backs Rick Santorum against the wall.
The psychological advantage also brought a political one - Jeb Bush endorsed Mitt Romney today and called for Gingrich and Santorum to drop out of the race. Jeb Bush might be angling for a Vice Presidential nod here, so the endorsement has to be taken with a grain of salt.
Santorum's job would be far easier if Newt Gingrich dropped out of the race and gave him his delegates. Santorum might have a chance at a plurality if Gingrich departed. With every passing election, Santorum loses the opportunity to make the case the Conservative GOP base represents the party more than someone like Romney.
Nonetheless, Rick Santorum still has Texas and Pennsylvania as big prizes to make his case to the GOP.
Pundits are underestimating how big Texas may be in this election. The fight over redistricting moved the contest from Super Tuesday to May 29, giving Santorum the opportunity to raise more money and strengthen his standing within the delegate rich state.
A current Will Perkins Allen Opinion Research Poll shows a Santorum with an 35%-27% lead over Romney.
Before Texas there are equal parts Northern and Southern states which allow each candidate to pick up delegates and brunt the other's momentum, including Pennylvania in Santorum's backyard on April 24.
According the latest Real Clear Politics poll, Santorum has a sizeable 3.8.5-23% advantage over Romney.
- Mitt Romney knows he's #1.
Mitt Romney is clearly the front runner with a significant spending advantage. Romney spent $4 million on ads in Illinois, a 7 to 1 advantage over all of the other GOP candidates combined. Romney's campaign is a well oiled machine that adjusts on the fly if it needs to.
The most consistent theme of Romney's campaign is he is the candidate "most likely to beat Barack Obama". Continuing this theme, Romney's campaign has argued Santorum does not have the math on his side to overtake Romney's 2 to 1 delegate lead.
Romney does not have the math on his side either.
Romney needs 49% of the remaining delegates to win the nomination, but Romney does not have the plurality of the GOP base. Even in a state like Illinois where Gingrich and Paul didn't compete and Romney was supposed to win handily, Romney still failed to win a plurality.
New proportional GOP delegate rules will prevent Romney from clinching the necessary delegates to win, unless the narrative of "candidate most likely to beat Obama" swings Conservative voters away from Santorum and the party unites around Romney.
- President Obama has plenty to sing about...for now.
THE GENERAL ELECTION
The GOP race has been better for Republicans than people realize. Yes the party is fragmented, but in a very formidable way. The media attention has allowed the public to get to know the candidates and current party. It is a party that is now clearly defined and not monolithic.
Republicans consists of Moderates who tend to lean toward less federal government regulation and restraints on trade living in affluent suburbs of major Northern cities and the West (Romney's camp), and you have Conservatives, which itself is split into fiscal & social branches who live in the South and rural areas of Northern states.
Put those groups together on one ticket and you have a significant number of voters.
Here's the X Factor: Moderates and Independent voters can swing in certain elections and many of them voted for President Obama in 2008. It allowed Obama to flip 9 states from red to blue.
What the voters do this time? Conservatives HATE the President, so they want to vote anybody but him. Most Moderates have their guy in Romney. Conservatives think Romney is "Obama-Lite", and don't like him either.
The key will be GOP voter turnout in November if it comes down to a brokered convention where Romney gets the nod ("It's his turn" will be the rhetoric) and Gingrich is denied his speech, which will leave Conservatives feeling like the party shafted them and feeling the country is shifting Center-Left.
The result could be a less enthused party in November. The current low turnouts in GOP elections show a party not thrilled with its choices already.
That being said, elections take a while to shake things out. Gas prices, the Robert Bales Aghanistan civilian shooting fiasco, the rallying stock market, the improving economy (even Romney admitted as such), women's reproductive rights, and auto bailout success, all have been issues which have affected the President's favorability rating for better or worse.
At the beginning of the race he was "vulnerable"; then he became "unbeatable"; now, he's seen as "beatable but difficult to unseat".
The race continues...
Exavier B. Pope, Esq. is an entertainment and sports attorney, on-air personality, syndicated writer, and sports business and law blogger for ChicagoNow. All opinions expressed are those solely of Mr. Pope.
(c) 2012, Exavier Pope
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