October 9, 2011

Romney has it sewn up (or not)

Establishment Romney sheep?  Click to see.
Kristin Powers writing in The Daily Beast argues that the domino effect caused by Florida moving its primary up to January helps Mitt Romney's chances of winning the GOP primary. She sees it as being all about money.  Florida is big, expensive and early and Romney has cash.  Advantage Romney.  I don't see it that way.  Too bad I didn't write about the various impacts of the moves before she did.  Oh wait, I did.  

By the way, Romney sheep are very real.  Luckily they aren't voting in the primaries.

Despite my difference with Powers on the effects of the Florida move, her argument makes some sense.  Although I don't think it's that cut and dried,  there is some merit to the cost argument.  But that's only one facet of the race.

What's more interesting is the motivation of the GOP establishment.  It's assumed to be a fact that the party establishment favors Romney.  If that is true, getting the primaries moved up does indeed serve their purpose if it really is all about money.  Never mind the complaints they would raise to Florida about it's move, because unless they take concrete action to punish Florida and the other states for their actions, their words are meaningless.  Indeed why would they take action if the Florida move serves Romney and Romney is their guy?  

In the conspiracy scenario the thinking would go something like this: Romney's winning, but his lead is tenuous.  Let's get these races over early before the lead evaporates and voters coalesce around the front-running not-Romney candidate. It also serves to scare off the likes of Chris Christie and Sarah Palin who recently decided not to run - the timing relative to the Florida move is not inconsequential. These benefits are in addition to Powers' stated impact of requiring substantial extra spending - something which does definitely benefit Romney's cash advantage.

If I were to believe in conspiracies (and I don't), I'd lend more credence to Powers' points, but I believe the early schedule doesn't particularly help Romney. As I noted in a previous post, Romney already has New Hampshire.  South Carolina looks like it's Cain's to lose (and if he does it won't be to Romney). Iowa will go with anybody but Romney who skipped out on the traditional state straw poll.  That leaves Nevada as a bit of an early state wild card, but the real benefactor is Florida which could become the multi-way tie breaker.  

That's probably the real rationale for the Florida move - more importance in the primaries.  In other words, having extra money is great and all, but Romney's popularity can't seem to break 25%. So he probably will need to spend disproportionately to make waves in the Florida race.  He doesn't have the other early states wrapped up either.  Florida just made itself very important but for a shorter window than otherwise.  

Romney may benefit but it doesn't necessarily follow that he benefits most.  Romney may concentrate on Florida and New Hampshire but every other early primary winner now has two choices; either compete in the state they have a solid chance in, and Florida equally, or try to knock out not-Romney competitors prior to Florida and take Nevada, Iowa and South Carolina going into Florida with a 3 to 1 lead over Romney.  A winning record certainly helps that person's odds in Florida as much as an expensive  steady drumbeat to match Romney advertising.  If I were one of the other candidates, I'd choose the latter option.  It's cheaper, and it serves the conservatives of the GOP better to have a clear cut alternative to Romney moving beyond Florida.  Indeed, whoever emerges from that melee would probably benefit more than Romney.

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