January 17, 2012

Do we need fewer GOP candidates?

We aren't getting anyone else so let's concentrate on the ones we've got now. Huntsman is out, following Bachmann and Cain. And Trump for that matter. That leaves us with Romney, Gingrich, Santorum, Perry and Paul as the possibilities. Would fewer candidates allow for someone to seriously challenge Mitt Romney? There's a strong case to be made that if everyone dropped out but one not Romney candidate, the eventual nominee would be not Romney. The problem is, Perry, Gingrich and Santorum are not going to blink. They all want to be that last man standing and benefit from the convergence of the not Romney vote. But the longer they hold out the further ahead Romney will get as the not Romney vote is split.

Conundrum.


Ron Paul is not going to drop out. In fact if he did, his supporters would not automatically back Santorum - maybe Perry or Gingrich, but even then, probably not. It's pretty safe to assume that he's in for the medium to long haul. It's also a decent assumption that if Perry, who is blowing the budget in South Carolina, could drop out if he doesn't perform in the top 3, or even 4 there. That's a possibility, but not a certainty. Both Gingrich and Santorum are in it as long as they can last too. But who knows how long that might be.

But do we really need everyone out? If Ron Paul gets 10% to 20% depending on the state, and one of Perry, Gingrich and Santorum drops out the other two could still split the not Romney vote, leaving 20% to 30% for Romney. That means between the two of them (probably Gingrich and Santorum), could split from 50% to 70% of the vote. That's assuming Romney's ceiling of around 25% is pretty real.

That would allow a competitive three way race, all the way to the finish line - the convention. One fewer GOP candidate might put the brakes on a runaway Romney victory. The one problem is that it has to happen before Florida, or Romney will run away with it before we have a chance to know.

UPDATE: I missed my own obvious punchline that the guy leading is the one guy that would make a good one less candidate.
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