February 7, 2012

The takeaway from Santorum's second wind

It's early, but if the results hold up as they look so far, there are some takeaways from the results.

(1)  Mitt Romney is in trouble.  In the non-binding Missouri race, Rick Santorum currently leads Romney 55% to 25%.  In Minnesota Santorum leads Ron Paul 43% to 27%.  Mitt Romney has 17% and only leads Newt Gingrich's 12%.  In Colorado, Rick Santorum leads Newt Gingrich 50% to 21%, Romney trails in third with 19%. That represents three majorities of Not Romney in one night.

(2) In the bigger picture there is room for two Not Romney candidates.  Gingrich is still well positioned in the south if he plays his cards right.  Santorum clearly is well positioned elsewhere to compete with Romney.  If the two play the game intelligently, they can split the states they compete with Romney.  Alternately if either Gingrich or Santorum bow out, the remaining candidate can compete with Romney.  Either way, Mitt Romney is in trouble.

(3) Santorum may be surging.  But it is too early to claim that, just as it was to early to claim victory for Romney after Florida or Nevada.  The race is more likely a lot more fluid than pundits have realized.

(4) Mitt Romney is not doomed now.  But he is in trouble. He doesn't have this race sewn up.  Other contenders can compete.  Clearly Santorum has a claim to be the not Romney.  Gingrich can also now claim his southern states strategy is more viable than people thought last week.  And with a  lengthy lull coming after tonight (with the exception of Maine), there is time for all the candidates to reformulate their plans.

(5) Ron Paul can't win, but his share of the votes in some states can be significant.  He cannot be ignored, not forever.  What remains to be seen is how he is included or excluded from the party.

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