March 14, 2012

Santorum wins Alabama and Mississippi

Santorum now the guy?
Hmm. This requires a real re-think.  Either Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich could probably tackle Mitt Romney in a one on one contest in a good number of states.  

If one of them was out of the race then Mitt Romney, would not be the inevitable GOP nominee. In fact, Romney could very well be the underdog in that scenario.  Of course that would depend on the timing of a head to head Romney versus the lone Not Romney being the remainder of the race.  If it happened now it would lend more credence to a Romney defeat.  In two months, not so much.

Based on four factors, a re-think of how to view the race is necessary.  At least, for me it's necessary.

Four factors are primary in my thinking right now.

(1) Mitt Romney is not a conservative, and he is not the most electable Republican in the race.  He's portrayed himself over his career as a progressive, a conservative and anything else he's felt he's needed to portray himself as.  He's a flip flopper.  He's easy fodder for Obama when he will inevitably try to run to the center after the primaries end.  He's also got an image that he's unintentionally honed as an out of touch rich guy who likes to fire people.  Not good.  He also spent (or his Super PAC rather), once again, a lot of money in these two southern states to come close.  

(2) Newt Gingrich would be the best debater to face Obama and is my preferred choice to do so.  But his campaign has floundered between his flashes of brilliance.  His campaign is clearly the least organized and he's probably overly top-down in management of that campaign.  Perhaps some of what those inside the beltway folks have said about his intellectual wanderlust (or perhaps policy ADD) are not off base.  It might explain his sit down with Nancy Pelosi.  Then he's got all that divorce baggage that does indeed impact some voters, and apparently women in particular.

(3) It's becoming clearer that Rick Santorum is whom many of the GOP electorate believe is the most conservative but still electable Republican in the race. I'm not convinced he's a great debater and I'm not sure he's the most electable Republican either.  He's a social conservative first and a fiscal conservative only arguably.  He might be a big government conservative and that's not a winning formula from what has driven a lot of the Tea Party angst - government spending and government regulation.

(4) Where any of the candidates net out against Obama depends a lot on how the economy is performing and the election ultimately ends up being about Obama and the state of the economy under him.  That's a bit of a wild card but clearly the economy has under-performed as a result of this president.  But what that all means for the GOP is that electability should not necessarily be as powerful of a factor in selecting a nominee as it has been featured.

How does the calculus of it shake out? Should Gingrich drop out? The fact is he probably won't based on his concession speech.  His message aside, he was gracious to Santorum and not so much with Romney.  Whether it is personal or not, he doesn't want him to win. Gingrich will go on.  Does he deserve continued support?  That's what I'm thinking about. I'm still inclined to say yes, but all that is clear so far is that based on point (1) above, Romney should not be the nominee.  Beyond that, I'm not done thinking about what the best option is.

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