I keep hearing all of these comments about the “inevitability of Romney” as the Republican nominee. Perhaps I could understand if Romney was really the front-runner–everyone likes a winner, so it would be somewhat understandable to see people moving his way. What’s troubling me is how a candidate can campaign for president for 5 years, have (virtually) unlimited resources, and still pull barely 20% in national primary polls.
I have asked several of my Romney-supporting friends this simple question and I am yet to receive an answer: “What is Mitt Romney’s path to the Republican nomination?” What I want to hear is a specific path, state by state.
Will he win Iowa? Doubtful. He had reportedly withdrawn from the state, not participating in its straw poll. A new poll today from Public Policy Polling shows Cain leading there by 8 points.
Will he win New Hampshire? Yes, probably.
Will he win South Carolina? It’s possible, but looking increasingly uncertain. Monday, Cain took a slight lead in a poll out of that state.
Will he win Florida? Possibly, but again, Cain is surging, rising to a statistical tie with Romney there last week.
Another poll released today shows a statistical tie between Cain & Romney in Virginia.
And at the end of the day, this comes down to simple arithmetic. There are 8 candidates running for president. Mitt Romney has about 20% support nationally. This means that 1 out of 5 Republican voters want someone other than Mitt Romney. And when the lower tier candidates begin dropping out, the remaining 50-60% of support left in the field is not going to go to Mitt Romney.
Romney may draw some votes from Hunstman supporters, but no one is voting for him anyway. The other 5 conservative candidates’ supporters–Bachmann, Perry, Paul, Gingrich, Cain & Santorum, minus the one that will ultimately square off with Romney–will go to the non-Romney candidate. Their cumulative support currently totals about 80%. The person left standing to face Romney, barring unforeseen events, will likely be the GOP nominee.
What is critical here is timing: if too many of the conservative candidates stay in too long, they could end up splitting the votes in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida, giving Romney enough of an edge to prevail. If enough of them get out of the race–soon–they could rally behind one of the top-tier conservative candidates and easily defeat Romney.
I’m not saying Romney can’t win, I’m not saying he can’t beat Obama; but he is a vulnerable candidate with no clear, predestined path to the nomination, despite the conventional wisdom in the media & party establishment. Nothing is inevitable in politics.
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