There is little doubt that the race for the Republican presidential nomination is entering its final stage. Not only does Mitt Romney have a large delegate lead, but Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul have become afterthoughts in the contests that have been held after the ten Super Tuesday contests took place back on March 6th.
While the race may be winding down, it’s not over like some in the media have claimed. If the race remains at the same trajectory, it could essentially be over by the end of April. However, in a race that has experienced as many ups and downs as a rollercoaster, we would be wise to sit back and enjoy the ride instead of trying to forcefully bring the primary to an end.
As has been the case with most presidential primaries, they come to an end when either a candidate accumulates the necessary delegates to secure the nomination or when only one candidate is winning states. Case in point, John McCain only lost two contests after Super Tuesday in 2008. Both losses were on February 9th, just four days after Super Tuesday. McCain lost both Kansas and Louisiana to Mike Huckabee by 36 points and 1 point respectively. From February 10th on, McCain won 13 straight contests by wide margins, and thus the primary was over.
Early on, it looked like Romney would be able to wrap up the nomination rather quickly. He was declared the winner of the Iowa Caucuses, easily won the New Hampshire primary, and headed into South Carolina with a full head of steam. Romney’s momentum slowed significantly when he saw his Iowa win go to Rick Santorum after the vote was certified there, and Newt Gingrich defeated Romney by double digits in South Carolina.
Romney was able to rebound with impressive wins in Florida and Nevada, but has yet to go on a prolonged winning streak like McCain did in 2008 that would help to get his opponents out of the race. Romney’s longest winning streak was when he won the Maine caucuses on February 4th, and then got wins in Arizona, Michigan, and Wyoming before Super Tuesday on March 6th.
Romney has posted a number of impressive wins, namely in Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois. The problem is that, while he has won those states, doing so has not been easy. Romney’s victory in Illinois, where he beat Santorum by 12 points, was the most impressive. His wins in Michigan and Ohio where by much smaller margins. His margin of victory was only three and one percent, despite outspending Santorum significantly.
The Romney campaign and some in the media are ready to for the Republican primary campaign to come to an end. It’s easily to understand why. The Romney campaign and its affiliated Super PAC have been forced to spend millions of dollars in every contest. With states that have expensive media markets coming up, there is no doubt the Romney campaign would like to scale back their expenditures in an effort to save resources for the general election.
The problem is that no matter how much the Romney campaign wants the primary to be over, they have yet to look like the inevitable nominee like McCain was able to do four years ago. Romney has plenty of allies on the media, who have helped push the delegate math story to create a sense of inevitability, but there is a harsh reality that Romney must deal with before he secures the nomination.
One of the reasons why McCain was able to wrap up the nomination is that he scored victories in all parts of the county. McCain won primaries in states like South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Missouri. McCain also ran strong in places like Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. Romney has done none of that. It’s not that Romney can’t win in the south, it’s that he also struggled to win in places like Michigan and Ohio. It’s remarkable that Romney was able to beat McCain in Michigan by 9 points, and only beat Santorum by 3 points.
As has always been the case, if Romney stops losing contests, everything will take care of it self. The problem is that after winning in Illinois on Tuesday, Rick Santorum won the state of Louisiana with almost 50 percent of the vote. Romney and his allies in the media blew it off as a southern state with a strong evangelical presence, or as they call it, a Romney away game, but the loss does nothing to help Romney secure the nomination.
It would be one thing if Romney just had one or two embarrassing losses in the south, but it’s been a consistent problem. Not only hasn’t Romney been able to win in the south, but he’s also losing those states by significant margins. Again, McCain lost some southern states, but he won some too. More important is that McCain was competitive in most contests.
Romney has a significant lead in the Republican race, but he’s not yet performed like a candidate who has the nomination all wrapped up. April could be the month where Romney gets on a roll, but the idea that the race is already essentially over is a bit premature.
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