Trump Shows Strength on Super Tuesday

Trump DSM
Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography.com

Even as establishment Republicans intensified the attacks on Donald Trump over the past week to ten days, the New York billionaire continued to put up impressive wins and continue his march to the Republican nomination.

Trump posted impressive victories in Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, and Virginia. Trump also won a narrow victory in Arkansas and Vermont. Even in Texas where Texas Senator Ted Cruz won easily, Trump still garnered 27 percent of the vote.

The only real blemish on the night was in Minnesota, a caucus state, where Trump finished well behind Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who finally got his first win under his belt. In addition to winning Texas, Cruz also pulled out a win over Trump in Oklahoma.

Even though Cruz and Rubio were able to get in the win column, Tuesday night’s results did nothing to quell Trump’s dominance over the Republican field. Cruz was expected to win his home state, and his six-point victory over Trump in Oklahoma was also in friendly territory. Cruz also ran strong in Arkansas and Minnesota, but he wasn’t much of a factor is states like Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee, other states that he needed to be competitive in.

Rubio’s win in Minnesota may have gotten the money off of his back, but his inability to win in states like Virginia, Arkansas, or Tennessee spell trouble for his campaign. Winning the low-turnout Minnesota caucuses isn’t a lot to hang his hat on before he goes head-to-head against Trump in his home state of Florida on March 15.

The problem for the anti-Trump crowd was on full display Tuesday night. As the frontrunner Trump runs strong everywhere. The same can’t be said of his opponents. Cruz ran strong in caucus states and southern states, but was uncompetitive in places like Vermont, Massachusetts, and Virginia.

Even more problematic for establishment Republicans is that even with all the talk about Rubio last week, he wasn’t able to post the necessary victories to slow Trump’s march to the nomination.

Super Tuesday Results Link

Romney and Santorum Need Wisconsin for Different Reasons

The Republican presidential primary contest today in Wisconsin is fascinating for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, a strong Wisconsin victory by Romney could put the Republican nomination fight on ice. For almost a month now, establishment Republicans, the media, and the Romney campaign have tried to make the case the primary is effectively over.   Romney and his allies have had success in making the argument, but Rick Santorum’s ability to produce wins on Super Tuesday and in four other states that have followed has limited the impact of the argument substantially.

Romney’s delegate lead and other advantages have had a significant impact.  One only needs to look at the string of endorsements Romney has received over the last seven days, which include two big endorsements from Wisconsin in Congressman Paul Ryan and Senator Ron Johnson.  Still, the only way for Romney to bring the primary to a close is for him to have a convincing win in Wisconsin tonight.

A number of polls indicate that Romney should win in Wisconsin tonight, but his seven-point advantage over Santorum is not as strong as the 15-point advantage he had in Illinois.  Santorum has also shown a propensity for out performing his poll numbers.  The most recent example of Santorum out performing his poll numbers was in Alabama and Mississippi, but that was also the case in Colorado and Wisconsin’s neighbor to the west, Minnesota.

While Romney needs a win to basically put an end to the primary, Santorum needs a win to give his campaign a boost in order to make it to the May contests, which are very favorable for him.  Santorum last won a contest on March 24th, so if he loses Wisconsin, a month will have passed without a victory leading into the April 24th primary in his home state of Pennsylvania.  If Romney is unable to seal the deal in Wisconsin tonight, it’s very unlikely that we’ll see Santorum getting out of the race before the primary contests come to an end.

Another fascinating aspect of the Wisconsin primary is that it’s being overshadowed by the June recall election.  Republican activists in Wisconsin are paying more attention to the recall election of Governor Scott Walker than the presidential race.  For the first time in the 2012 campaign, the presidential primary is not the only circus in town.  All of the presidential ads that are being run in the state don’t just have to compete with their opponents’ ads, but also the ads that are running in advance of the June recall.

The focus on the recall election could significantly hamper turnout for the presidential primary.  It’s hard to tell who benefits more from a low turnout, Romney or Santorum.  Romney has been making the case that the primary is basically over.  That’s a good narrative to push with national media, but it could also mean that his supporters might not be apt to go to the polls.  Santorum’s supporters have been passionate, but with the narrative that he can’t win coupled with Congressman Ryan and Senator Johnson’s recent endorsements of Romney, they could say to themselves, “why bother.”  You could easily say that it’s a toss-up as to who’s supporters are more likely to go to the polls today, but Santorum’s advantage with social conservatives could give him an edge.

Tonight’s results in Wisconsin will answer a lot of questions.  Has Romney essentially wrapped up the Republican nomination, or does Santorum have license to keep forging ahead?  In addition to that, Wisconsin will also tell us whether voters are as ready for the Republican primary to be over as they media and the Republican establishment are.  The answer is anyone’s guess.  Polls close at 8:00 p.m. tonight.

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Still Too Soon to Put a Wrap on Republican Presidential Race

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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Establishment Worries About Damage Done to Romney in Primary

A growing number of Republican operatives are worried about the negative effects of grueling primary battle will have on the party’s eventual nominee.

These concerned pundits and strategists share a number of things in common. First, they are all card-carrying members of the GOP establishment. Second, they always get worked up after Mitt Romney once again shows that he’s incapable of securing the nomination. Finally, they care more about fundraising reports and political positioning than about the issues and principles that make up the Republican Party.

Recent polling has shown that the ongoing primary has hurt Romney’s standing in general election polls. It is understandable for those who are supporting Romney, or who are quietly rooting him on, to be concerned about the damage that is being done in the primary, but Romney is the bully in the race, not his opponents.

All of the talk about the brutal Republican nomination fight forgets to mention that it’s Romney and his Super PAC who are throwing the punches. In state after state, Romney and Restore our Future have drowned their opponents in nasty, negative ads.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Super PACs have spent just $4.7 million dollars attacking Romney during the 2012 nomination fight. On the other hand, $18.8 million has been spent against Newt Gingrich, and $14.1 million has been spent against Rick Santorum. With such a large disparity between the negative ads being run against Romney and his opponents, one has to wonder why the long primary battle is bad for Romney since he’s not the one being suffocated by negative attacks by his opponents.

The truth of the matter is that the grueling primary is bad for Romney because it is highlighting his weaknesses as a candidate. No matter how much the Romney campaign, it’s surrogates, and those in the media who are favorable towards him insist that Mitt Romney is the inevitable nominee, he should have to overcome his weaknesses just like any other candidate.

Below are a few suggestions for the Romney campaign to consider if they want to secure the nomination and begin to unite the Republican Party.

Exude Confidence Not Arrogance

Romney has a number of advantages over his opponents. The Romney campaign has a larger, more experienced staff, more financial resources, and more wins, and thus delegates, in the nomination process. The campaign has spent the days following Super Tuesday insisting that only they can accumulate the 1,144 delegates necessary to secure the nomination.

While the Romney campaign has a clear delegate advantage, with only a third of the delegates awarded, it’s too soon to make the argument that they have essentially secured the nomination. In fact, until it’s mathematically impossible for Romney’s opponents to reach the magic delegate number it’s pointless to make the argument. That is especially true when one can easily make the case that Romney himself could come short of securing the necessary delegates to win the nomination outright.

If the Romney campaign truly believed that only they could win the nomination, why spew so much negativity toward his “pathetic” opponents? Romney’s delegate advantage should give them confidence to begin the process of uniting the party, not further dividing it.

Try Implementing A Positive Campaign

The remaining contests in the month of March are going to be difficult for Romney, which is why they are pushing the narrative that Santorum and Gingrich are remaining in the race despite not having any real chance to win. Illinois is the lone bright spot for Romney, and that’s largely because he is expected to do well in the Chicago area.

Romney and his Super PAC might benefit more from running a positive media campaign than the negative one they have been running. The results from Michigan and Ohio show that Romney performs well in urban areas, while Santorum is strong in rural areas. The take away from those two contests is that Santorum’s brand of conservatism doesn’t appeal to metropolitan voters, while Romney does.

One could argue that the millions of dollars Romney and his Super PAC have spent beating up Santorum in Ohio and Michigan did little to influence the race. If they had, one would think Romney would perform better in the rural parts of state. Running positive ads might actually help Romney attract rural support, which he will need in the general election. Romney needs to begin reaching out to rural conservatives, and there is no better time than the month of March.

Again, if the Romney campaign is confident that they have a firm grasp on the nomination, why do they feel the need to continue the negative assault on their opponents?

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

It is understandable why the Romney campaign desperately wants the Republican nomination fight to be over. The problem is that, for the race to be over, Romney needs to stop losing contests. Winning six out of ten contests wasn’t enough on Super Tuesday because Romney lost some very key contests. It’s one thing to say that the Missouri primary and a couple caucuses didn’t matter. It’s another thing when you get stomped in Georgia, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

The best way for the Romney campaign to begin wrapping up the nomination is to start acting like one would expect the nominee to act. Put the political games aside, stop attacking your Republican opponents every chance you get, and start focusing and talking about the general election. Romney would also benefit by starting to develop his theme for the general election. I’m pretty sure that arguing delegate math or pointing out a candidate’s inability to be eligible to get delegates is not what Romney will be running on this fall, or at least I would hope not.

Nominating Process Worked

The Romney campaign seems annoyed that they still have to deal with Gingrich and Santorum. Instead of focusing on their opponents, the Romney campaign should start fixing their candidate.

The nomination process has identified Romney’s weaknesses:

1. He lacks an inspiring message.
2. He doesn’t appeal to rural or lower or middle class people.
3. He has yet to honestly address his own healthcare mandate.
4. He needs to find a way to engage conservatives.

The Romney campaign is acting like these are things that should be ignored instead of things to be fixed. That’s no way to run a campaign. Instead of focusing on his opponents’ weaknesses, Romney should use the month of March to get his own house in order.

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Arizona and Michigan May Provide a Glimpse of What’s to Come

The results from today’s primaries in Arizona and Michigan will do more than just tell us who Republican voters in each state prefer to be the nominee.  The results will also provide us a glimpse as to how the race may unfold moving forward.

The race to watch is in Michigan, where both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have been campaigning extensively for weeks.  Romney has a home field advantage in the state.  Not only was Romney raised in the state, but his father is a former three-term governor there and his mother was once the Republican nominee for the United States Senate.  Santorum doesn’t have any Michigan ties, but he relates to blue-collar workers as well as the state’s social conservatives.

Romney is expected to win Arizona, a winner-take-all state that Santorum has not has not focused on or spent much money in.  The Michigan contest is expected to be a nail-biter despite Romney’s deep roots in the state.  It is also conceivable that both Romney and Santorum could win tonight.  One candidate could win the popular vote, while the other wins more delegates.

That doesn’t lessen the value of the results from Michigan, but it does mean that that what happens there will do more to shape the race moving forward than anything else.  Below are two scenarios that could play out.  One focuses on how wins in Arizona and Michigan could put Romney well on his way to the Republican nomination.  The other possible scenario involves Romney continuing to struggle.  Both are plausible, but the results from today’s contests could provide an indication as to what scenario is more likely to happen.

Scenario One: Romney Actually Becomes Inevitable Nominee

The only way that Romney can once again become the inevitable nominee is if he stops losing.  Already twice in this campaign, it looked as if Romney had secured the nomination.  In early January, he was riding high after wins in Iowa and New Hampshire.  He saw his Iowa win vanish after the vote was certified.  Two days later Newt Gingrich won South Carolina by a large margin.  Romney recovered and had impressive wins in Florida and Nevada, then got thumped by Santorum in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri.

If Romney wants to start the process of securing the nomination, he must start by securing wins in Arizona and Michigan.  He also needs to claim more delegates in Michigan than Santorum.  If he can do that, he needs to follow it up by winning the Washington caucuses that follow on March 3rd.  That would give Romney three victories leading into Super Tuesday, but more importantly, it would limit any Santorum momentum.

Winning Arizona, Michigan, and Washington would create some much-needed momentum for Romney, especially since Super Tuesday is not all that favorable to Romney.  He should be able to easily secure victories in Massachusetts, Vermont, and Virginia, but it’s the other seven states that are problematic.  For Romney to essentially begin locking up the nomination, he must win Ohio.  Ohio is a battleground state, a loss there would be a crippling blow to his campaign.  Unlike in today’s contests, Romney is not going to have the luxury of focusing on just one state at a time after this ponit.  Romney also must prove that he can win a southern state.  His only options to do that are in Oklahoma or Tennessee.

Romney doesn’t need to be perfect on Super Tuesday, but he has to be careful where and who he loses to.  For example, Romney can lose to Gingrich in Georgia since it’s Gingrich’s home state.  He can also lose states like Alaska, North Dakota, and Idaho so long as he loses them to Ron Paul, not Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich.

Romney needs a resounding victory tonight because he needs to weaken Santorum, who is leading in polls in Ohio, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.  For Romney to emerge as the eventual nominee, he has to keep Santorum out of the win column, and only lose to Gingrich in Georgia.  It’s hard to imagine Romney winning both Oklahoma and Tennessee, but momentum has been one of the biggest factors in the race thus far, and with it, wins in those states could be possible.

Scenario Two: Two-person race between Romney and Santorum.

There is no doubt that Romney will do well in tonight’s contests in Arizona and Michigan, but it may be difficult for him to prevent Santorum form picking up an equal amount of delegates in Michigan, which would be seen as a push by some.  That outcome may also be seen as a victory for Santorum due to Romney’s deep roots in Michigan.

Washington could also be problematic for Romney.  The state legislature there just recently legalized gay marriage, which means that the political climate might favor Santorum.  Any combination of either Santorum winning Michigan, fighting to a tie in Michigan, or winning Washington should give Santorum a nice bump heading into Super Tuesday.

Santorum is currently leading in the polls in Ohio, Tennessee, and Oklahoma.  Those three states make up nearly 40 percent of the delegates available on Super Tuesday.  If Santorum can create some momentum in Michigan or Washington, he should be able to hold on to his lead in those states, which would be devastating to Romney.

States such as Alaska, Idaho, and North Dakota are not as significant, but are not irrelevant either.  Ron Paul may be able to get a victory in Alaska or Idaho, but North Dakota could be favorable for Santorum.  Gingrich doesn’t seem to be much of a factor except in the south, and his ability to win outside of Georgia will be limited if Santorum doesn’t stumble heading into Super Tuesday.

It is entirely possible that Santorum could rack up wins in Tennessee and Oklahoma, while severely wounding Romney by winning Ohio.  Ron Paul may win a state but in the overall scheme of things he’s still a non-factor.  Gingrich seems well positioned to win his home state unless Santorum pulls off an upset and wins big in Michigan.  Under that scenario, Santorum many challenge Gingrich there.  Romney could also be hurt if Gingrich pushes him to third place in states like Georgia, Oklahoma and Tennessee.  The narrative that Romney can’t win southern states would be very damaging.  If he can’t win Ohio or a southern state on Super Tuesday, his campaign would be in serious trouble.

Gingrich Factor

Right now, it doesn’t seem like Gingrich is much of a factor outside of Georgia.  If Santorum underperforms tonight and in Washington on Saturday, there may be an opening for Gingrich in Oklahoma and Tennessee, but that also would increase Romney’s chances there.  With Gingrich’s Super PAC now beginning to place ads in multiple states, he will be a much bigger factor.  However, if Santorum gets some additional momentum, it seems unlikely that Gingrich would be able to overcome him in the week between now and Super Tuesday.

Conclusion

Either Romney is going to emerge from Arizona and Michigan with some serious momentum, or Santorum is going to continue to be a thorn in his side and a serious contender.  The decision by Gingrich and Paul not to compete in either contest might prevent them from taking a loss, but it also means it’s nearly impossible for them to gain much momentum before Super Tuesday.

If Romney is going to be tripped up, it’s going to happen on Super Tuesday.  There probably isn’t going to be any sort of major defeat that will send Romney home. Instead, it’s going to continue a narrative that Romney just can’t close the deal, especially in important swing states.  It’s these swing states that the Republican nominee needs to win to do well in this fall.

The other narrative that could develop on Super Tuesday is the lack of appeal for Romney in the South.  If Romney can’t win a southern state on Super Tuesday, it will continue the narrative that was set when Gingrich won South Carolina.  Both narratives would be bad for the Romney campaign.

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Presidential Race Continues Shift as Super Tuesday Nears

Don’t pay any attention to all the political pundits and cable news talking heads speculating about a brokered convention in Tampa.  While the Republican nomination fight is as interesting and as volatile as it has ever been, it’s too early to spend time talking about possible convention scenarios.

The Arizona and Michigan primaries next Tuesday will kick-off a series of contests that could render all the talk of a brokered convention null and void.  While none of the candidates are currently projecting a lot of strength, wins create momentum.  Wins help a candidate rise in the polls, which also creates momentum.

Every candidate needs momentum to win.  Romney needs momentum to dry up his opponents fundraising ability.  His opponents need momentum to raise money for their campaigns and affiliated Super PACs. Without money, it’s impossible to run a campaign in multiple states, which is required at this stage of the process.

Thursday’s debate in Arizona was the last major event besides an actual primary or caucus that could alter the course of the race.  That debate, and the results from next week’s primaries in Arizona and Michigan, will alter the race before ten states vote on Super Tuesday on March 6th.  With that in mind, let’s look at how the remaining candidates are positioned as we enter into this critical stage of the race.

Mitt Romney

Since getting swept by Rick Santorum in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri on February 7th, the Romney campaign was out of sorts for the two weeks that followed.  Romney began to rebound as Santorum got bogged down on social issues, but it was Thursday’s debate that reenergized the Romney campaign.

Romney has huge advantages over the rest his opponents.  Unlike Gingrich, Paul and Santorum, he has a large staff and a well funded Super PAC that makes running a campaign in multiple states much easier.  While other candidates are forced to scrape together enough money to place TV ads, the Romney effort has been able to place ad buys wherever necessary throughout the campaign.  Even while some establishment Republican began to talk about Romney’s inability to secure the nomination, he has always maintained his money advantage over the rest of the field.

Santorum’s less than perfect showing in the debate combined with an aggressive performance by Romney provided a little momentum for Romney before next Tuesday’s contests.  Romney’s debate performance probably helps him the most in Arizona, where he was already leading, but the positive news from the debate will also help him elsewhere.

While Romney is likely to see an uptick, he’s not out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination.  Romney’s problem throughout the campaign is that he has been unable to seal the deal with conservative voters, and thus, can’t secure the nomination.

Super Tuesday is also not all that favorable to Romney.  He should get big wins in Massachusetts, Vermont, and Virginia, but the remaining seven states could prove to be difficult.  What Romney desperately needs is big wins in Arizona and Michigan, which may create enough momentum for him to win a state like Ohio.  If Romney wins Michigan and Ohio, he will once again be able to make the case that he is the inevitable nominee.

Many pundits have pointed out that Santorum and Newt Gingrich both still being in the race at this stage makes it easier for Romney to divide the conservative vote and win, but it also means he has to fight a two front war.  Having to campaign against both Santorum and Gingrich in states makes things more complicated and expensive for Romney.

Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum had a not-so-great debate on Thursday, and it capped a week of bad media coverage for the underdog frontrunner.  Santorum didn’t do anything to help himself in the debate, which will probably hurt him the most in Arizona where his campaign has not dedicated many resources.  While the debate was bad for Santorum, it’s too early to write him off.

Besides Romney, only Santorum and his Super PAC who have been able to campaign and run ads in the Super Tuesday states.  He also has solid leads in the polls in Ohio, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.  With only Santorum and Romney actively campaigning in Arizona and Michigan, it’s going to be difficult for Gingrich to generate any momentum before Super Tuesday besides the bump he got from the debate.  That helps Santorum greatly, but he still needs to perform well and pick up delegates in Michigan.

Regardless of what happened in the debate, if Santorum is able to beat Romney in Michigan, Santorum will once again have a full head of steam coming into Super Tuesday.  That kind of momentum could even help him challenge Gingrich in his home state of Georgia, where he trails in the polls by less than five points.

Between now and Tuesday, Santorum has to find a way to change the narrative following the debate.  If he is able to dust himself off and get back up, he could basically make this a two-person race.  All that said, Santorum made things much more difficult for himself with his debate performance.

Newt Gingrich

Gingrich breathed some life into his candidacy with another one of his classic debate performances.  Another advantage for Gingrich is that the biggest prize on Super Tuesday is his home state of Georgia.  If Gingrich is able to generate enough buzz, he may also surprise in some other the other southern states that day.

The problem for Gingrich is resources.  While the media went crazy over Sheldon Adelson’s remarks that he “may” give Gingrich’s Super PAC another $10 to $100 million, he actually needs to cut the check for it to help Gingrich.  For Gingrich to be competitive, he needs to be able to run TV ads in multiple states.  Neither Gingrich nor his Super PAC have indicated that they will be able to run TV ads like Santorum and Romney currently are doing.

The Gingrich campaign has said that they will be airing 30 minute infomercials in various TV markets in Super Tuesday states, it’s an unconventional approach that would likely only appeal to people who find themselves watching CSPAN on a regular basis.  Gingrich can reemerge, but to do so, he needs to have a paid media presence.  Otherwise, he’s going to be drowned out in every state except Georgia by Romney and Santorum.  Gingrich also runs the risk of even losing Georgia if he’s not on TV there.  That will be especially true if Santorum can regain some of his momentum.

Ron Paul

Paul doesn’t seem overly interested in winning anything besides uncommitted delegates in caucus states.  Paul is still a factor in the race, but more for his willingness to provide aide and comfort to Romney by attacking Santorum or Gingrich than anything else.

Current Standings

Frontrunner: Mitt Romney
Serious Challenger:
Rick Santorum
Dark Horse:
Newt Gingrich
Non-Factor:
Ron Paul

 

Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography.com

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Tuesday Was More Than Just a Bad Night for Romney

Even before a vote was cast in Colorado, Minnesota, or Missouri on Tuesday, the Romney campaign was downplaying each contest. On Tuesday morning, the Romney campaign distributed a memo to the media and other interested parties reminding them that the contests in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri were meaningless since two of them were nonbinding preference polls, and the other was strictly a beauty contest.

Lowering expectations is nothing new in politics, but it seemed odd that a campaign with a lot of momentum and plenty of financial resources like Romney’s wouldn’t play to win.  Remember, it was Romney who basically ignored Iowa for the better part of a year before making a major investment in the final weeks of the campaign.  It seemed this time Romney’s campaign saw trouble and held back in Minnesota, but losing in Colorado was something they did not see coming.

Romney did not campaign in Missouri, but he did make stops in Minnesota and Colorado.  His Super PAC spent $127,000 on television ads in Minnesota, the same amount as Santorum’s Super PAC spent.  Romney’s campaign sent mail to likely caucus goers in Minnesota, Santorum didn’t.  Romney also had the endorsement of former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who was very visible in the week leading up to the Minnesota caucus.

The Romney campaign was more confident about Colorado.  Unlike in Minnesota where he canceled a rally after his Nevada victory, Romney campaigned in Colorado and spent money on mail and phone calls.  Santorum’s Super PAC didn’t run television ads in Colorado, but did spend about $40,000 on phone calls in the state.  At the end of the day, the only state where Santorum spent more money than Romney was in Missouri, and even then it wasn’t much.  All told, the Super PAC spent about $50,000 on television ads and spent another $15,000 on phones.

The notion that Santorum focused and spent a lot of money to win in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri on Tuesday night is nothing more than spin from the Romney campaign.  Had Romney won those states instead of Santorum, he would have cut off the oxygen to both Gingrich and Santorum.  In many respects, he would have made it nearly impossible for anyone else to gain traction before Super Tuesday.

It’s not the fact that Romney lost three states on Tuesday that should concern his campaign, it’s how badly he lost.  Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri consist of 265 counties.  Romney only won 17 of them, while Santorum won 240, or 91 percent.  It’s inconceivable that Romney, the clear national frontrunner for the Republican nomination, didn’t win a single county in either Minnesota or Missouri.

Santorum’s small investment of time and resources paid huge dividends.  The most difficult thing that Gingrich, Paul, and Santorum had to overcome was always going to be remaining viable until Super Tuesday rolled around.  To accomplish that they each needed to find a win in the month of February.  Santorum did that and so much more on Tuesday.  The crazy thing is that Romney allowed Santorum to do it with out bankrupting his campaign or even making the task difficult.

Santorum’s big night also confirms some troubling trends for Romney.  Despite his big wins in Florida and Nevada, polls show that Romney is losing appeal with the Republican base.  If anything, Santorum’s sweep on Tuesday night added an exclamation point to that.  However, Romney was showing signs of trouble before the results came on Tuesday night.

In head-to-head national polls against President Obama, it was Santorum who polled ahead of the President, not Romney. Those polls showed that Santorum’s populist message is resonating with independent voters.  Now that Santorum owns victories in four key swing states, we know that those poll numbers are not a fluke.

The emerging issue set also favors Santorum over Romney.  With the unemployment numbers creeping down, Republicans are going to have to deliver a much more disciplined critique of President Obama.  Santorum’s focus on the manufacturing sector speaks right to the swing voters in industrial states like Ohio and Pennsylvania.   Foreign policy and social issues have also dominated the headlines as of late.  Both sets of issues are in Santorum’s wheelhouse.

Romney has struggled to put his opponents away in this election.  After winning three states on Tuesday, Santorum has all the fuel his campaign needs to make it Super Tuesday.  There is also a chance that he could cause Romney more damage if he is somehow able to win either Michigan or Arizona later this month.

It’s understandable why the Romney campaign is downplaying what happened on Tuesday night.  However, one has to wonder why they didn’t play to win?  Unlike their opponents, they had the resources to spend, yet chose not to.  Now they have to contend with Santorum who has a lot of momentum and is raising a lot of money.

When it’s all said and done, we may look back to February 7th and say that is the day the Romney lost control of the race.  Only time will tell.

Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography.com

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Rick Santorum’s Super Tuesday

Super Tuesday isn’t until March 6th, but Rick Santorum had a “Super Tuesday” last night. Santorum cruised to big victories in Minnesota and Missouri early in the night, but the big surprise came when he won Colorado.

Unlike in Iowa where Santorum only won by 34 votes, he had commanding victories in each state. He won Minnesota by 18 points. He carried every county in Missouri, garnering 55 percent of the vote. In Colorado, Santorum beat the heavily favored Mitt Romney by 5 points. Four years ago, Romney won Minnesota by 20 points and garnered 60 percent of the vote in Colorado.

It’s been over a month since Rick Santorum shocked the political pundits with a strong finish in Iowa that would ultimately become a win. Santorum toiled in Iowa for more than a year with little to show for his effort until the final days of the caucus campaign. In the end, he took home 25 percent of the vote and defeated Mitt Romney by a razor thin margin of 34 votes.

Nobody expected Santorum to do well in the New Hampshire primary that followed 10 days later, but he was expected to run strong in South Carolina. Santorum didn’t find success in South Carolina. Instead, it was Newt Gingrich who whipped South Carolinians into a frenzy with two stellar debate performances. Once again Santorum had to fight to remain relevant while Gingrich repeatedly called for his exit from the race.

Santorum was able to survive third and fourth place finishes in Florida and Nevada in large part because of strong debate performances. What’s remarkable is that Santorum was able keep his campaign afloat while Romney and Gingrich dominated the headlines. While the two of them tried to destroy each other with negatives ads, voters began to give Santorum another look, which he has now turned into three impressive wins.

Santorum’s victories last night will not immediately help him in the delegate count since none of the contests were binding, but what it does do is create a tremendous amount of momentum for Santorum. As we have seen, momentum has been a great equalizer in the race. It has allowed candidates like Santorum and Gingrich be able to compete with Romney despite being outspent by a wide margin. It will also help his campaign and Super PAC raise the resources necessary to compete on Super Tuesday on March 6th.

The Romney campaign made a concerted effort to downplay Tuesday’s contests in Minnesota and Missouri, but Santorum stunned them when he won Colorado, a state Romney seemed confident that he would win.

Despite what the Romney campaign is trying to spin, last night’s contests were important. First, Romney won both Colorado and Minnesota in 2008. Surely he was appreciative of those victories back them. His inability to win Minnesota after winning the state over John McCain by 20 points has to be of some concern to his campaign. Combine his Minnesota loss with the fact that 8000 fewer people voted for him in Nevada this year than voted for him in 2008, and it seems like Romney is not appealing to same people he did four years ago.

Besides the results of the Maine Caucuses, which began on Saturday, there will not be another contest for another three weeks. That’s good news for Santorum who can use the time to campaign and raise money for the next round of contests. Santorum’s big night is bad news for Newt Gingrich, who now must find a way to gain momentum before Super Tuesday.

The race for the Republican nomination changed last night. Romney still has an advantage, but it’s based entirely on the amount of money he and his Super PAC have been able to raise. What Romney lacks is a connection to grassroots activists in the Republican Party. Romney’s instinct will be to attack Santorum, but what he really needs to do is reach out to the base of the party.

If Romney refuses to do that, Santorum and the other candidates in the race will continue to give Romney fits. One of them might not be able to get the 1,144 delegates required to secure the nomination, but the three of them might be able to prevent Romney from getting there.

Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography.com

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