And voters in 47 other states may get the chance to have their say.
If Romney wins, the fight is over and GOP may be stuck with another McCain!
I was thinking earlier today about the 1980 GOP nominating contest. It was pretty nasty at first with Reagan and George H.W. Bush slugging it out. Who can forget the moment in at a debate in Nashua, New Hampshire where Reagan looked like he was going slug someone and shouted "I'm paying for this microphone." Bush had some early wins but later on, despite loss after loss, Bush didn't give up until May. There was no rush by the Party establishment to get Bush out of the way and clear the deck for Reagan.
Jump forward to today and we have a President who is in many ways more vulnerable an incumbent than Carter ever was and I can't understand why the rush to anoint Romney as the GOP nominee after only two states, Iowa and New Hampshire, have voted. Day after day, the columns linked in Real Clear Politics from Washington insiders tell us that the contest is over and that Romney is the inevitable nominee. Game over they suggest.
Not so fast!
If there is one thing that we should have learned by now, it's not to buy a pig in a poke without inspecting it. Much of the impetus behind the Tea Party movement was derived from a desire to have candidates who were not forced down our throats with the average voter being told to suck it up one more time. Granted that sometimes the Tea Party impulse, as in selecting Christine O'Donnell for the Senate race in Delaware in 2010 wasn't such a hot idea, but on the whole, the desire to have a fair process with full input from the grass roots is a healthy thing for democracy and for Republican chances of winning this November.
Essentially closing down the nominating contest leaving only Ron Paul as the non-viable alternative to Romney disenfranchises voters in the vast majority of states whose primaries are scheduled later and may dampen enthusiasm for the eventual nominee. As we know from the victory in 2010 congressional elections, enthusiasm is very important.
Newt on the Rebound?
With that said, there is a glimmer of hope that this runaway train barrelling down the tracks to anoint Romney may hit a big bump in South Carolina which votes next Saturday, January 21. Recent polls in the state show Romney dropping slightly and Newt possibly picking up steam. The next series of polls early in the week should help better define these trends.
Romney has run ads attacking Newt in this state starting before Christmas at a time when Newt was still waging a positive campaign. Romney's attacks worked to defeat Newt in Iowa but Gingrich is firing back in South Carolina. Newt's events in the state last year were mostly positive; including the one I attended in late November. Newt has had to fire back at Romney in radio and television ads, including the now famous ones where his Super Pac links Romney to vulture capitalism.
In appearances around the state in the past week Newt has attacked Romney as the “Massachusetts moderate" and goes on to make it clear that the choice next Saturday is between himself and Romney.
“If we endup splitting the conservative vote, we’re going to end up nominating somebody with whom 95 percent of the people in this room are going to be very uncomfortable,” Gingrich told a crowd in Duncan, SC.
Romney is attacking Santorum too!
Romney is also running attack ads and robocalls (I and a neighbor got ours Sunday) directed at Rick Santorum in which a caller tries to suggest that Jim DeMint would not be a Santorum supporter because Santorum made budget earmarks in the past. Funny, but Senator DeMint, the true conservative Senator in SC has not endorsed Gov. Romney this time around and I wonder how he feels about his name being used this way? The ad and calls may backfire as Santorum voters are not likely to go with Romney but switch to Newt who remains the only viable alternative.
One final point on the Romney attack on Santorum: will we hear the same level of hand wringing over this attack as we did over Newt's attacks on Romney or as I suspect, is all this concern over negative ads just a veiled attempt by the establishment to boost Romney?
Candidates Visit Mike's America
Late last week we also had a rush by GOP candidates to visit the South Carolina Lowcountry which is home to Mike's America. I attended the Newt event here last November but declined to attend the following events for reasons that I'll spell out below.
On Friday the 13th of January (bad omen?) Failed presidential candidate John McCain once again trotted out his war veteran buddies as a backdrop for another presidential campaign. McCain lent his support to Mitt Romney at this crowded event on Hilton Head Island. McCain took 40% of the primary vote in 2008 in Beaufort County and the area retains it's moderate conservative composition so is likely to be fertile ground for Romney. The event did not offer the kind of opportunity that I had in 2007 to question Romney directly as to his conservative governing philosophy thus I declined to attend.
Rick Perry showed up at the Squat and Gobble diner in BlufftonI did attend that event and we all had high hopes for Fred too but were disappointed.
On Thursday, Rick Santorum held several events in my area. He was introduced by his brother Dan who lives here. He was very approachable to those who attended.
On Saturday, 250 people showed up for a Huntsman event on the water. But the sooner Huntsman gets out of the race the better the chances of giving Romney a real run for his money.