Friday, March 16, 2012

GOP Nomination

If this year's primary season has taught us anything, it's that polls mean nothing, predictions mean nothing, and that first impressions and gut instincts are going to be wrong. We started with a field of 9, with Mitt Romney as "Mr. Inevitable" (though I personally never bought that, or at the least, thought he'd cruise to the nomination). As candidates were crossed off the list, a very interesting thing happened; Mitt's chance of winning the nomination did the opposite of what they should have: they diminished, and I believe, this trend will continue all the way to Tampa.

There are a number of reasons for this. Most prominently, Mitt Romney is seen by many in the GOP as a fraud. He governed Massachusetts as a VERY moderate Republican, which was clearly demonstrated by his pro-choice position, Romneycare (which I think he should proudly defend) and his defending of gay rights in that state. As a presidential candidate, however, he is, well, whatever the party needs him to be, and that's the wrench in his campaign gears. His second biggest problem is that he just simply can't connect with people, and this is obvious with revelations that his friends own football and NASCAR teams. Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post summed Mitt up better than anyone else, stating "Romney looks like he is on safari in his own country." While Romney will most likely go to the convention with the most delegates, I do not think he will go to the convention with *enough* delegates, and this is where the race gets oh so fun to watch.

Rick Santorum is Mitt's biggest threat (it still sounds unbelievable, but it's true). Santorum has a strength that Romney doesn't; who Rick Santorum was yesterday, is who he is today, and is who he will be tomorrow. There is no uncertainty about what Santorum believes in. This his biggest strength... love him or hate him, he is 100% authentic, and because of this, people trust him. Santorum's second-biggest strength is his ability to connect with people. He grew up in rural PA in a steel manufacturing town, so his ability to reach blue-collar conservatives is quite apparent. It is for these reasons, I believe, that Santorum will go to the convention having won more individual votes (and thus a greater number of states), but like Romney, not enough delegates to secure the nomination. This is where I believe Newt Gingrich will play a key role.

Despite calls for him to drop out, I believe that Newt staying in the race is actually a good thing for Rick Santorum, and a disaster for Mitt Romney. Newt Gingrich is shrewd, big-headed, and extremely politically smart. He is staying in the race to prevent conservatives from voting for Romney. Even though he hasn't a chance of winning the nomination, the few hundred delegates he will amass could make him a kingmaker at the convention. If the final delegate count is close between Romney and Santorum, it could be Newt and his delegates that make all the difference... and somehow, I don't see him pledging them to Romney. Gingrich will unite the conservative Republican base around Rick Santorum, thus making him the nominee. This is, of course, only one possible scenario. If Gingrich drops out within the next month, however, I think Rick Santorum will seal the nomination on his own (even if it's only by a couple delegates).

There is, of course, another, albeit remote possibility, and this is the scenario that scares the bejesus out of Republicans... and that is a brokered convention. Three candidates, a split delegate tally, and no one figure to unify the party. We've seen this before in 1964 with the GOP and with the Dems in 1968. In both cases, the "nominee apparent" was replaced with a someone new, albeit both lost the elections by a landslide. So, suppose the 2012 GOP convention in Tampa is brokered, and there is no nominee. The party would come to the realization that the GOP doesn't want Romney, and that the conservative base is still divided. This could open the door for someone new. Who, you may ask? We can eliminate Christie, Bush and Daniels. They are far too moderate and level-headed for the current Republican electorate. Ryan or Rubio would need to be vetted, and there wouldn't be enough time, so we can count them out.

They need a familiar face, someone around whom the conservative base would unquestionably rally, someone with star power and someone with passion. They need someone who has been running for president without formally running for president. That person is Sarah Palin. I know, it sounds crazy. But Palin has said she is "open to accepting the GOP nomination" at a brokered convention, she has endorsed Newt Gingrich (which means she supports a brokered convention), and most of all, she is an ambitious, power-hungry person, who will do anything she can to remain in the spotlight and advance her brand. She still has plenty of support among the GOP base, and she continues to portray herself as the best "anti-Obama conservative" out there. As far-fetched as it sounds, and given the unpredictability of this race, it could potentially happen, and what a show it would be.