Cross posted from my column at on the Young Fabians blog.
If you believe the American media, Mitt Romney should have had this wrapped up by now. With 123 delegates, he has just short of half of the total number available from states declared so far. This is a far larger lead than that enjoyed by the frontrunner in 2008. John McCain had 95 projected at this stage, with second place Romney at 83.
Today, the question is: what is different this time round? Second place is virtually tied – Gringrich (45), Santorum (44) and Paul (37). There is no-one who directly threatens Romney’s front-runner status. However, there is deep distrust of Romney amongst conservatives . Other serious candidates are not backing down. They are all fighting each other to try and clamber up the ladder to a successful party nomination. Republicans have been murmuring whether a new candidate is needed to rescue them.
Romney is their centrist candidate, which may be difficult for us on this side of the pond to believe. The others have no hope of challenging Obama, not only because they are even further away from the centre ground than Romney, but also because their continuous posturing to differentiate themselves from each other is turning into a freak show. This helps the Democrats tremendously, as whoever emerges victorious from the Republican Royal Rumble will be ‘damaged goods’ in the public eye.
There is no alternative to Romney that will be accepted because the party itself is splintering. The only candidate who is taking action to counteract this fracture is Ron Paul, who has subtly shifted his campaigning away from the front-runner, towards contender-of-the-week Santorum. This not only strengthens Romney by encouraging infighting among the trailing pack, but since the negative campaigning originates from Paul, it forces Santorum to draw his resources away from Romney in the effort to defend himself. Paul is in good shape, raising $4.5 million in January, and he is on track to outperform the competition in the last quarter of 2011. Will we see Ron Paul at the Treasury or even Vice President? We know for certain it won’t be in the State Department.
Santorum by comparison does not have a great deal of financial resources, and such distractions from Paul could be fatal to his nomination hopes. While all this is going on, Gingrich is raising more capital than Romney, and I expect Gingrich to make a charge in the near future.
Last time round Romney dropped out of the race after ‘Super Tuesday’, a day in which a number of states ran caucuses and primaries simultaneously. He won his home state Michigan over McCain, so doing so again is the very least he needs to do to have any hope of preventing this selection process turning into utter chaos.