For the last several months, conservatives have rebelled against idea of Mitt Romney winning the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. The reasoning various, but the substantive concerns are that he has no core convictions given the frequency in which he changes positions and also that his core legislative achievement, RomneyCare, served as the blueprint for ObamaCare.
During the course of the campaign, several candidates have been driven by conservative and Tea Party support, but have all fallen back to Earth for various reasons, including lack of experience, understanding of policy basics or uninspiring campaigns. Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Rick Perry have all been a vehicle for the anti-Romney vote. However, we’re now in February, four states have gone to the polls, and that trio is longer in the race.
Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have been vying for conservative support, but neither have been able to win over enough support long enough to do any significant damage. And while Romney doesn’t have the nomination locked up, there is little doubt that he is the frontrunner. That’s not to say his nomination is inevitable, but it certainly seems likely.
For their part, anti-Romney conservatives, a significant chunk of the Republican base, continues to fight back against this in hopes of dragging out the primary process until the summer. However, conservatives are running into a couple of problems that may be a recipe for disaster come November.
It’s been a rough go at the Republican nomination for Newt Gingrich. He enjoyed a bump in the polls back in the December as conservatives were still trying to find a viable alternative to Mitt Romney. But when Rick Santorum was able to gain traction in the race, Gingrich struggled mightily, winning only his home state of Georgia and neighboring South Carolina to date.
Now that Santorum is out of the race, Gingrich is again trying to convince Republicans to back him. Not long after sending an e-mail claiming to be the “last conservative standing,” it was reported that Gingrich’s campaign bounced a $500 check to get on the primary ballot in Utah:
GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich might fail to appear on the Utah primary ballot after a check for the required filing fee bounced, according to media reports.
The check for $500 bounced on March 27, Utah state election director Mark Thomas told ABC News, which first reported the story.
“Our office immediately attempted to contact the campaign and the designated agent, but no phone calls were returned,” Thomas said, according to ABC.
“We also asked the state Republican Party to assist us, but they also could not get into communication with them, although I do not know how they attempted to contact them,” he added.
According to Bloomberg, Gingrich’s campaign has had severe fundraising woes and is $4.5 million in debt. However, Gingrich insists that he is going to take his campaign to the Republican National Convention in August where he hopes to influence the party’s 2012 platform. After all, that’s about the only thing he can hope to do at this point.
Conventional wisdom has been that if Newt Gingrich drops out of the race for the Republican nomination, most of his support would go to Rick Santorum over Mitt Romney. It seems only logical given the sizable anti-Romney faction in the GOP. But a new poll from Gallup shatters that thought, showing that Romney is actually the second-choice of Gingrich voters:
So while Santorum is talking about the likelihood of a brokered convention, the math still doesn’t add up. Not that it did anyway.
The dust from Super Tuesday is still settling. Some conservatives are trying to downplay Mitt Romney’s wins and Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are arguing about who should drop out of the race. But there is one common theme — observers are sensing that the writing is on the wall for anti-Romney candidates.
Despite being the conservative alternative to John McCain just four years ago, Romney has been their boogeyman in 2012. Some of the criticism is justified and understandable, specifically that dealing with RomneyCare and ObamaCare. But in the face of the criticism, Romney now holds a 1.2+ million vote lead in the primary and the delegate math says that he should coast to the nomination.
Of course, Romney path to the nomination may still have a bump in the road. As noted above, Santorum’s “super PAC” has called on Gingrich to drop out. He declined, and there is certainly a case to be made to backup his decision. But that doesn’t mean that Gingrich would deal with reality if he performs poorly next week and if Santorum does well.
You know from looking at the polls in the Republican primary that conservatives seem to be backing anyone but Mitt Romney, despite the fact that he was the “conservative alternative” to John McCain just four years ago. Some of the reasons for the animosity towards Romney are hypocritical, but others are reasonable.
Among the reasons we often hear from Romney’s critics is that he’s fake; someone that will say anything to get elected. A textbook example of that comes in comments Romney recently made about President Barack Obama’s budget proposal. Here’s what Romney said via Marginal Revolution:
“This week, President Obama will release a budget that won’t take any meaningful steps toward solving our entitlement crisis,” Romney said in a statement e-mailed to reporters. “The president has failed to offer a single serious idea to save Social Security and is the only president in modern history to cut Medicare benefits for seniors.”
Let me address the main issue in these comments first. Romney rightly says that Obama will not address entitlement reform in a meaningful way, but at the same time criticizes cuts to Medicare; which aren’t substantial to begin with. This ignores that fact that cuts to Medicare in entitlement reform is an inevitability. This has to happen in order to bring the federal budget back to a sustainable path.
As had come to be expected in days prior, Mitt Romney took Florida easily last night over Newt Gingrich, who defiantly promised to press on for the forseeable future despite the struggling to win a state where he had a lead a week before the primary.
Here are the results of the Florida Republican primary:
- Mitt Romney: 46%
- Newt Gingrich: 32%
- Rick Santorum: 13%
- Ron Paul: 7%
Romney wins all of the state’s 50 delegates, which was cut by 50% per Republican National Committee rules due to the Florida GOP holding its primary before March 6th (Super Tuesday). Gingrich wins nothing and the momentum he had built after South Carolina has been squandered after a couple bad debate performances, particularly the one in Jacksonville last Thursday.
So where is the race as it stands now? It appears that Gingrich doesn’t have high hopes for the Nevada and Minnesota caucuses. You’d have to expect Ron Paul to be a factor in both of those states, where his campaign directed its focus instead of competing Florida. However, Super Tuesday, which will include his home state of Georgia, may offer more to Gingrich. We’ll get a clearer picture of what to expect next month in the coming days as polling firms will no doubt provide us with plenty of numbers.
For those of you saying that Rick Santorum should get out of the race for the Republican nomination and endorse Newt Gingrich — the thinking being that it would unite the anti-Romney vote, there is new polling showing that this may not help knock off the GOP frontrunner:
Perhaps the most important number in the NBC-Marist poll was what happens when Santorum is removed from the race. Santorum’s vote splits off evenly if he’s removed, and Romney has an even WIDER lead over Gingrich, 49%-33%. So, Gingrich can’t make the argument that if conservatives weren’t divided he would win. The numbers just don’t bear that out. What’s really interesting — Santorum probably could argue that if GINGRICH weren’t in the race, he’d have a better chance against Romney. Santorum’s image is as good as it’s been since the campaign began.
That may be counterintuitive, but when you look at it, you’d have to make a lot of assumptions about Santorum’s supporters. I suppose some of it makes sense, being that evangelical Christians make up a lot of Santorum’s support, voters that may have an issue with voting for a Mormon.
And as much as I dislike diving into a candidate’s personal life, keep in mind that Gingrich’s has been married three times and has owned up to an affair. This is obviously going to be an issue to many religious-minded voters.
We’ll see what happens after tonight, but Santorum can justify sticking around for the time being. Whether he’s able to gain traction before Super Tuesday is an entirely different story. I’d never vote for the guy, but I think he may have another surge left in him before this is all said and done.
While wondering around Facebook and Twitter yesterday, I saw quite a few of my conservative friends — proud members of the anti-Romney faction in the Republican Party — pointing to video from 2006 where then Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was preparing to sign RomneyCare into law.
The reason the video is getting play is because Romney notes that he collaborated with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) in pushing the law through, obviously a moment that’ll make many Republican groan, and rightfully so:
The Massachusetts healthcare reform law, which — as we’ve noted many times here before, including today, served as the template for Obama. But conservatives that hammer Romney on this issue and push Newt Gingrich as the alternative are conveniently forgetting that he supported many of the same ideas that became part of RomneyCare, and later ObamaCare.
Over the weekend, Verum Serum posted audio from a May 2009 Center for Health Transformation conference call where Gingrich very clearly calls for some form of a requirement on individuals to purchase health insurance coverage:
Seeking to remain relevant in Republican politics, Herman Cain endorsed Newt Gingrich, in what couldn’t have been a more predictable move:
The move by the former GOP candidate and tea-party favorite comes three days before the Florida primary, at a moment when Gingrich is badly in need of something to rekindle the momentum he gained in the wake of his South Carolina primary victory.
“I had it in my heart and mind a long time,” Cain said of his endorsement, appearing with Gingrich at a Republican fundraiser. “Speaker Gingrich is a patriot. Speaker Gingrich is not afraid of bold ideas.”
Gingrich joked, “I had no idea it would be this interesting an evening.”
Cain is the latest in a series of popular conservative figures to back the former House speaker, while much of the GOP establishment is marshaling against him. Among Gingrich’s other recent supporters are former Alaska governor Sarah Palin; his onetime presidential rival, Texas Gov. Rick Perry; and former senator Fred Thompson (Tenn.).
Cain backed Romney in 2008, but both he and Gingrich are from Georgia and it was obvious during the debates that they had had an affection for each other. And while the endorsement will be played up by anti-Romney conservatives, Gingrich’s actions as Speaker of the House, such as trying to diminish the influence of fiscal conservatives, are continuing to come under fire.
CNN is reporting that Texas Gov. Rick Perry will drop out of the race for the Republican nomination today, just a couple of days ahead of the South Carolina primary, and endorse Newt Gingrich:
Rick Perry is telling supporters that he will drop his bid Thursday for the Republican presidential nomination, two sources familiar with his plans told CNN.
The Texas governor will make the announcement before the CNN debate in South Carolina, the sources said.
It was incredibly unlikely, given his poor debate performances and gaffes, that Perry would be able to make a comeback in the race. Perry had hoped for a decent showing in South Carolina, but polls there had showed him at the bottom of the pack.
Many influential conservatives had been calling on Perry to drop out of the race so the anti-Romney vote could coalesce behind Gingrich, who has been surging in South Carolina in recent days (I’ll have more on that later today).
Given Perry’s numbers may not be significant, but it could be just enough to put Gingrich over the top on Saturday.