Florida Primary Shows It’s Over With Mitt the Victor Over Newt
by Michael Tomasky
If Newt says he’ll go on, then he’ll go on. For a while. But eventually, this is going to get embarrassing—and he will drop out, sooner rather than later, says Michael Tomasky.
Yes—this is basically over now. Mitt Romney’s decisive win in Florida proved two things. First, that there aren’t quite enough insurgent/Tea Party–type voters just yet in the GOP primary electorate to disrupt the “next in line” thesis, which has held for Republicans since 1968. Second, that $16 million worth of (mostly) attack ads does indeed make a difference.
On the first point, the central dramatic question of this whole primary season has been and is whether the insurgent voters had come to outnumber the establishment voters. It seemed for a time, as Donald Trump and Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain and so on led the polls temporarily, that the insurgents’ year had finally arrived. But it apparently has not. This is still a dynamic to watch in future elections, though. If Barack Obama is reelected, then in 2016 we’ll have a situation in which the GOP, after four more years of minority-status recriminations, will be fighting its civil war at the primary ballot box. You might have a Jon Huntsman or a Chris Christie representing the establishment wing, and, oh, a certain former half-term governor (she’s only 47) as the insurgent standard-bearer. I’m already looking forward to that one! But for now, next-in-line holds.
On the second point, we cannot forget that money matters. My colleague John Avlon made the case about the remorseless effectiveness of Romney’s attack campaignpersuasively Tuesday morning. And the point is not merely about Florida, which Avlon was describing. It is that going forward, wherever and whenever Newt Gingrich seems to be emerging as any kind of threat to Romney, establishment, anti-Gingrich money can be hustled up in a hurry to crush him like a grape.
Romney is being portrayed as having locked up the Republican nomination with his Florida victory, but he’s a long way from the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch it, and voters in other states deserve to be heard.
Yes, Mitt Romney had a big win in Florida last night. He’s won two of the first four primary states, totaling 84 delegates to date. But he needs 1,144 to clinch the Republican nomination—he’s just 7 percent of the way there. So call off the coronation—give people in the other 46 states a chance to vote.
“We’re in the first quarter,” says John Brabender, chief aide to Rick Santorum, responding to suggestions that the race is over with a simple, “Are you kidding?” Likewise, Team Newt and Ron Paul’s campaign have sworn to carry this fight on.
And while momentum and money and media perception are all very important, in the end math matters the most when it comes to capturing the nomination. And it is mathematically impossible for any candidate to win the requisite number of delegates until late April or early May. So unless the other candidates cede the field entirely,there will be a contest. And given the debates still going on inside the GOP, that’s healthy.