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January 09, 2008

Republican Nomination Fight: Party Like It’s 1976?

In the wake of two second place finishes, with a win sandwiched in between (Wyoming voters are to be trusted says Hugh Hewitt) Mitt Romney’s team is telling its supporters to get ready for a long battle to rack up delegates.

Former Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., is speaking at a giant phone bank in Boston, trying to give a pep-talk to supporters of former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass.

He is arguing that this is a different type of campaign now: This isn't about Iowa and New Hampshire, "this is a delegate count."

Talent said, "This is 1976," meaning a long GOP brawl to the convention not seen since Gerald Ford edged out the Gipper -- Ronald Reagan -- over three decades ago.

Stanley Kurtz, writing in The Corner, makes a similar argument. He thinks McCain and Giuliani are going to be fighting over a lot of the same voters from Florida onward, leaving an opportunity for Romney to continue to pick up delegates at a steady pace.

Of course Giuliani has a problem on the social issues, but Giuliani would likely run a far more conventionally conservative presidency across the board than McCain. McCain delights liberals and loves to work with them. Giuliani infuriates liberals and if anything loves sticking it to them. That means that momentum aside, Giuliani will likely cut seriously into McCain’s lead on Super-Tuesday.

At that point, if he’s been smart enough to stay in the race, Romney will be in a position to benefit from the raging battle between McCain and Giuliani. That will allow all three candidates to make it to the convention. Huckabee is a bit of a wild card here. He may turn out to be a one hit wonder. But even if Huckabee soldiers on, it won’t change the basic picture. Huckabee’s evangelical support may be enough to keep him alive, but Huck’s unconventional views won’t allow him to gain clear front-runner status.

With so many Republican candidates distancing themselves from some key part of the base, no candidate will find it easy to consolidate the support of seemingly defeated rivals. With a field holding so many candidates who speak for competing wings of the party, and excluding others, the logic is for candidates to stay in the race as the last best hope of their base, and to prevent the "horror scenarios" represented by the alternatives. Momentum is out and substance is in.

Mitt certainly has the money to spend to stay in until the end. The question is would he be willing to spend it? (Update: Maybe not)

Regardless, it doesn't look the idea of compressing the primary schedule to get a nominee quickly has worked out too well, has it?

Hopefully all of this talk of a brokered convention will help ease the pain that Jack M. must be feeling in the wake of McCain’s victory last night. Something tells me police in the D.C. area are finding a lot of dead hobos this morning.


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posted by DrewM. at 01:16 PM

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