The Republicans are down to the final four, but it is possible none of them can win. After losing in South Carolina, Romney is now trailing in Florida in several polls. Romney is helped by the fact early voters made up thirty percent of the vote before the South Carolina primary. As many of these votes were cast during the week leading up to the South Carolina primary when Gingrich was surging, Romney did not necessarily do all that well even in that vote.
After the South Carolina primary I heard a number of predictions that Romney would still win, citing past primary battles where conservatives opposed a front runner who ultimately prevailed. This year might be different. Between the liberal social issues he supported in the past, his promotion of a health care plan similar to Obama’s, and his rejection of Reagan when he was in office, there is plenty for Republicans to never forgive. Romney’s religion further reduces his ability to win in a party where bigotry is common.
On top of these problems, Romney has now lost his two major selling points–inevitability and electability. Losing in Florida would put an end to any claims of inevitability. The attacks on his years at Bain Capital and his mishandling of the calls to release his income tax returns cast serious doubts as to whether Romney is competitive in a national election. His offers to release a single return from 2010 only raises further questions as to what he has to hide. His tax shelters in the Cayman Islands and speculation that many years he paid far closer to zero percent than the fifteen percent he claims, make him a weak candidate in a year in which many voters from both parties are fed up with Wall Street. It also doesn’t make it easy for Romney to run against Obama after his repeated admissions that the economy is getting better under Obama, even if he tries to deny Obama the credit.
Newt Gingrich did well in South Carolina, but his victory speech showed what a weak candidate he would make once his claims are challenged. His attacks on the elites raise the question as to who is an elite if Newt Gingrich isn’t. I would love to see some reporters challenge Gingrich to name exactly what Obama has done which is so radical. At least Gingrich has now added Saul Alinsky’s name to the list of items to use in Republican drinking games. Never mind that Obama was eleven when Alinsky died.
At the moment it looks like we have a two way race between Gingrich and Romney, but it is possible that Santorum might win over more of the conservative vote outside of the south. He might start receiving large contributions from the shirt-hanger manufacturers. There is a danger for Santorum that Gingrich will get so much momentum out of wins in South Carolina and Florida that Santorum will be forgotten. Still, if I was Santorum, I would stay in the race as it is possible that Gingrich could self-destruct at any time. Delegates might also be split four ways with Ron Paul also having a shot of picking up a handful, possibly preventing anyone from winning enough delegates to win before the convection. In such a case, I can easily see Santorum throwing his delegates (if he accumulates enough) to whichever candidate would add him to their ticket. It would be interesting to see if the Republicans could still maintain the myth that they are a party of small government with a Gingrich-Santorum ticket.