These are three things you will hear repeatedly over the next week about Newt Gingrich if he indeed sticks to his pledge made last night that he will NOT drop out of the race, that he will soldier on, and that he is taking his campaign all the way to the Republican convention in Tampa.
Out of Touch.
These are three things you will hear repeatedly over the next week about Mitt Romney and why he is having such difficulty connecting with the voters outside of a few limited demographic groups.
The likability and relatability problem for any presidential candidate is often the same, but it is one we as voters need to overlook. We need to get past a likeability perspective, stop wanting them to be an Average Joe, and focus on who will institute policies to best help us? Who will advance our cause, and make our lives better, without reducing our liberties?
The presidential candidates are not like us. Even Barack Obama, who came from more humble roots, is not like us. I have friends who are lawyers, executives, salespeople, tradespeople, financiers, and a host of other professions.
But you know what?
None of us went to Harvard, or Yale, or Stanford.
None of us worry about which provides the best tax shelter: the Cayman Islands or Switzerland.
We worry about paying the bills. We worry about paying for college. We worry about keeping our car inspected and insured. We worry that if gas goes up to $4.50 we will struggle to find the extra $100 per month to fill the tank.
Mitt Romney does not worry. Nor does Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum lose sleep over it. And I am pretty sure, win or lose this time around, Barack and Michelle Obama are going to get by just fine.
Is Newt Gingrich an arrogant ass? He absolutely is.
Is Mitt Romney a lifelong member of the privileged class who thinks he is better than everyone else and therefore entitled to lead? In the opinion of many voters, that goes without saying.
But the issue is this: none of us are ever going to be president. There needs to be a certain level of money and power and insider influence to even play the game at that level. And there needs to be the highest level of arrogance to believe that you are the right guy to lead the entire world.
Anyone who decides to run for that office, and who has the money and connections to try, will always share that same personality. The trick is to make people think you are like them, without embarrassing yourself doing it.
The stakes at this game are highest for Mitt Romney.
Newt Gingrich can continue to be the arrogant, aloof, policy wonk that he is. People will like or dislike him, but he need not change. He is not trying to connect. He is not really trying to be President; he is dreaming of being King and ruling unilaterally. That is why he has no chance at all.
Rick Santorum actually did come from blue collar roots, went to Penn State, and coached Little League, so he has been more able to make connections with everyday Americans.
Mitt Romney, however, cannot win against Barack Obama if he cannot connect with everyday people like you and me.
But to change who you are during a political campaign in an effort to endear you to the common man is risky. Remember John Kerry windsurfing? Or duck hunting? Or trying to order a Philly Cheesesteak with Swiss cheese? Remember Michael Dukakis riding a tank? Remember Barack Obama bowling? Remember Hilary Clinton having a beer in some Michigan dive bar? They looked ridiculous. They looked desperate. And try as they may, they did not convince one voter that they were common folk like we are. Get used to the arrogance, regardless of candidate. And when it gets down to just two men standing, get ready for some feeble attempts to humanize the candidates and make us think they are just like we are. This is how we play the game.
But enough about that, let’s get down to last night and what it meant.
First, let me say, “Curse you Newt Gingrich and curse you Alabama.” Despite the polling that had Mitt Romney in the lead everywhere, I predicted a split of the night. Mitt Romney would win Hawaii, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum would upset Mitt Romney and split the South. I even made a call on the percentages: “If the states go 33% to the winner, 31% to the runner-up, and 30% to the person in 3rd…”
Well, Mitt Romney took Hawaii. And Rick Santorum won Mississippi, 33% to 31% to 30%. Alabama however, despite bordering Newt’s home state of Georgia, went big for Rick Santorum. As Meatloaf sang, ‘Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad’.
But what does it all mean?
First, there is no way now mathematically anyone but Mitt Romney gets to 1144 delegates before the convention. And this is regardless of whether Newt Gingrich drops out or not. There are too many Blue states where Mitt Romney will be strong, too many states where even the runner-up will still garner 40% of the delegates, too many places Rick Santorum will not be on every ballot. So despite the pleading from the Rick Santorum campaign that the Mitt Romney campaign math is incorrect, the math does not lie. But as the saying goes: There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.
No, Rick Santorum cannot get to 1144 delegates without a parade of enormous upsets that would likely qualify as miracles, and those miracles will require Mitt Romney performing way below even the worst possible expectations. If Santorum sweeps every state from here on with 60% of the votes, even with Newt Gingrich out, he will still not get to 1144 delegates. But with some luck, a few upsets, and a continuing disillusion about Mitt Romney, he may get to 900 delegates and keep Mitt Romney in the low 1100’s, just below the nominating threshold. But even that will take a lot of luck, a lot of help, and a lot of money.
But that is the only chance there is for Rick Santorum: Keep Mitt Romney below 1144, have him not win the nomination on the first ballot at the convention, and have it become an open/brokered convention. But would it really come to that anyway, even if the delegate math worked out perfectly for Rick Santorum? Who is to say that some of the uncommitted delegates would not side with Mitt Romney on the first ballot of the convention to give Mitt Romney the nomination if he were only 50 or so delegates short and the next choice was Rick Santorum?
Would Ron Paul, with his accumulated delegates, look to play kingmaker? In exchange for a prime-time televised slot to speak at the convention, and a few of his more acceptable ideas being inserted into the party platform, Ron Paul would immediately jump at the chance to throw his delegates to Mitt Romney and put him over the top. As crazy as Ron Paul might be, he is closer on issues with Mitt Romney than Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich.
Rick Santorum cannot catch Mitt Romney on delegates. And he cannot likely beat him in a true brokered convention. His only hope is to make the delegate math a lot closer, and to make it clear to Republicans over the next four months that the circumstances for November have changed dramatically.
Right now, Republicans believe that Mitt Romney has a better chance than Rick Santorum of beating Barack Obama. I do not know that there would be any set of circumstances, with both men still standing, that people would rethink that position. However, if Rick Santorum can destroy Mitt Romney state by state and month by month, if he can make him absolutely unelectable, then the argument changes. It will change from who between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum has the better chance to beat Barack Obama, to a fight between a guy with no chance and a guy with a slim chance. Can Rick Santorum pull that off? Would he go so far as to destroy Mitt Romney and risk ensuring Barack Obama’s re-election if Mitt Romney secures the nomination anyway? Time will tell, but if Rick Santorum pulls any punches, if he refuses to take the nuclear option against Mitt Romney, he has no chance to win.
The party is lining up behind Mitt Romney. Today, Tom Ridge threw in his endorsement. Mitt Romney previously got John McCain. Mitt Romney has been endorsed by Republican governors in almost every state that has held primaries so far. So even if he does not get to 1144 delegates, it is very likely that the Republican Party will intercede and take the steps necessary to get Mitt Romney the delegates he needs to be the nominee. Deals will be cut. Promises will be made. Positions in a Mitt Romney administration will be offered. Will it be frustrating and damaging for Mitt Romney? It absolutely will. But at this point, tired of the fight and out of options, Mitt Romney will concede anything he has in to get the nomination.
Finally, I offer a word or two about Newt Gingrich. He had a great night last night. Previously, he had either won (Georgia & South Carolina) or finished 3rd/4th. But last night he actually managed two second place finishes. Yes, I am being sarcastic. They were hardcore Red-South states he knew he had to win and had promised as such. And they were neighboring states of his home state of Georgia. Second by a nose might as well have been dead last.
Newt Gingrich is finished in this race. He honestly has been since he first entered the race last spring, which is why I kept most of the focus of today’s piece on the future of Mitt Romney/Rick Santorum. Will he drop out? That depends on Sheldon Adelson, Newt Gingrich’s billionaire backer. Newt Gingrich is finished as a fundraiser. No one with money to give will choose Newt Gingrich over Rick Santorum if they refuse to support Mitt Romney. So for Newt Gingrich, it is a one man race. If Sheldon Adelson keeps writing checks, Newt Gingrich stays in. Without him, Newt Gingrich will not have the money for staff, or travel, or advertising. He will drop out immediately.
Newt Gingrich staying in will hurt Rick Santorum. It may just ensure Mitt Romney the nomination. But for Newt Gingrich, it has been and always will be about Newt Gingrich. Maybe he wants to have the Ron Paul role I mentioned earlier: accumulate enough delegates to play kingmaker in Tampa? Maybe he seriously and foolishly believes that at a true brokered convention, with both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum damaged to the point of unelectable, the party will turn to him as savior? That thinking befits his enormous ego, but not the reality.
If the Republican Party decided to do a complete shake-up at the convention, throw it open and throw out Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum (which will never happen by the way), the party would choose someone like NJ Governor Chris Christie to be the savior and nominee and not Newt Gingrich. So Newt Gingrich can stay or leave, no one really cares. He will be out within the month no matter what he chooses now, as he will be 3rd/4th in every state from here on. How long he stays, and how much his staying damages Rick Santorum, is the only real issue at the present.
On to the Puerto Rico primary this weekend, where both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are campaigning personally. And then on to a huge Tuesday battle in Illinois, where either Rick Santorum will continue his upsets or Mitt Romney will continue his pattern of winning Blue states that Barack Obama will carry in November anyway. I am just glad that the process continues, and pleased to see that you all enjoy following alone with me.