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Right Turn
Posted at 01:54 PM ET, 03/16/2012

The ‘must win’ tests never end

If Mitt Romney wins Puerto Rico’s 23 winner-take-all delegates and wins Illinois and the majority of its 69 delegates, will this be the end of the “must win” tests for him?

After all, the media and his opponents have played the move-the-goal-post games repeatedly. First, he had to win Florida. Then Michigan was “critical,” and he got no credit for Arizona because, well, because he was ahead there. Or something. But no, wait. Ohio was the next test. Well, sure he got that, but not Tennessee (where he was never ahead and didn’t spend much time campaigning). So now Illinois is the “big test.”

Well, two polls out today have him leading by single digits. And recall that Rick Santorum doesn’t have a full slate of delegates. So if Romney clears the hurdle in Illinois, can he finally be considered to be “closing the deal” or the presumptive nominee? I doubt it.

The press and Romney’s opponents, including those cheering for a 10-car pile-up ( i.e. a brokered convention), may very well say, “Well, it was close.” Or they will pick another statistic (losing the “very conservative” vote) or another contest (Louisiana!) to set as the real test.

At some point it becomes a bit comical. But in fact, if Romney simply continues to rack up delegates, will the other candidates and their donors give in? (At 600 delegates? At 700?) Maybe not, and Romney will simply plow forward.

But it is interesting that time and again Santorum has failed to meet his must-win tests (Michigan, Ohio, etc.) and gotten a pass. At some point you’d think he would suffer a narrative setback.

In fact, the narrative for Santorum is two-fold: He can’t get to 1,144 delegates, and part of the reason is his own incompetence. Here is yet another embarrassing bit of disorganization, this time in his own state, as this report explains:

“Winning the state doesn’t mean you get the delegates,” said Alan Novak, a former state GOP chairman who’s supporting Romney. “Most of the delegates will be political professionals, and it’s not their first rodeo.”
The problem for Santorum springs from the fact that potential delegates in Pennsylvania run on a primary ballot uncommitted to any presidential candidate — meaning voters won’t know who they’ll support at the convention this summer. . . .
The ranks of delegate hopefuls are littered with Republican state committee members, elected officials and others with close party ties, who will ultimately be more beholden to a state party leadership that, while officially neutral, is visibly leaning in Romney’s direction and increasingly vocal in its fear that Santorum could hurt the party in a general election — especially after witnessing his 18-point drubbing in 2006.
Romney, Ron Paul and even Newt Gingrich got some of their supporters on the ballot as delegate candidates. But Santorum’s campaign officials, who have struggled with ballot organization issues across the country, privately concede that they just didn’t have the time, nor resources, to organize their own supporters to run as delegates when the paperwork was due earlier this year.
“At this point the delegate candidates are lined up everywhere but with Rick,” said Charlie Gerow, a longtime GOP strategist supporting Gingrich.

So once again he may come up short on delegates even if he wins the popular vote. But in the popular vote there are plenty of wary Republicans: “Bob Asher, a Republican National Committeeman and one of the most powerful forces in state politics, is backing Romney. So are top party fundraisers and members of Congress from the Philadelphia suburbs who, like many elected and party officials, worry that a Santorum candidacy would send independents fleeing from the GOP and damage their prospects in down-ballot races.” And then Republican regulars are still miffed abut his backing of Sen. Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey in his 2004 Senate race.

You would think getting a majority of delegates and the popular vote in your own home state are the ultimate “must-do’s,” right? Let’s see if he can do it and, if not, whether reality finally settles in that Santorum is not the guy to carry the GOP banner.

By  |  01:54 PM ET, 03/16/2012

Categories:  2012 campaign, Media

 
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