Former House speaker Newt Gingrich said Sunday that he intends to stay in the Republican presidential race through the party’s national convention in late August. And the campaign of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) has said it aims to press on long enough to amass a stable of delegates to require some negotiation during the convention.
Both candidates hope, if they cannot win the race themselves, to prevent Romney from winning a majority of delegates — a result that could force the convention to pick a nominee.
The idea of a brokered convention remains a remote possibility, and whether Gingrich and Paul can actually make good on their aims to stay in the race remains an open question. Still, the days of the quickly decided presidential nomination seem to be over.
“In this year, with these candidates, the nomination contest will not be quick and tidy,” said Tennessee Republican National Committeeman John Ryder. “It is unlikely that any candidate will be forced out until April. I think we will have a contest for another two months.”
Romney’s campaign had hoped for a knockout blow with victories in South Carolina on Jan. 21 and Florida on Tuesday, but he fell short in the first contest.
Variables and obstacles
Even Romney and his supporters are starting to acknowledge that the race will not end in Florida.
“We’re now three contests into a long primary season,” the former Massachusetts governor said after his second-place finish in South Carolina.
The reason for the longer campaign appears to be threefold.
First, there remains conservative resistance to Romney’s status as the presumptive nominee. Second, the proliferation of political media outlets and the uptick in debates makes it easier for a candidate to get his or her message out without much money. And third, super PACs, which have no contribution limits, can prop up a candidate whose campaign is otherwise struggling to raise money.
Gingrich has used all three of these to work his way back into the race and could conceivably keep his campaign afloat by continuing to exploit them — particularly the conservative hesitation toward Romney.
“These races, I believe, are the result of a very polarized electorate both in general but also within the parties,” said longtime RNC member David Norcross, who supported Romney in 2008 but is neutral this year.
Norcross likened the race between Romney and Gingrich to the 2008 Democratic primaries in which an establishment candidate — Hillary Rodham Clinton — faced resistance from some in the party who were set on finding an alternative, which turned out to be President Obama.
The prospect of that scenario repeating itself may seem remote, but Gingrich’s campaign has said it will give it a try regardless of the result Tuesday.