Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Does Romney Want Gingrich Out?

The conventional wisdom (and I agree with it) is that Romney will be worse off if Gingrich gets out of the race or if Gingrich stays in the race but fades as I argued last night he is likely to do.

But there is a counter-argument to be made that Gingrich actually hurts Romney more by staying in the race. It is exceedingly unlikely that anyone will catch Romney in terms of the number of delegates he accrues. But it is also increasingly possible (not likely but possible) that Romney could get to the convention without a majority of delegates in hand. Here is some data posted by Kos on the number and percentage of remaining delegates the candidates would need to win to get an absolute majority of delegates:

This was prior to last night's contests but Romney won about half the delegates last night so his percentage has not been significantly affected. He still needs to keep winning about half the delegates from here on out.

The argument for Gingrich staying in the race is that it might be harder for Romney to win half the delegates with Gingrich in the race than with him out of the race. Patricia Murphy argues this is exactly Gingrich's strategy. Gingrich figures that, like in Alabama and Mississippi, the number of delegates Santorum and Gingrich will win combined will be more than what Santorum could win on his own. But, for the reasons I pointed out last night, it is as stupid a Gingrich idea as his moon colony.

Gingrich's support among voters is drying up as we speak. His cash is basically all gone. He will be a more and more distant third place in future contests. That means he won't be winning delegates at all. Indeed, he'll likely be costing Santorum delegates in places by splitting just enough of the anti-Romney vote.

Democrats and possibly most Republicans would love for Mitt Romney to get out of the race as Paul Begala requests:
Let me be the first to call on Mitt Romney to get out of the race. By placing third in Alabama and Mississippi, losing to Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich in both states, Romney has gone from inevitable to unelectable. Somebody strap him to the roof of one of his Cadillacs and drive him off to one of his many mansions.

One of the great legends of political consulting is the Dog Food Problem: an apocryphal tale of a company that had the best packaging, the best advertising, the best marketing. But there was only one problem: the dog wouldn't eat it. Forevermore we should no longer call it a Dog Food Problem. We should call it a Mitt Romney Problem.
But that's not going to happen.

If the Republican primary electorate really doesn't want Mitt Romney, the best way for them to realistically avoid that is for Newt Gingrich to get out of the race.

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