After Mitt Romney won six of the ten states on Super Tuesday, including Ohio, what was apparent was the scale, or lack thereof, in his victory. He won the Buckeye state but was only three percent in front of Rick Santorum. This is hardly a ringing endorsement and to make matters worse for the Romney campaign, the delegates were allocated evenly between the two. This leaves open the possibility that the convention in Tampa, Florida could end in deadlock.
Newt Gingrich is many things but shy and retiring is not one of them. He is famous for shutting down the Federal Government, twice, in the mid 1990s and is a favourite of the small government Tea Party movement. Gingrich is going to do well in the upcoming primaries with much of the Southern states voting over the next few months, with states like Alabama and Mississippi voting on 13 March. Gingrich, backed by the casino billionaire, Sheldon Adelson could easily hang on right through to the convention in August. However, Gingrich has many obvious flaws. Including, but not limited to, his bizarre fascination with space, notably calling for a moon colony by 2020. Another obvious weakness is his perceived lack of moral rigour. Gingrich, on his third wife, is well known for cheating in the 90s, while he was at the same time, trying to impeach Bill Clinton over the Lewinsky affair. Such acts to not endear Gingrich to the social conservative set that still wields influence in the GOP.
Instead, their man is the staunchly Catholic, Rick Santorum. The former senator from Pennsylvania is well known for his social conservativism. For example, if he were president, he has said that he would repeal all gay marriages and has stated that doctors carrying out abortions should be prosecuted. Santorum has much support among blue collar workers in the Mid West, the so called Rush Belt, which includes his home state. With states like Illinois, Missouri and Wisconsin all voting in the next few weeks, Santorum has the potential to do very well. He could even get the socially conservative voters of the South to endorse him, and thus sideline Gingrich. This would all but force the native Georgian to end his campaign. A Santorum campaign aide said that Gingrich should end his campaign so that Santorum can take on Romney, which would mean Santorum could sweep the Southern states and block Romney from getting any more support, making Santorum the only standing anti-Romney candidate.
That leaves the presumed nominee, Romney. He is certainly a moderate and therefore electable in November, but is for this very reason he is both distrusted and loathed by the grassroots. He is seen, understandably, within the party as an opportunist who will change positions to suit the mood. As a result of this long lasting distrust, the Romney camp has seen contenders come and go, but his support inside the GOP remains low. Then there is his controversial background in finance and his enormous wealth, which many even inside the party have attacked, some calling it “vulture capitalism”. This wealth has lead to a number of gaffes, some of the most notable being that his wife drives “a couple of Cadillacs” and the instance when he bet Rick Perry $10,000. These missteps are bad, but when added to the fact that when asked if he followed NASCAR racing, Romney replied, “Not as closely as some of the most ardent fans, but I have some great friends who are NASCAR team owners”. These gaffes would be tolerated if he was wealthy but was seen as a “guy you could have a beer with”, a trick which George W. Bush managed to pull off, spectacularly well. Romney has had no such luck.
So the GOP has a choice between a space obsessed, thrice divorced 68 year old, a Catholic social conservative in an election year when the economy is the all important issue and an extremely wealth, gaffe prone, mistrusted, wooden flip flopper. Santorum will take the Mid West and much of the South, while Romney will take the coasts and take the votes of the wealthiest in the country leaving the GOP’s worst nightmare. A convention were neither candidate has enough for the nomination and neither candidate wanting to step aside for the good of the party.
The only answer would be to overrule the convention and for the RNC to impose a candidate on the party. Someone who can speak to each of the constituencies of the party, a moderate with conservative credentials, someone who comes from a swing state, who has experience, who the Obama administration would be terrified of, Senator Rob Portman (R-OH).