Well, Romney staggers on. Although Ron Paul has been a tactical wingman up to this point, his very best friend right now is Newt Gingrich. As long as Gingrich stays in, the “anybody but Romney (or Paul)” vote is split. A simple thought experiment gives a head-to-head Romney/Santorum race, in places like Michigan or Ohio, to Santorum, and it gives it to him walking away. And at the same time, it is by no means clear that a head-to-head race between Romney and Gingrich in those same places would result in a Romney loss.
It seems that Santorum has plainly earned the right to be the standard non-Romney candidate. Paul continues to carry the right to be the gadfly candidate, and in that role, I wish him well. I hope that his delegates are numerous enough at the convention to extract a promise from somebody important to audit the Fed. Or something equally edifying.
We should be baffled at the behavior of Gingrich. He continues to say that he is the only candidate who can beat Barack Obama in debate. But that is not his task right now. Why can’t he beat Romney or Santorum or Paul in debate? He can “do well” in debates with them, but no knock outs. So why would he stay in the race, making it more likely that the Republicans will wind up with their least conservative candidate for the fall? That’s far worse than sitting on a couch with Nancy Pelosi, blathering about climate change, and he’s doing it right this minute.
It makes perfect sense from Paul’s perspective to stay in, because he doesn’t see a dime’s worth of difference between what he calls the establishment candidates. He is consistent in this, but that lack of perspective is one of my troubles with him.
So it is looking more and more possible that the deal will not be sealed until the convention, or close to it. I don’t know why this should cause too much angst. Nobody likes Super Bowls when they are over in the first quarter.
We should therefore start wondering about the trajectory that back room deals might take. From the Romney corner, if this keeps up, he will still be the delegate front runner at the end. What will he offer, and to whom, in order to push it across the finish line? What could he offer to Santorum and what to Paul? More later.