Bill Kristol says it's just getting started. Sarah Palin says all bets are off. Other GOP luminaries say that so far, what they've seen has been "a collective yawn." What are they talking about? The GOP race for the 2012 presidential nomination, that's what. And all of these assessments have been handed down from on high in the wake of Super Tuesday's results.
But wasn't Super Tuesday a pretty unequivocal win for Mitt Romney, leaving him as the only candidate with a path to the nomination that doesn't require a series of miraculous events?
Well, sure, if you're going to be all realistic and practical about it, concentrating only on fundamental factors like Romney's swollen war chest and his superior organization and the likelihood of him having success in the backloaded winner-take-all primaries to come and his current delegate count. But if you do like most of the media has done, and stare into the blinding lights of cloudcuckooland and allow yourself to be dazzled by all the SHINY SHINY so that you get a little light-headed and trippy, then maybe you can see that Romney's big wins Tuesday night were actually some sort of devastating setback.
OH, WE GET IT. You want to "keep things in perspective." You read Nate Silver's curtain-raiser on Super Tuesday, where he projected that Romney would likely net 224 delegates, and he won 213, and surely we're not going to start tearing our eyes out over the fact that he underperformed by eleven delegates. Well, did you go on reading? If you had you'd have seen that Silver's "upside scenario" was 267 delegates. So what's Mitt Romney's fatal flaw, that prevented him from succeeding as successfully as he could? Ron Paul stole three delegates in Virginia, after all!
Look. The important thing to realize is that the people who cover politics hate it when the game gets called early. Yes, Romney has the clearest path to the nomination. Rick Santorum, who remains in the next best position to win, would have to either win a staggeringly high portion of the remaining delegates or benefit from some sort of unforeseen Romney mega-mistake that causes the complete collapse of his support in order to get to 1,144 delegates and win the thing outright. But he (as well as Newt Gingrich) have not technically been mathematically eliminated, and coming up soon are contests in Mississippi and Alabama, where Romney is likely to lose. And if we squint at that at just the right angle, maybe Romney is actually in total disarray.
But if we're looking at this with clear eyes, it's actually become apparent that Mitt Romney is no longer running in a contest against Santorum, Gingrich and Paul as his competition. His only opponent now is the faint specter of a deadlocked convention. It's more likely, at this point, that his three co-competitors can deny Romney the 1,144 votes than it is that any one of them can overtake him and win them for themselves.
And that's the story of Super Tuesday. Which is now over! Welcome to much less super part of the primary season.
In other news from the campaign trail, Newt's exhaustion led to an awkward naptime, Mitt's Olympic-sized round of government gold-digging came back to haunt him, Santorum-speculators offered a bright assessment of his political future, President Obama may end up with an enemy delegate at his convention, and we're left to wonder -- are pollsters giving Ron Paul the stink-eye? All of this and more is waiting for you to enter the Speculatron for the week of March 9, 2012.
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