Last night's primary contests were, once again, pivotal and game changing and will have huge effects on the state of the race, right? Well, if you are interested in the straight story, here you go: Mitt Romney won more delegates than everyone else and continues to be favored in most future contests, which will soon become winner-take-all affairs, the end, you may now click "close tab" and get on with your lives.
If however, you'd like to wander into the media wilderness -- where narratives reign supreme, where everyone won something, where everything is beautiful and nothing hurt -- then let's embark on our fantastic voyage and learn about how everyone won some stuff last night.
Romney won the popular vote in the caucuses in Hawaii and American Samoa. He'll take the largest share of the delegates from Tuesday night's contests. He'll get closer to the magic number 1,114 and will extend his lead over the rest of the field.
Romney will, however, again win the title of "Least Likely To Close The Deal." Over at RedState, Erick Erickson writes: "Yesterday, Mitt Romney went on CNN and told Wolf Blitzer that Rick Santorum’s campaign was coming to a 'desperate end.' That seems more apt this morning to Romney's southern campaign. Given his poor showing, it's understandable if you expect Newt Gingrich to call on Romney to get out."
Erickson goes on to recommend that Mitt Romney start debating again, and he urges the former Massachusetts Governor to start firing staffers. Which is a pretty strange thing to suggest to a campaign that is still winning going away!
Santorum won the popular vote in Alabama and Mississppi. He thus wins a battle over "the financial advantages of Mitt Romney and the Southern allegiances to Newt Gingrich." (Though on the former score, it should be noted that Romney pulled his punches in this particular round of the match.)
Santorum also wins the media narrative, if only because Romney lacks one. The First Read Gang writes that Romney has a "narrative problem." Because "I am winning and will continue to win for the forseeable future" isn't that great a storyline. It's not "special" or "zazzy."
Whereas "Santorum continues to be a scrappy underdog" is a more compelling one. And to be fair, that's true! Anyone see Season Four of Friday Night Lights? The scrappy underdog East Dillon Lions beat the Dillon Panthers in a game that ensured that neither team would win anything. It was great television, and that's precisely what Santorum's game is, right now: keep Romney from winning the championship.
Santorum also wins "a future," as Jonathan Bernstein puts it:
Rick Santorum isn’t just going to mathematically finish second in votes and delegates; he’s going to be perceived as having been the clear runner-up. He’s going to be 2012’s John McCain 2000, Bob Dole 1988, George H.W. Bush 1980.
That’s worth something. It may well be worth the VP nomination, as it was for Bush (and for John Edwards in 2004). We’ve always known that Mitt Romney, like John McCain, would need to pick a running mate who would please social conservatives and others who were unenthusiastic about him. It now appears that Santorum will, if he survives the vetting he’ll be getting over the next weeks, become the front-runner for that slot. If he gets it, then win or lose, he’ll have an excellent chance of winning a future presidential nomination.
Gingrich won nothing last night, save for an insignificant share of the delegate count. Today, he's mostly winning skepticism that his candidacy should continue. As always, he insists it will, and his avowed goal is to "keep Romney well below 1,000" delegates.
According to Gingrich, he won an important victory over the media: "The elite media’s efforts to convince the nation that Mitt Romney is inevitable just collapsed."
Gingrich also conquered reality, apparently. "If you’re the front-runner and you keep coming in third, you’re not much of a front-runner," said the non-frontrunner who only last week kept coming in third and fourth, to the frontrunner, who came in first in Hawaii and American Samoa.
And Gingrich won another round of speculation that he might, in some way, join forces with Rick Santorum.
Gingrich won a comparison to Bruce Willis' character in "The Sixth Sense," in that he doesn't yet realize he's dead yet. Oh, did I just ruin "The Sixth Sense" for you? Come on. You've had thirteen years.
Per Dave Weigel, Ron Paul won respite from campaign reporters who have been largely annoying him by asking horse race questions about his opponents and not requesting lengthy colloquies on the evils of the Federal Reserve. Of course, with campaign embeds leaving Paul, his most ardent supporters have won the right to complain that the media isn't taking him seriously.
Other winners: "Deadlocked Convention" essentially beat "Mitt Romney" on points last night ... the "two candidate race has finally arrived," though no one has apparently told Gingrich or Paul ... fans of long "slogs" -- like, say, Michael Steele -- came out ahead.
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