Through New Hampshire, Under South Carolina, Over Florida -- Nothin' But Mitt
In a four-man race, it doesn't take a very big number to win a plurality of voters. In the four-man race in Florida today, Mitt Romney managed to nab almost 50%. His vote-ratio over the number two contender, Newt Gingrich, was almost 1.5-to-1. Rick Santorum managed 13%, and Ron Paul -- who has never won a primary -- is in single digits.
Before I continue, please know that I don't have a horse in this race. Come November, I will vote for the GOP nominee with something like eagerness. So, please, don't write letters fawning all over your candidate and why he's really the guy for me to root for. I'd pinned all my hopes on a Buckaroo Banzai/Marco Rubio ticket, but that looks increasingly unlikely. It's not just that I don't have a horse in this race, I'm not even shopping for a saddle blanket.
On Saturday, Nevada voters will hold their caucus. Paul does well in small-state caucuses, and I suspect Nevada will be no different. However, Romney has money and NV has a large Mormon minority. He will likely do better there than Paul. Nobody else has a ground game there. Maine starts its rolling caucus on the same day, ending on the 11th. Romney will win there for the same reasons he won New Hampshire.
In a week, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri. The first two are caucus states, and MO's primary vote is non-binding. Paul doesn't have the money to compete in multiple states at once. None of those states are hostile to Romney. None of those states are big enough to do him much damage, even if they were.
Feb 18: Guam. Nobody cares, least of all Guam.
The last states to hold primaries before Super Tuesday are Arizona and Michigan. Both primaries are closed, so no chances for a Democratic-flavored Operation Chaos. Michigan is Romney's old stomping ground. Arizona, again, has a large Mormon community. And Romney has shown, for whatever reason, that he can hold his own with conservative Republicans. If any of the non-Romneys are hoping for a knockout blow on February 28, they're likely to come away disappointed.
I noted during the debates last fall, that Romney appeared to be setting up Florida as his firewall state. Coming out of a big NH win, SC was always going to be Romney's weak spot -- and that's exactly how it turned out. The remaining question was: Would the firewall hold?
We have the answer to that tonight, and it'a a resounding yes. It's been Romney's gameplan likely for four years now, and he played it pretty well.
I've outlined why, gearing up for Super Tuesday, there aren't any big (or very realistic) chances for a not-Romney to break Mitt's Flo-Mo before the big day. In other words, this is likely where Romney's near-inevitable inevitability starts coming into play. He has the money, he has the organization, and he has a pretty easy ride over the next month.
So is it Mitt? Barring a string of unlikely upsets by underfunded candidates in a string of states that don't matter all that much... yeah, it's probably Mitt.
I don't like that, but I will accept it.