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Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
President Obama’s State of the Union Address last night sent a number of messages to the Republicans. Leaving aside all the substantive ideas and/or non-starters that he presented, the President demonstrated why at the moment he likely will defeat all of the above.
Governor Romney should he win Florida—by no means a foregone conclusion at this point—will not be able to match Obama head-to –head in the Fall. Except if the economy nosedives, the President will leave Romney in the dust as he rides off to re-election.
Speaker Gingrich and the President will present a very lively contest of two sharp quick minds. Aside from the distinct possibility that Gingrich could self-destruct, any effort at an ad hominem attack on Obama will eliminate any possibility for Gingrich to hold any of the moderate Republican and Independent votes. In case the economy tanks, Gingrich could exploit the situation, but victory for Newt is doubtful as well. First, however, comes Florida.
Gingrich needs every penny he can raise now because after Thursday night’s debate, everything in Florida will rest on paid TV ads and sound bites. If Gingrich defeats Romney in Florida, the leadership of the Republican Party will be moving back to the drawing boards trying to develop a strategy whereby no one will be able to capture enough delegates—including those garnered by Paul and Santorum prior to the August 27 Tampa Convention. This would open things up to a brokered convention.
The conflict here is two-fold. On the one hand, the fact that Gingrich can excite the Republican base is all well and good, but the Republican leadership knows that in the eyes of much of the country, Gingrich is damaged goods and unelectable. If Romney cannot get the nomination with his organization and resources better to wait it out and have a truly exciting convention.
On the other hand, there has not been a brokered convention in virtually anyone’s lifetime. In the eyes of many it produces a very negative connotation, of a smoke-filled room of wheelers and dealers, where the rank and file have no say. The leaders think that their post-convention bounce could take them across the finish line if they nominate someone fresh: Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty, David Petraeus, Paul Ryan or…. The pure excitement could carry them to victory.