Mitt Romney ran into a speed bump yesterday as he prepares—or so he would have us believe– to come close to wrapping up the nomination by March 6. Rick Santorum’s three victories yesterday indeed do not amount to many delegates, but they raise very serious issues concerning the viability and even “winneablity” ofRomney’s campaign.
Romney may well have money and organization but it is clear that he has hardly electrified the Republican base. While he may well still be nominated in Tampa, it is beginning to look like for starters he needs a new message, since America may not need a businessman if a lawyer ends up having turned the economy around. In addition, while he may have learned how to be more aggressive in debating Newt Gingrich, his election night speech, although polite to Santorum, was labored, forced, and tired.
Santorum did himself proud last night and showed that he may have some staying power to contest at least the Gingrich leaning conservative base, although was unfocused, repetitive, and much too long. These three victories bought Santorum time, money (to buy media), and hope, even if he did not pick up a huge number of delegates and Missouri was only a straw poll. If indeed the economy continues to improve, Santorum may well be positioned to argue for support from the social issue base in the GOP which is certainly showing difficulty with Romney’s history.
Ron Paul just keeps plugging along and Gingrich was a virtual afterthought last night. The former Speaker will undoubtedly will be heard from in full voice between now and Super Tuesday. Unless his next round of attack ads have greater effect, he may be more likely to fall in the primary than Santorum, despite Gingrich’s pledge that he is in it until Tampa.
All of which leaves Republican analysts groping at straws. One has a sense that they realize, after watching him carefully on the hustings that Romney will really be an exceedingly weak candidate and campaigner in the general election. In addition, they recognize that regardless of Obama’s weaknesses, he will be a formidable debater against whoever is selected.
Perhaps the Republicans are beginning to consider that a brokered convention at the end of August would excite their base and draw enormous public attention away from the Democrats, just when they go into their convention on Labor Day. Such a move could give Republicans a huge bounce which even a rousing send off from the President in his acceptance speech in the Charlotte Bank of America Stadium will not diminish.