Super Tuesday Reax: “So Inevitable And So Weak”

Andrew Sullivan —  Mar 7 2012 @ 10:49am


David Frum looks on the bright side:

[Romney] gained more on Super Tuesday than anybody else. Yeah, he didn't win what he should've. Yeah, he looks weak in a lot of ways. But he's making progress by the only decisive metric. And as any good consultant will tell you: if only one metric matters, the guy leading on that measure is the winner—or is on his way to being the winner sooner or later.

Jonathan Bernstein claims the nomination fight is all but over:

It’s not just that no one has ever lost a nomination after building this kind of lead; it’s that no one, since the modern system was fully in place in the 1980s, has ever come close to losing after building this kind of lead. So it goes on, but for all the fun of close vote counts in the occasional state, there’s really not very much suspense here.

How Ed Kilgore frames Romney's victories:

Romney won Super Tuesday but seems to be losing the spin wars over its meaning. And for a candidate whose elite opinion-leader backing remains perhaps his most important asset other than cash, that matters.

Nate Silver measures Romney's vote margins:

Were his vote total just 3 percent lower in every state, distributed among the other candidates in some reasonable fashion, he would have lost Ohio and Alaska on Tuesday, and Michigan and Maine in February — and would have clearly lost Iowa rather than having “tied” there. But it wasn’t, and he didn’t. Mr. Romney has skirted a thin line throughout the Republican primaries — and has almost always ended up on just the right side of it.

Dave Weigel draws lessons from Super Tuesday:

Caucuses reveal that the base is cold on Romney. Here are four numbers: 37%, 45%, 60%, 41%. Here are four more: 24%, 32%, 35%, 17%. Those are the numbers for Rommey, respectively, from the 2008 caucuses in North Dakota, Alaska, Colorado, and Minnesota, and from the 2012 caucuses in the same states.

Rich Lowry sighs:

Rarely has a candidate seemed so inevitable and so weak at the same time.

Ezra Klein is betting that Romney will be stronger in the general election:

[I]t's possible that the GOP primary plays to Romney's weaknesses, while the general will play more to his strengths. He's got a big, top-heavy campaign that has been forced into asymmetrical warfare with smaller, lighter opponents. The dynamics of the primary are forcing Romney to unconvincingly adopt unpopular opinions that contradict what he's done and said in the past in order to persuade an electorate that's unusually concerned with purity. But in the general election, he'll be facing another big, top-heavy campaign, and he'll be able to run towards the center. Perhaps he'll perform better under those conditions.

Jonathan Cohn differs:

The longer this race goes on, the more desperate Romney becomes to protect his right flank, the more he will position himself outside the mainstream. And you can make the case– indeed, I have made the case – that Romney has already committed himself to radically conservative positions on taxes and spending that will alienate swing voters in the general election.

Sabato's Crystal Ball expects a long slog:

We can make one prediction: No one is going to drop out of this contest any time soon. The race moves to Kansas on Saturday (March 10) and Mississippi and Alabama next Tuesday (March 13). Santorum starts out with an edge in the Sunflower State while he and Gingrich will battle it out in the Magnolia State and Yellowhammer State. 

John Ellis says campaigning is Santorum's drug of choice:

Running for president is exhilarating, especially when you're Rick Santorum and been left for dead after losing in a landslide in Pennsylvania in 2006. It's vindication; I was right and they were wrong. It’s proof that you “have what it takes.”

Garrett Quinn thought Paul had a rough night: 

Paul’s strategy has been focused on caucuses and at this point only a handful of them remain: Guam, Kansas, Virgin Islands, Hawaii, Nebraska, and Montana. Yes, Paul will have delegates at the GOP convention in Tampa—but if these so-so results continue he will not march in there with the army he has been hoping for.

Bill Kristol won't give up on Santorum:

Mitt Romney of course remains the clear favorite. But the schedule over the next few weeks does him few favors. There are 14 primaries and caucuses in the next month, including Kansas on March 10, Alabama, Hawaii, and Mississippi on March 13, Missouri on March 17, Illinois on March 20, Louisiana on March 24, and Maryland and Wisconsin on April 3. Rick Santorum will probably hold his own—maybe more than hold his own—against Romney in these contests. 

Jennifer Rubin, meanwhile, spins for Romney:

The night is emblematic of the race as a whole. Romney, with superior organization and a focused message, is striding toward the nomination. Santorum is hanging on, but not doing much more than that. Santorum would like to think the difference between the two is simply money. But in fact, Santorum’s message has become ragged and his wins in two relatively rural states do not bode well for his ability to build a winning coalition.

Douthat thinks Santorum's brand of politics may be the Republican future:

Ours is increasingly a country where sky-high economic expectations coexist with middle class wage stagnation, and where the idealization of married life coexists with steadily rising out-of-wedlock births. In this atmosphere, the fusion of a (moderate) social conservatism and a right-leaning economic populism could end up having a broader appeal than many alternative right-of-center visions.

John Avlon and Ben Jacobs wonder if anyone will get to 1,144:

If Mitt wins every remaining all-or-nothing state but one, and half of the remaining proportional delegates, he would likely still fall short of the magic nomination number of 1,144—which would force him to rely on unpledged delegates, the Republican version of the infamous Democratic superdelegates in 2008, to claim his party’s mantle.

And Dan Amira declares winners:

Ultimately, Super Tuesday benefited the political media (which needs something to write about) and President Obama (who avoids a unified GOP attack for a while longer) more than any of the Republicans running for president. 

(Chart from Google. Interactive version here.)