Campaign Spot reader James makes a good point or two:
Enjoyed your analysis as to how the delegate count should shape up after February 5. Let me add a point about the post-February 5 delegates.
The Romney strategy is to stay close on Super Tuesday and then have conservatives coalesce around Mitt. But if Romney is, as is quite likely, at least 200 delegates down after Super Tuesday, the success of such a strategy assumes that Romney wins most of the delegates the rest of the way so he can beat McCain to 1,191. To accomplish that, Romney needs lots of primaries closed to non-GOP voters, and he’d want them to be winner take all so he could scoop up large caches of delegates. However, on March 4 Ohio, Texas and Rhode Island hold open primaries that are not winner take all.
That’s a target-rich environment for McCain: 248 delegates at stake, you don’t have to be Republican to vote, and even if McCain loses he still gets a share of the delegates. Similarly, on May 6 North Carolina and Indiana will elect 126 delegates in open, non-winner take all primaries. And a number of other states still to come also have open, non-winner take all primaries: Washington, Wisconsin and Nebraska.
To put it simply, Romney’s strategy assumes that even though he just lost a closed primary to McCain in Florida, and even though he hasn’t won a contested state so far where his father wasn’t once governor, starting with the Washington and Kansas primaries this Saturday, he’s going to start routing McCain by such massive proportions in one state after another that McCain can’t win a war of attrition.
Ain’t gonna happen.
Now, like they say in the investment commercials, “past performance may not be indicative of future results.” One of the great challenges for Romney has been Huckabee, hanging around and splitting the vote of those who might find McCain deficient in one way or another. But Huckabee shows few signs of leaving the race anytime soon. (Maybe he goes if tomorrow goes terribly for him.)
Maybe McCain has a Dean moment, or some other dramatic moment that changes the dynamics of the race.
But last night watching the game, in that last drive, I said out loud to my television, “ten yards at a time, Eli, ten yards at a time.” And for Romney, he needs to get through tomorrow first. With one or two states every couple of days, he may be able to get back to a more focused, retail-style politics.
UPDATE: Also note that in my delegate count below, Huckabee’s slide has only helped Romney a bit; mostly it’s helped McCain take the lead in southern states.
There’s also been some polling data suggesting that the second choice of some Huckabee voters is McCain, not Romney.