On MSNBC a moment ago, Chris Jansing gave Rick Perry’s spokesman Ray Sullivan grief over Perry’s current standing at 1 percent in the most recent New Hampshire primary polls. (Okay, Rasmussen had him at 3 percent and Public Policy Polling at 2 percent.)
A Texas governor emphasizing his social conservatism was never a likely frontrunner in the Granite State. You’ll recall that in 2000, another Texas governor, frontrunner George W. Bush, took his Iowa momentum into New Hampshire and promptly lost to John McCain by 33,000 votes, or 18 percentage points.
As Presidents Bush and Clinton will tell you, losing New Hampshire’s primary does not doom a candidate, as long as you do well enough in other primaries. (Clinton did manage to spin a distant second-place finish into a perceived comeback because his rival, Sen. Paul Tsongas, represented nearby Massachusetts.)
Also keep in mind that New Hampshire amounts to all of 12 delegates, out of the 2,286 total and 1,144 needed to win the nomination. To win a single delegate under New Hampshire’s proportional system, it only takes about 8.3 percent; if Mitt Romney were to win with his current 35 percent, he would win . . . four delegates. At some point, New Hampshire isn’t worth the cost, time, and effort to win one or two more delegates. (Of course, candidates may decide that the additional positive coverage and momentum make time in the state worthwhile.)
Perry’s real worries are his current mediocre standing in Iowa (12 percent in the RealClearPolitics average, putting him in fourth place in their calculations) and deeply disappointing 5.7 percent in South Carolina. As a Southern candidate, Perry must do better on his “home turf.”
Jansing also asked whether Perry’s legal case against the Virginia GOP presidential-primary ballot rules was a waste of time, money, and resources. Obviously, any trailing candidate has to make hard decisions on how to allocate limited resources, but remaining competitive for Virginia’s 50 delegates certainly would help Perry. The only Southern state that precedes Virginia is South Carolina; the commonwealth votes on Super Tuesday, March 6, along with Georgia, Tennessee, and Oklahoma.
Perry’s road to victory is challenging but visible: Perform “well enough” in Iowa, South Carolina, hopefully Florida (although that contest remains winner-take-all, at least as of this writing), Nevada, Colorado, and Arizona, and then make his big push on Super Tuesday, consolidating the anti-Romney vote.