The Corner


Sorry, I’ve been unable to speak for the last couple of years because of another commitment, but have decided to reenter the Corner fray once again. Rich’s comments on momentum have drawn me back in.

Rich, I’d have to say that this a race in which momentum is too fleeting to support a long term prediction. You seem to be placing an inordinate amount of weight on the South Carolina primary. That may be supportable by recent history and conventional wisdom, but I’m not sure it fits the paradigm of this race (if you can even find a paradigm for this race). Let’s start with the proposition that no one is picking up a large plurality of the national polls, which is likely explained simply by the fact that there is no obvious standard bearer for the base. McCain’s momentum, if you call it that, puts him at no more than about 1/3 of Republican voters (and even that may be weighted with Independents). Romney, on the other hand, leads in the delegate count and has won one contested state and one more or less uncontested state. But if he picks up Nevada, he’ll continue to pick up delegates and have three wins under his belt. At some point, the uncontested wins count, too, and collectively, they can’t be ignored. If he keeps collecting them while finishing respectably in contested states, he’ll be able to fight this out for a lot longer. And given the fracture in the base, I have a hard time envisioning a McCain sweep on Super Tuesday. So at this stage, I don’t see South Carolina as a do or die state for any of the major contenders on the Republican side. It helps the winner, but it seems but one step in a multi-step battle this year. I doubt it turns anything around.

Note that I don’t have a particular horse in this race. There are a couple of guys I could live with, but no one that has closed the deal with me just yet.

Shannen W. Coffin — Shannen W. Coffin is a contributing editor to National Review. He practices appellate law in Washington, D.C.

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