Is Mitt Romney nomination really inevitable anymore?
Mitt Romney has tried to paint his nomination as inevitable. But Newt Gingrich hopes to siphon support from a limping Herman Cain campaign, making Romney win anything but inevitable.
Is a Mitt Romney nomination really inevitable?Skip to next paragraph
On the other hand, those same polls have highlighted Romney’s inability to go above about 25 percent among likely primary voters – and much of the other 75 percent seems to gravitate toward anybody but him, convinced that he’s not a true conservative.
“He’s a fragile frontrunner,” says Dennis Goldford, a political scientist at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. “If the anti-Romney side can’t unite around someone, then yeah, he’s got a very good chance. But if the anti-Romney side can unite around someone, it will be tougher.”
Though Mr. Cain speaking in Ohio Wednesday vowed to stay in the race, his candidacy is limping. And Newt Gingrich – already the frontrunner in most polls – could benefit more than Romney from a Cain demise.
Recent Public Policy Polling (PPP) surveys probed Cain supporters’ second choice, and 37 percent of them picked Mr. Gingrich, compared with just 13 percent who chose Romney. (Fourteen percent opted for Michele Bachmann, and 12 percent went with Rick Perry.)
And Gingrich has been doing everything he can to court those voters.
“It’s no accident that Gingrich had the quasi-debate with Cain, and was extremely deferential to Cain,” says Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College in California, referring to the Lincoln-Douglas style debate the two men had earlier this month. “That was an extremely shrewd move on Newt’s part. He got some publicity and appealed to Cain constituents.”
Still, another survey, from Reuters/Ipsos, calls the conventional wisdom into question. Analysis of that data, an Ipsos pollster said Wednesday, shows that a Cain departure would benefit Romney and Gingrich equally, giving them both about a 3 percent bump.
Polls, of course, don’t tell the whole story.
Gingrich trails far behind Romney in fundraising, and his campaign lacks Romney’s organization.
And Gingrich is far from an ideal candidate for conservatives to coalesce around, with plenty of personal and political baggage of his own.
Just a few months ago, his campaign seemed on the verge of death, with little money and a mass exodus of senior staff.
Numerous other “anti-Romney” candidates – including Governor Perry, Cain, and Representative Bachmann – have soared only to crash.
But timing is everything.
“Gingrich is a smart guy, but he hasn’t repealed the laws of political gravity,” says Professor Pitney. “The question is when gravity is going to take hold. Is it going to happen later this month or deep into the spring? That makes a difference.”
Also an unknown: Gingrich’s ability to put together a solid campaign organization quickly. His staff says his fundraising has soared along with his poll numbers, but he still lacks the infrastructure of the Romney campaign, as well as its deep pockets.