“Never by haughty to the humble or humble to the haughty” – Jefferson Davis
The South Carolina primary is today. If you haven’t already gone to the polls, get out there and vote, South Carolina. (And while you’re at it – think about voting for the freedom candidate – Ron Paul.)
The field is thinning on the Republican side. We’re down to four: Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and Rick Santorum. The current Real Clear Politics average of polls has it Romney 31%, Gingrich 20%, Paul 14.4%, and Santorum 14.2%. There are a few Perry votes lingering, which will fade with time as he has withdrawn his candidacy.
Forget what the punditry is saying about the elections – they change all the time anyway. First it was “Romney is unstoppable!” Now that Gingrich may well win SC it’s “Romney has faltered, can he recover?” But look at those national numbers again. Nobody has even a third of the electorate. As the race thins, things will coalesce, and the idea that they coalesce around the current frontrunner is blithe conjecture.
I liken it to American Idol. People vote for a preferred singer (or candidate), and singers (or candidates) are dropped off the back of the pack as the show progresses. But there is no guarantee whatsoever that the supporters of the latest singer (or candidate) to falter will go to the frontrunner. In fact, it often happens just the opposite. You’ll often see vote splits of 45-30-25 in the “round of 3” turn into 45-55 in the “round of 2” as the 25% who supported the 3rd place singer swing to the second place swinger.
This election may play out the same way. Where do the Perry supporters go? Does Santorum eventually drop out? What about Gingrich? Who do those voters support.
My suspicion is that Romney does not drop out. He has the lead and money and can make a fight of it – and he has the liberal Republican vote locked up. My suspicion is also that Ron Paul does not drop out. He doesn’t really have to. The 15% who support him (and it may push 20% by the end) do so on principle. That doesn’t actually require huge funds. He has a seat at the table and can keep going as long as he wants to.
That leaves Gingrich and Santorum. I honestly don’t mind seeing them all stick around. If one drops out, the other will become the front runner – or at least move into a tie with Romney. Either way, the current split makes the likelihood of a brokered convention a bit higher. I can’t say that such an outcome would be all that bad.