World, Politics

GOP 2012: Romney runs away with the title – or just about

By J Brooks Spector 4 April 2012

Even before Mitt Romney’s blow-out wins in the Maryland and District of Columbia (Washington) primaries and his still convincing victory in Wisconsin, the gig was about up and we’re heading into the final roundup for Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. By J BROOKS SPECTOR.

With a small percentage of votes still to be counted, Romney had won the DC primary at the 70% level (with Gingrich gaining 11% and Ron Paul 12%), was winning Maryland at 48% to 30% for Santorum and 11% and 10% for Gingrich and Paul respectively and carrying Wisconsin at 42% to 38% for Santorum and Ron Paul at 12% as well. Romney will now pick up most of the delegates from these – and the odds on Santorum and Gingrich’s becoming their party’s nomination for president have become really long.

Any further campaigning by Santorum and Gingrich is delusional and divisive. The chances of any Republican candidate gaining the White House are now threatened by their continued campaigning. Now, more and more Republicans will step forward to endorse Romney.

Even before the three latest primaries, Romney had collected 572 delegates for the Republican National Convention, half the total of 1,144 to clinch the nomination and he is on track to get there by June. By contrast, Santorum had just 272 delegates, Newt Gingrich was at 135 and Ron Paul had 51. Tuesday’s primaries offered 95 delegates: 42 in Wisconsin and the other 43 in Maryland and Washington. In the end, in fact, Santorum hadn’t even qualified for the ballot for DC.

The two apparent final candidates, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, are already looking past the rest of the Republican primary season. Increasingly, they have started to take shots at each other in public as if the general election campaign was underway.

Of Obama, Mitt Romney said: “He did not cause the recession, but he did not cure the recession. He did not cause the kind of turnaround we wanted and needed so desperately.”

Joe Biden on behalf of Barack Obama: Romney would bring the economic recovery “to a screeching halt” if he won the White House.

And effectively speaking to fellow Republicans on Fox News TV, Romney said “The right thing for us, I think, is to get a nominee as soon as we can and be able to focus on Barack Obama.” Out on the campaign trail, Romney repeatedly tells his audiences, “This president is going to be campaigning saying that he’s doing a great job. Do you know that he actually believes that he’s doing a great job? He said the other day that he’s doing an historically great job, like Lincoln, LBJ and FDR. And this was not said on ‘Saturday Night Live.’ He believes that. How can that be?”

Romney is now adding a warning to any “bitter-ender” candidate who might be considering a bid as a third party candidate, “You have to remember it was Ross Perot that allowed Bill Clinton to win.” In 1992, Perot’s independent candidacy helped doom George HW Bush’s re-election chances. (Perrot repeated the favour in 1996 too, to Bob Dole). Romney went on to stress “My campaign is going to continue focusing on Barack Obama” – implying he is no longer concerned about challenges from “what’s his name”.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama delivered a sharp rebuke to the Republican budget passed on 30 March by the house of representatives. In his speech he charged his Republican rivals with aiming at a kind of divisive “social Darwinism” pitting the poor against the wealthy. The New York Times reported, “President Obama opened a full-frontal assault (on) Tuesday on the federal budget adopted by House Republicans, condemning it as a ‘Trojan horse’ that would greatly deepen inequality in the United States, and painting it as the manifesto of a party that had swung radically to the right.”

And the newest Obama campaign ad, an effective counterpoint and one-two punch for all the warm fuzzies that comprise the gauzy, soft-focus Davis Guggenheim film, The Road We’ve Traveled, recently made for Obama’s campaign, says “Mitt Romney’s stood with Big Oil – for their tax breaks, attacking higher mileage standards and renewables.” By the time this campaign is over, we will all have become deconstructionist semiotics specialists and crypto-analysts so we can unravel the meanings in all the messages in this campaign.

In the days leading up to the 3 April primaries, Romney carried out some last-minute campaigning in Milwaukee and Wisconsin, while Santorum had moved on to Texas before heading home to Pennsylvania. Both of these large population states have primaries later, but the result is almost certainly going to be a foregone conclusion.

On the crucial money trail, meantime, despite being the favourite of millionaires, the Romney campaign is well behind Obama’s in fundraising because Romney has been unable to raise general election funds while the primary contest is ongoing. At the most recent report filing Obama’s people reported they had some $84.7-million in comparison to Romney’s more meagre $7.3-million, although Romney has, of course, raised and spent some serious cash during the primaries.

In fact, up to now, Romney and his allies have spent $53-million on television advertising, compared to $27-million from all of his Republican competitors combined. Santorum’s team has spent only around $9-million. As a result, Santorum has tried to characterise the current race as a kind of political David-versus-Goliath competition. He’s argued, “With almost unlimited resources, Romney has not proven to be very effective. The only way he’s been successful in winning the primaries is by just bludgeoning his opponents by an overwhelming money advantage – something he’s not going to have in the general election.” Still, it’s worked so far.

On the staff ledger, Obama has more than 530 paid staff at work on the campaign already, compared to Romney’s 100. But, Republican donors can soon be expected to ante up with much more for a lot of TV and Internet advertising, staff, travel, back-office support and so forth. Of course, these figures do not describe the growing issues-based funding that has been raised for – and spent by – the various SuperPACS, as these are not part of a candidate’s campaign.

One real measure of the Santorum and Gingrich candidacies is the extent and type of media attention they are collecting. By that standard, they are on life-support. Describing a Gingrich event north of Baltimore, The Washington Post wrote, “This wasn’t a campaign in ruins. It was Newt Gingrich doing exactly what Newt Gingrich has been doing all his life – lecturing exuberantly about intriguing impossibilities.” And it’s essentially the same old lecture outline he perfected 40 years ago. Undoubtedly, by the end of Newt’s magical mystery tour, there will be a new book, an educational DVD, yet another lecture tour and a permanent guest stint on Fox News TV.

Meanwhile, Rick Santorum told journalists in Wisconsin the other day when asked when he is throwing in the towel, “I’m not talking about this anymore. We’re just focused on doing well here in Wisconsin.” But he’s been refusing to answer the only question reporters really want to ask him.

Dan Balz explained in the Washington Post, “The gulf between Santorum and the party establishment seems to be growing. They see him as ignoring the obvious. They worry that a sustained campaign by Santorum, particularly one in which he continues to attack Romney as a nominee who can’t draw clear contrasts with Obama, as he has been doing all across Wisconsin, will hurt their chances of winning in November.”

As a result, he’s hearing what constitutes a bitter answer from the Republican establishment. People like senate minority leader Mitch McConnell are now saying, in effect, “The nomination battle has gone on long enough. It’s time to let Romney and the rest of the party concentrate on the campaign against Obama and stop the internecine warfare between the factions within the party.”

And as for Ron Paul, for years he’s been running as national Cassandra and has given no sign he will stop, even if the Republican Party of right wing ideologues and Tea Party activists is in no mood to hear his libertarian-isolationist message that wants government out of peoples’ personal lives. This will almost certainly be his last roundup. DM



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Photo: Supporters listen as U.S. Republican presidential candidate and former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney speaks during his Wisconsin and Maryland primary night rally in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on 3 April 2012. REUTERS/Darren Hauck.

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