Friday, February 08, 2008

Romney Out - Who's In?

Everyone has been asking me - "Jason what do you think of Romney dropping out of the race?" Well, I was just as surprised as you were. I thought for sure he would keep swinging at McCain to try and get the nomination. Why did he do it? I don't know really, but I imagine he wasn't very happy with his Super Tuesday results, and future polling was not in his favor. Plus, I figure he's just saving his money so he can go at it again in 2012 (I read at that it is rumored he has said he is eyeing 2012).

What does this mean for the Republican Race? I think it helps Mike Huckabee. The conventional wisdom right now is that McCain has it locked up. McCain has somewhere between 714 and 724 delegates (depending on where you look) and needs 1191 delegates to win the nomination; a difference of approximately 472 delegates. This compares to Huckabee who needs at least 525 more delegates than McCain to win.

I have not done all the math, and I don't think it will be easy for Huckabee, but I would not count him out just yet. Huckabee has always been the "true" social conservative in this race, and he has run a very "scrappy" campaign. The hard-core right conservatives, especially the social conservatives, feel McCain is too liberal. Romney was the presumed #1 challenger to McCain, and so Huckabee was largely ignored. If I were McCain I would not get too confident.

Let's look to Kansas as an example of what could happen. Kansas has Republican caucuses tomorrow. I feel positive that Huckabee will win in Kansas. Kansas Republicans had to register as Republican by January 25 to be eligible to caucus. Democrats allowed anyone to register as Democrat on the day of the caucus. At my caucus site there was a line of hundreds out the door in the line for people who needed to re-register. I don't think all those people were first time voters or people who needed to change their addresses. I think they were independents and moderate Republicans changing their party affiliation. In a large part, these people were voting for Obama (as he won 74% to Hillary's 26%). These moderate and independent voters are precisely the voters that McCain needs to win. What you have left is the ultra-conservative base - they will go to Huckabee. If Huckabee gets a strong showing in Kansas and Lousiana (which I think he will), it will inject momentum into his campaign. I don't think Huckabee has as good of a chance in Washington state (also tomorrow), but a surprise upset there would further solidify Huckabee's chances. Huckabee likes being the underdog right now, and McCain isn't comfortable as the front-runner (he's usually the underdog) - so I am not so sure the CW is all-knowing at this point.

I'll be back later with more predictions for tomorrow, including Democrat primaries held tomorrow.

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