A little history. No non-incumbent has ever swept Iowa and New Hampshire within a Republican Primary until Mitt Romney. He did it while getting less votes in 2012 in Iowa than he got in 2008, but with substantially more votes in New Hampshire, including among independents.
With 1.80 percent of delegates selected for the Republican nomination, Willard Mitt Romney looks like he is going to sweep the field. It is striking how these things get wrapped up so quickly. By March 6, which is this year’s Super Tuesday, 40 percent of the delegates will be selected. The other 60 percent won’t be selected until after after Super Tuesday. But we may have the nominee by then.
There is, however, still time for someone else to make a come back. A poll released Thursday by Insider Advantage has Newt Gingrich within two points of Romney in South Carolina. Gingrich’s affiliated Super PAC has decided to throw everything possible at Romney in an effort to stop him.
Since the advent of the modern elections calendar, the nomination for president typically does end by Florida. The delegates are winner take all and both momentum and money flow to the person who wins South Carolina. Since 1980, no Republican has gotten the nomination for president without winning South Carolina. Conventional wisdom suggests it is Romney’s race. It is.
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But conventional wisdom is overlooking one thing. This year is different from all prior efforts to get the Republican nomination. The Republican National Committee changed the system. What had been winner take all races are now partly proportional and partly winner takes all.
Between now and March 3, the last event before Super Tuesday, only 15.2 percent of all delegates to the Republican National Convention will be selected and the vast majority will be proportional.
On Super Tuesday, Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, the Virgin Islands and Wyoming will all go vote in a mixture of primaries and caucuses that will also be mostly proportional. That day, the candidates will pick up 24.9 percent of the delegates for this year’s Republican National Convention, bringing the total delegates selected since Iowa to 40.2 percent
From March 10 until the Utah Primary on June 26, 59.8 percent of delegates will be selected.
A candidate could run a very grassroots campaign against Romney between now and April when the full slate of winner take all races start. But such a person would have to have a pile of money either within their campaign or with a related Super PAC. The candidate would also have to sit back a bit and let the media vet Romney, along with the Democrats, in the way we all know is going to happen.
It is possible, but not probable. Right now, the only person who seems capable of doing that is Newt Gingrich. He has a well-funded Super PAC and has had a good bit of money flowing to him as the alternative to Romney.
Jon Huntsman’s campaign is a non-starter. Ron Paul cannot build a majority coalition largely because of his foreign policy views. Rick Santorum does not have the money. Most everyone has given up hope in Rick Perry’s ability to come back barring a miracle.
That leaves Gingrich. And he is just the stubborn sort to do it. Romney is only the guaranteed candidate if Republicans want him to be. I personally think he will be a disastrous general election candidate. But every day he inches forward makes it harder for anyone else to catch up.
Erick Erickson is a CNN contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.