Today’s Courier Herald Column:
It’s in the wee hours of Wednesday morning and I’m still trying to analyze what happened across the country on Super Tuesday. Closer to home, however, will be what is usually the second busiest day at the Capitol. Day 30, known as “crossover day” is the day a bill must pass either the House or Senate if it is to be considered by the other body this year.
A bill failing to pass one chamber by today is dead, though many will show up in the hectic final days as amendments attached to similar legislation. Anyone who is fascinated by how the sausage of legislation is made should spend a crossover day at the Capitol. Legislators and lobbyists alike are in full panic mode, desperate to ensure that their key bills survive the day.
In the confusion, there is usually some mischief. Today is a good day to watch your wallets. On hectic days such as today and the final two days, bills seem to appear out of nowhere to be passed with little debate or advance warning. Some “good corporate citizens” will be rewarded, and some well connected pockets will be lined.
It may be a coincidence that crossover day is the day after Super Tuesday – if you believe in political coincidences. Those that pay attention to politics are not casting their eyes to Atlanta, but to a national map that is starting to fill in with delegates.
Last night was good for Mitt Romney, winning 6 of 10 states. Two of those states, Virginia and Massachusetts, will likely yield all of their delegates to Romney. The man who entered Super Tuesday with the most delegates left the night with an even larger lead.
It was better for Romney because it was also an acceptable night for Gingrich. Newt did what he had to do, winning his home state. He failed to come in higher than third place anywhere else, however. Undeterred, Gingrich will contest Saturday’s Kansas race and next Tuesday’s Alabama and Mississippi primaries.
While Santorum can claim momentum as the newest and probably final “not-Mitt” candidate, he will continue to divide the evangelical vote with Gingrich for another week. This is problematic because delegates in contests through the month of March are awarded proportionally. Romney needs to only come in second in most contests to maintain a comfortable delegate lead going into April.
Santorum supporters wasted no time asking Newt to consider leaving the race. Facebook posts began popping up as soon as it became clear that Gingrich failed to register in Tennessee, coming in third. Gingrich has stated a Southern strategy but has thus far only won Georgia and South Carolina. Texas, his winner take all holy grail, does not vote until the last week of May.
In the interim, most other southern states will vote this month, allowing a second place finisher to take away delegates. Presuming Gingrich and Santorum continue to split social conservatives, it is likely that Romney will continue to amass delegates in the states that may otherwise go to Santorum or Gingrich in a winner talk all framework.
As the campaign moves to April, large non-southern states come into play. States that will be much more favorable to Romney become winner take all, and Romney will continue to amass delegates at a faster pace than his rivals.
Others can talk “momentum” in perpetuity, but the numerology of the primary layout is a distinct advantage for Mitt Romney. While Gingrich proclaimed himself the tortoise of the race during his Georgia victory speech, it is Romney who is perfectly executing his slow and steady march to amassing delegates.
Gingrich’s longtime confidante Randy Evans released a strategy memo to Jim Galloway of the AJC, outlining his plan to win the nomination. Its cornerstone involves “persuasion” of GOP at-large delegates to vote for him rather than Romney who will presumably have a lead in the delegate count by the time everyone reaches Tampa.
The word “persuasion” will have ominous undertones for GOP leaders, and will likely have people close to Gingrich, quietly at first, begin to ask him how the person who is third in the current delegate count plans to persuade uncommitted delegates to choose him over the other two people in the race.
The easiest assumption is that it will be more negative ads from a superPAC funded by a Vegas billionaire. The likelihood that Gingrich’s plan involves continued negative attacks against front runners will not sit well with a nervous GOP that already realizes they are at risk of losing what should be the easiest election they have faced since 1984.
The GOP contest will likely continue for another week with 3 potential nominees. Barring a Gingrich sweep of Kansas, Alabama, and Mississippi, we will likely see the private concerns of those seeking a quick end to the process become public rebukes. Gingrich won his “home” state and in some ways has been validated and vindicated for his role in the modern GOP. Continuing a self-centered scorched earth campaign with little hope of achieving the nomination for much longer places all of this at risk.