Pundits, pollsters, and political forecasters can agree on at least one thing following this tumultuous Republican primary season.
Not since 1976, when Ronald Reagan racked up victories in Southern and Midwest primaries and took his fight all the way to the Republican convention that year, has the race for the Republican nomination been so interesting.
While former Governor Mitt Romneyappears well poised for a big win in Tuesday’s delegate rich Florida primary, the fast changing nature of this race and the new rules adopted by the Republican Party at their 2008 Convention mean we are not likely to have formally chosen a nominee until well into April.
There are some structural reasons why this is the case. Trying to reign in states from leap frogging the traditional early primary and caucus states and thus, pushing states into December contests, the party adopted new rules that said primaries decided in February and March need to be proportional. As a result, Super Tuesday is a month later than it was in 2008. And, in 2008, we had 33 contests decided by the end of February. This go around, only 10 will have taken place.
March has traditionally been the finish line for previous modern Republican nominees. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) secured the nomination on March 4, 2008. On March 9, 2000, shortly after McCain pulled out, then-Gov. George W. Bush (R-TX) clinched his first nomination.
Geography, demographics and delegate count will dictate how quickly our eventual nominee can clinch the nomination. Even if Romney is successful in Florida, this will be a hard primary win for him. He’s had to spend more money than he should have to win.
In advance of the South Carolina primary, Newt Gingrichcleverly strung together themes of anger and frustration that portrayed him as the bombastic outsider or antidote to Washington gridlock, malaise and runaway spending. Romney also failed to gain any traction due to the Speaker’s intensive Bain Capital-bashing. Now the tables have turned again after Gingrich had two weak debates, was rebuked by Senator Marco Rubio for calling Mitt Romney anti-Immigrant, and admitted to giving a false answer to CNN’s John King during a debate. Mitt Romney also appears to have put his tax return aside for now, and his defense of his wealth was one of his strongest moments yet in a debate.