In the next month, the three serious candidates in the GOP Presidential Campaign have some serious work ahead of them. I say there are three because Mr. Paul only plays the role of spoiler now. He can amass enough delegates to get some of his views represented in the platform at the convention but party platforms are now as archaic as gaining endorsements from major American newspapers. It just does not matter much any more.
Here is why the serious GOP candidates are the serious ones for now.
Mr. Romney holds the most delegates and has the most money. He is not the Inevitable Candidate because the party does not warm to him. The evangelicals do not think he is a Christian, the Conservatives do not think he is a conservative (severely, or otherwise) and the rest of the base (think Money) is not sure he can beat Mr. Obama.
Mr. Romney's main tasks the next two months are these:
- He must win something in the South. He lost in South Carolina and Georgia to Mr. Gingrich and in Tennessee and Oklahoma to Mr. Santorum.
- He must continue to raise large amounts of money, both in the campaign and in the Super PAC, Restore Our Mitt. Attack ads take a lot of money. Refuting what is going to come down the line from Mr. Obama will take a lot of money. Mr. Romney dares not run low on money.
Mr. Santorum is a serious candidate because he has the second largest number of delegates and is (probably) the accepted candidate of Evangelicals and Tea Party types. Mr. Santorum cannot possibly amass 1,144 delegates by August, not any August of any year, if Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Paul do not throw their weight behind him. This is not likely to happen until the convention. By then, it may be too late. Certainly, it would come only after a great many concessions by Mr. Santorum.
In the next months, Mr. Santorum must do these things.
- He needs to win Kansas, Mississippi and Alabama. Kansas is a caucus state, up next, and Mr. Santorum needs to get the lion's share of the delegates.
- He needs to win something outside the South and Midwest. He has lost Michigan and Ohio, by a whisker each time, but each time in a come from ahead defeat. He cost Mr. Romney a lot of money and his air of inevitability but Mr. Santorum must win something outside the base area. I cannot imagine Mr. Santorum winning in the Western states where the Mormon influence is so strong but he needs to win somewhere. Mr. Romney has difficulty winning elsewhere. Someone needs to pay attention to geography.
Mr. Gingrich is a serious candidate because he is Mr. Gingrich. He can spend a lot of breath casting himself as a Washington outsider but he was Speaker of the US House and got huge consultant contracts with federal agencies. He is the consummate insider. He is Newt Gingrich, with all that entails.
In the next months, Mr. Gingrich has more to do than anyone. He must do these things.
- He must win something big and soon. He has South Carolina and Georgia. He has to have something else, like a strong showing in Kansas.
- He must continue to hammer home on his record in the Congress. Everyone is going to talk about his past. He must make sure the conversation does not end with him as a punch-line. Mr. Gingrich must get busier saying he alone has experience reducing a monstrous budget deficit, balancing an out of kilter federal budget and passing major legislation in the face of a popular, if flawed, executive.
- He has to stop promising all things to all men. He will not plant the 51st state on the moon or reduce gasoline costs to $2.50 a gallon by December without a huge financial breakdown.
- He cannot have his record both ways. He is a Washington Insider who gets things done. He is not an Unsullied Outlander who will wage class warfare against the hated Obama by dent of his personal purity.
We will know a little more after the next two weeks. We may not have a definitive answer. If Super Tuesday could not seal the deal, don't think we will have a clear picture before the Easter Bunny hops.
Opinions expressed here are mine alone.