In may of 2011, I wrote the following on Facebook:

Michael Barone writes that Mitt Romney should not be considered the front-runner (link at bottom). I actually agree. He’s not substantively ahead in the polls (and is behind in many of them) and you shouldn’t call someone a front-runner unless they’re in the lead. But he remains the likely nominee. Barone’s writing, rather than refuting this point, actually supports it to an extent. He says that there are “only six” cases of the “next-in-line” (NIL) getting the nomination since the primary model was deployed in the 70’s, but that constitutes every non-incumbent nominee since the primary model was deployed in the 1970’s. There is not a single counter-example.

There are, as Barone points out, a number of “almost” counterexamples (Reagan in ’76, Alexander in ’96), but they remain “almosts” for a reason. It didn’t happen. The fact that the NIL nominee’s nomination was in doubt through the primary season actually supports the likelihood of a Romney nomination. Why? Because the second strongest argument against Romney’s nomination is that people aren’t really excited about him. But as past performance indicates, it doesn’t really matter. The next strongest argument is that Romney did something in Massachusetts that is very unpopular with GOP voters. This is the same party that nominated John McCain. Doesn’t matter.

I actually overstate my case somewhat. If a really strong candidate were to come forward, I don’t doubt that Romney could be unseated. In fact, if Huckabee runs, Romney shares the NIL title (though I think his establishment support will probably put him on top). But no candidate really comes to mind. All of them have substantial drawbacks. We’re likely seeing a replay of 2008, where all of the candidates have something that makes them “unacceptable” for some reason or another. The odd thing about 2008 was that it was full of candidates that I just couldn’t see winning the nomination. But one of them had to. The odder thing is that 2012 seems to be the exact same issue.

Absent Huckabee or a really strong candidate (no names come to mind, and I know a lot of names) entering, the only other way I see Romney losing is if it’s essentially a two-man race between Romney and Pawlenty. Pawlenty is not sufficiently exciting that he will stand out from a pack of candidates, but if voters are essentially given two choices, and one of them is the guy that ran the dry-run for Obamacare, I could see Pawlenty getting the nod. But that depends on a dearth of new candidates and a lack of traction among the people already running.

It’s a longshot. I say this as someone that is somewhat lukewarm about Romney and will likely support Pawlenty (or Daniels, if he runs). On the other hand, if Romney does pull out the nomination, I don’t think that the lack of enthusiasm for him (same goes for Pawlenty) means that he can’t win. John Kerry almost won, after all. As long as the GOP nominee meets a general threshold (which Romney, Pawlenty, Daniels, and Huckabee would all meet), the 2012 election will be a referendum on Obama more than anything else.

I mention this not because I stand by it 100%. I have doubts that Huck would have met the “acceptable alternative threshold), Pawlenty was even weaker than I had imagined, and Romney’s relationship with the establishment was (I found out after the election) much worse than I thought. But I bring this up because I want on the record that I am a believer in the establishmentarian advantage, I’m not one of those “anything could happen” people. I mention it in hopes of bolstering my credibility when I say that Jeb Bush has a long and difficult road to the nomination that Mitt Romney did not. Enough so that I’m not positive he will even be in the race come Iowa.


Category: Statehouse

About the Author

Will Truman (trumwill) is a southern transplant in the mountain east with an IT background who bides his time taking care of their daughter while his wife brings home the bacon. You will probably be relieved to know that he does not generally refer to himself in the third-person except when he's writing short bios on his web page.

7 Responses to Les Inevitables?

  1. Tod Kelly says:

    I dunno. I feel like someone is going to slowly pick up all of the non-far-right votes as those candidates rise and fall and split votes, a la Romney.

    If not Jeb, who?

    • trumwill says:

      At this point, between Jeb, Rubio, and Walker… I’m not sure I give any of them the edge over the others. If the last two crater (which they might), then it’s Jeb’s to lose (which, even with that, he still could).

      A lot of it is going to depend on how the debates go. They might be where Jeb saves himself. But man, nothing in his candidacy so far gives me a whole lot of confidence that will happen. I’m feeling more like I need to get my “Why the Jeb/Walker primary could be pivotal to the future of the GOP” post written lest it be overtaken by events demonstrating that it won’t be a Jeb/Walker primary.

      • Michael Drew says:

        I don’t anticipate the debates being a big boon to Jeb’s position. He may come out slightly the better for wear owing to inexperience all around him, but I don’t think he will shine. The field better look the f*&% out for A Man Named Ted on those stages, though, I’l say that.

        • trumwill says:

          In terms of helping Jeb, I think of the debates as more of a platform for him to hold his own while his main opponents crumble, rather than a place for Jeb to shine, particularly.

  2. Michael Cain says:

    Some of it, I think, is just simple local ground game preparedness. Last time, Romney was on every single ballot. Whatever it took in the way of filing fees, signatures, having delegate names on the ballot in every district, Romney was prepared. Last time, it seemed like a routine occurrence: an up-and-coming candidate would win in a couple of states, then disappear from the headlines the next week because while they suddenly had some more money, the paper-filing deadlines in the next three states had passed. I found myself asking, “Is there anyone besides Romney here who knows how to play this game?”

    This is, IMHO, one of the advantages of being the “establishment” Republican candidate. In every state, there are enough staid older businesspeople who know the local rules and have enough time and contacts to get those tedious chores done on time. Need a hundred signatures from the rural corner of state, or three people who will sign the form to be a candidate in the state where delegates are voted on directly? A couple of calls to chamber of commerce acquaintances gets the job done.

    Who’s most likely to win the nomination? Who’s out there now, not making public appearances and selling policy positions, but lining up the staid old businessmen who will get the damned paperwork filed on time?

    • trumwill says:

      I believe most of Romney’s rivals faltered mostly because they were bad candidates. It’s possible that a good candidate would have also fallen short due to lack of preparation, but as far as 2012 was concerned, that’s an untested theory. The candidates weren’t ready because until they had the limelight, they weren’t prepared for the limelight (both in terms of polish and organization).

      I think here we’ve got at least two, probably three and maybe four or possibly five, candidates who will have the groundwork in place to avoid the problems that Gingrich (for example) had.

  3. Emerson says:

    Thanks in favor of sharing such a good thinking, post is nice, thats why i have read it
    entirely

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