[Posted by Karl]
My general impulse is throw cold water on momentary buzz, so this bit of hype from Camp Santorum reported by Byron York after sweeping Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado caught my attention:
After the returns came in, I asked Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley what he thought about Rich Beeson’s message. Sure, Santorum did well on Tuesday, but doesn’t Romney have the money and infrastructure to outdistance Santorum, and everyone else, in the long run?
“What an inspiring message,” Gidley said sarcastically. “That is really inspiring. I can’t wait to put a bumper sticker on my truck that says MONEY-INFRASTRUCTURE 2012.”
“No one had more money and infrastructure than Hillary Clinton, and hope and change wiped her off the map,” Gidley continued. “We’ll have money, and we’ll have infrastructure, but our nominee has to have a message that people can get behind and inspires people.”
In fact, Obama raised more money than Clinton headed into the Iowa caucuses. Obama’s endorsements in early states were competitive with hers. And Obama out-organized Hillary. It’s too bad for Rick Santorum that his staff apparently does not know this, as there’s an important lesson for them in it.
Obama was able to wage a long campaign against Clinton in 2008 because he followed (and improved on) McGovern’s 1972 strategy of picking up cheap delegates in caucus states, particularly “red states,” which his rivals ignored. Santorum’s wins in bluish-purple caucuses — Iowa, Minnesota and Colorado – and his plans to target Washington state’s caucus in the upcoming rounds suggest a general awareness of Obama’s strategy. The RNC, having noticed that the Dems’ long 2008 campaign drove registration and organization in more states, helped open the door to an insurgent campaign by dictating proportional allocation of delegates for primaries and caucuses held before April, although some of these early non-binding contests awarding delegates later complicate these calculations. The RNC’s plan did not anticipate this cycle’s unexciting and inept field of candidates. In any event, it also ultimately works against a NotRomney like Santorum.
In March, with its treasure trove of delegates, there are plenty of places a NotRomney could do well, including caucuses. Many of these states lean conservative and evangelical. But proportional allocation of delegates insures Romney will get a share of delegates in most of these contests. Moreover, if Newt Gingrich remains in on Super Tuesday, he may do well in Georgia (one of the biggest delegate counts that day) and other southern states, splitting the NotRomney vote. Indeed, Newt has already headed to Ohio, another state where Romney would benefit from a split vote on Super Tuesday (Ohio moved the GOP primary from June back to March. Given the likely Santorumentum from last night’s sweep, I wonder whether the Mitt-backed superPAC will dial back its attacks on Newt in Ohio.) Moreover, Ron Paul is openly pursuing the McGovern/Obama cheap delegate strategy in caucus states, which complicates efforts by other NotRomneys hoping to do the same. Furthermore, the strategy has its limits: only 486 delegates will be awarded in caucus states.
Once winner-take-all contests become prevalent in April, the calendar becomes heavily weighted to northeastern states — Pennsylvania and Wisconsin being Santorum’s best opportunities. May would be a more Santorum-friendly month. June will be dominated by California, New Jersey and Utah, all presumably Romney-friendly states.
Contra Santorum’s flack, the fact that the eventual nominee will have money and organization does not help Santorum become the nominee today. Despite the big wallet of Foster Friess, Santorum needs money and organization now. And he needs Newt to be out of the race by Super Tuesday. At the moment, that scenario seems unlikely.