GOP primary scenarios
Fred Barnes gives his take on the various victory scenarios of the GOP candidates over at the Weekly Standard.
Scenarios matter. They offer a way to judge the presidential race. Strong candidates can outline a sequence of likely victories or impressive finishes in the caucuses and primaries that would lead to the nomination. Weak candidates can't. And, to be clear, a strategy and a scenario aren't the same. A scenario is a vision of a candidate's path to victory.
At this point, with the first voting just nine weeks away, only two candidates--Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney--have credible scenarios. In that sense, the Republican campaign has become a two-man race, Rudy vs. Mitt. John McCain and Fred Thompson may not like this. They have scenarios, too, but theirs aren't terribly credible. ...
I think he's absolutely right. Given the realities of individual state operations (and polls) as well as fundraising, the scenario of a Rudy vs. Mitt contest down the stretch is much more credible. He goes on.
Romney has an early-primary strategy aimed at Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. He's poured money into those states, broadcast TV spots, and built organizations. Fox News polls show him leading in Iowa and New Hampshire and a close second in South Carolina.
If he wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, he'll have history on his side. No presidential candidate in either party has failed to win the presidential nomination after finishing first in Iowa and New Hampshire... Romney also has the best shot to win the Michigan primary on January 15. He grew up in Michigan and his father George was governor. The other Republicans have all but ignored Michigan. ...
Contrary to reports, Giuliani is not ignoring the early states. Well, Iowa maybe. He's campaigning aggressively in New Hampshire and leads in the Fox poll in South Carolina. If he stayed out of every state until the Florida primary, that would be fatal. The early winner would gain all the media attention and swamp him.
But Giuliani's focus is on Florida and then on the big-state primaries on February 5 in California, Illinois, New York, and New Jersey. He, too, has the funds to compete. His scenario--breaking out in Florida and blowing away the field on Super Tuesday--is credible in my view.
However, he could do well on Super Tuesday and still not lock up the nomination. The same is true for Romney. Should that happen, the Romney scenario sees conservatives drifting to him as the alternative to the more liberal Giuliani. Former congressman Vin Weber, a Romney adviser, says there's a ceiling on how many Republicans will back Giuliani, one that will keep him from winning the nomination. We'll see.
This is the thing I've believed all along...that Rudy has a ceiling and that in the end the majority of conservatives in the party will begin to come together around the candidate with the best chance of keeping him from winning the nomination. Rudy's likely to remain viable down the stretch just by virtue of the niche he occupies...that of being the more liberal, pro-choice Republican.
Let's face it, we've got a number of "moderates"/liberals in the GOP. They're just not close to being a majority...but they're there. They've been beaten by conservatives time and again in primaries, party-office battles and in platform fights whenever conservatives come together, but they ARE there. And right now, Rudy is their guy.
The question is, how soon do conservatives start to work together to keep them (and their candidate) out of power. Like the man said, "we'll see".
(full disclosure: I'm on the Romney wagon)