Political Animal


April 03, 2012 10:49 AM Santorum: Clawing His Way To May?

By Ed Kilgore

The ability of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign to get itself on the losing side of the expectations game continues to amaze. Today’s primaries in Wisconsin, Maryland and DC ought to be an easy-breezy moment for the Romney campaign: he is certain to win a majority of delegates on the day, and his very likely win in Wisconsin ought to be a big deal, since Santorum led there in all the early polls and it’s a state within Rick’s geographical wheelhouse.

Instead, notes Nate Silver:

Throughout the nomination process, Mitt Romney’s campaign has applied a sledgehammer approach to the delicate art of managing expectations. If campaign officials think Mr. Romney is going to win a state, they will find a way to broadcast that to the news media — even when it might not seem to their advantage to do so. If they think Mr. Romney will lose, then they won’t.
Wisconsin, which votes on Tuesday, is the latest data point in the pattern, with Mr. Romney predicting a win in a visit with campaign workers on Saturday.
Mr. Romney is right that the odds are in his favor. He has been ahead in all recent polls in Wisconsin. The FiveThirtyEight forecast model, which is based on the polls, projects about a 9-point win for him and gives him an 88 percent chance of victory.
Still, a 9-point polling lead is not completely safe. Instead, it is in a little bit of a danger zone — just large enough that some of Mr. Romney’s potential voters might take a win for granted and stay home, which could open the door for Rick Santorum.

So instead of representing the beginning of the month when Mitt Romney ends the 2012 nomination contest once and for all, April 3 is now a day when Romney could lose Wisconsin in an upset. Moreover, speculation about Santorum’s fate is now skipping over today’s events and focusing on April 24 and Pennsylvania. That’s Rick’s home state, where a new Quinnipiac poll released today showed Santorum holding onto a lead. Should he win there, he may be able to convince pundits and donors alike to ignore the pounding he will receive the very same day in New York, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island. Thus would he arrive alive at the oasis of May, when every contest is in a state where he should have at least a fighting chance if the money hasn’t dried up and if every conservative opinion-leader isn’t screaming at him to get out.

Don’t get me wrong: even if that happens and Santorum romps happily through May reenthusing hard-core conservatives with the vision of a GOP and a country led by a proud Satan-fighting theocrat, the June events will croak his candidacy for sure. But one cannot help but wonder why Team Romney has been unable to bring the hammer more quickly. Mitt’s clumsy prediction of a Wisconsin win, when the outcome matters only to Santorum and only if it’s perceived as a upset, may be a good example of an unacknowledged financial problem with Mitt’s campaign: his wizards are clearly overpaid.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • T2 on April 03, 2012 10:58 AM:

    "But one cannot help but wonder why Team Romney has been unable to bring the hammer more quickly." Gee, the reason is obvious to me..... Mitt Romney.

  • Ronald on April 03, 2012 11:27 AM:

    Its the plutocrat's game. He is playing the 'inevitable' game because _that is all he knows_.
    He didn't go into business deals unless he knew the outcome already was going to be positive, and he's taken the same approach to politics.
    And when it doesn't look inevitable, he throws money at the situation until it looks like it favors him.

    Compare to the Obama/Clinton battles of 4 years ago. That was more of a chess match, when one campaign had to shift slightly to adjust to the attack of the other...Romney can't do anything with subtlety.

    If he approaches the general election with the same air of 'inevitability' he is going to have circles run around him by Obama, who has proven masterful in playing 'rope a dope' politics.

  • chris on April 03, 2012 12:01 PM:

    I'm not sure I agree with the point here, that Romney's campaign has been poorly managed with regard to the expectations game. Of course if you establish low expectations and then exceed them, that looks good, but from the start a big part of Romney's argument for picking him has not been that he or his positions are great, but simply that he is the front runner/most electable. That paints him in a corner.
    Of course he's disgusting and no question he/his campaign has committed a number of unforced errors--but on this particular matter he's got a tougher problem than your post seems to imply.

  • Castanea on April 03, 2012 12:26 PM:

    The current long and drawn-out Republican primary contest is the sort of thing that the American media love reporting about and the American people love reading about.

    The crazy psychology of 21st century America abhors certainty and shuns it.

    Instead, Americans--both in the media and the electorate--are drawn to continual uncertainty and chaos. The danger in maintaining a high level of that uncertainty, especially when it is contrived by media hungry for web visits, is that the electorate will soon come to think that chaos and craziness are standards to mimic.

    Normal, rational reporting and politics will be shunned.

  • t6c on April 03, 2012 12:37 PM:

    Santorum is not "clawing" his way to May. He is using a backdoor strategy to thrust his campaign into May.

  • stinger on April 03, 2012 1:02 PM:

    Ed, I can almost see you being careful to type "Rick" instead of "Ricky". It's appreciated! Rise above, rise above.

    I agree with Ronald -- Romney doesn't understand politics any better than he understands business (or foreign affairs, or honesty, or...). The thing he always does is pick a "winner" and then throw a lot of money at it. Like the 2002 Olympics.

  • Uncletom on April 03, 2012 3:30 PM:

    Ricky's home state is not Pa. its Va. were he could not even get on the ballot.