Mitt Romney’s campaign for the presidency of the United States died Tuesday night, at approximately 11:30pm, of a broken heart due to inadequate support from California Republicans. Gov. Romney is in the first stage of grieving his loss- namely, denial. Luckily for those who hope that he will retain his dignity, his promise to carry on with the campaign, delivered late last night, was not followed by an early morning announcement of the termination of his campaign, a la Giuliani in Florida. His future plans are unknown, but likely involve, service as a mission president for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In all seriousness, people, it’s over. Romney only won last night in the places he was easily expected to win, or could not lose (i.e. Utah). He put in a much worse showing on Super Tuesday than even those who do not actively support his candidacy (me) could have hoped. The denizens of the Bloggernacle will use up plenty of bandwidth in the coming days and weeks dissecting the failure of Romney’s bid and its reasons, especially after the official announcement comes down.
Most of the commentary will likely revolve around assertions that it was Romney’s Mormonism that killed the campaign. I am not so certain; the reasons are likely more complex than that.
My own theory is the following: 1) In states where Romney placed second to McCain, his Mormonism was of little import to the outcome. I think that there are legitimate reasons (albeit ones I do not agree with) why a Republican voter could prefer McCain over Romney which have nothing to do with Mormonism. Some of those include: McCain’s superior experience, the fact that McCain is “the devil you know”, and Mitt’s well-publicized flip-flopping on moral issues particularly relevant to social conservatives. (Note: I personally don’t find any of these reasons compelling, but I know other people who do)
2) In other states where Mitt either placed second to Huckabee, or placed third behind McCain AND Huckabee, his Mormonism was the principal reason that he lost or did as poorly as he did. Looking at those states where Huckabee had substantial support, I am not sure that those outcomes were ever in doubt. I think it would serve as a good use of our time to speculate on what would have happened to Mitt’s campaign if candidate X had not run/had dropped out earlier. I mean, if McCain does not run, what about Giuliani? If Huckabee drops out, what about McCain/Giuliani/Thompson? It all boils down to the non-controversial contention that if Mitt were the only Republican candidate running, he would have the nomination all sewn up. In the American system of electoral politics, where staying home and abstaining from voting is a legitimate option, it is impossible to say whether the absence of a voter’s ideal candidate (for many evangelicals, Huckabee) would cause them to shift support to a less-than-ideal candidate, or simply stay home.
Romney has promised to keep campaigning, but as it becomes more clear that McCain is the front-runner, donations will dry up and he will be forced to spend more of his own money. Pursuing futile uses of resources is not nearly as fun when you are not spending other people’s money. I think Romney might hang out for a couple more primaries, maybe into next week, but if he does not win all or a substantial portion of them, he will call it quits. He might want to hurry. I hear there is a open spot in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles…