Skip to comments.California suddenly matters after Super Tuesday fails to decide GOP contest
Posted on 03/07/2012 5:45:25 PM PST by SmithL
Suddenly June 5 doesn't seem so far away.
With a muddled outcome from the 10 Super Tuesday states, there's no sign the GOP presidential primary process will be resolved before California Republicans hold a vote that pundits once said was too late to matter.
In fact, June 5 -- when California and four other states will vote -- is now "one of the key dates between now and the convention" in late August in Tampa, Fla., said renowned election prognosticator Larry Sabato, who directs the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
"As it turns out, every state is relevant, just as it was for the Democrats in 2008," he said, referring to that year's state-by-state battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. "You just never know. Sometimes 'the last shall be first' -- it's very biblical."
As Dan Schnur, a former GOP strategist who now directs the University of Southern California's Unruh Institute of Politics, put it: "Rick Santorum might not want to wear his sweater vest to California in June, but otherwise the chances of him being a competitive candidate for this primary are a lot better than they were on Monday."
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won six states Tuesday: Alaska, Idaho, Massachusetts, Ohio, Vermont and Virginia. Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, carried North Dakota, Oklahoma and Tennessee, while former House Speaker Newt Gingrich carried his home state of Georgia. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas has yet to win any states at all.
An Associated Press tally shows Romney now leads the field with 415 delegates, trailed by Santorum with 176, Gingrich with 105 and Paul with 47.
Romney's campaign came out swinging Wednesday to portray his victories -- including his razor-thin win in the key battleground of Ohio, where the winner takes all the delegates rather than sharing them proportionally -- as a sign that he's moving inexorably toward the 1,144 delegates he needs to clinch the nomination.
But David Axelrod, senior strategist for President Obama's re-election campaign, told reporters Wednesday that the Romney campaign failed in its aspiration for an indisputable, contest-ending sweep this week.
"Instead of 'Super Tuesday' it became 'Super Glue Day' for them," he said. "They're still stuck with the prospect of a long race."
That suits the Obama campaign just fine, Axelrod said, noting polls showing that Romney fared poorly among independents, young voters and the middle class in all of Tuesday's states except his home state of Massachusetts.
"While they're destroying each other, we're building a campaign nationally," Axelrod said.
A still-competitive race in California will require a considerable ground game because the state's mother lode of 172 delegates isn't winner-take-all. Most delegates, 159, are apportioned out to whoever wins each of the 53 House districts -- three delegates per district.
Only one candidate has the resources needed for a district-by-district campaign in such a large state, Sabato said. "I simply assume Romney is the favorite there. Paul has fizzled; he'll be in until the end, but it doesn't matter. And Gingrich and Santorum are never going to have the organizational punch that Romney has."
But Schnur noted "you could've made precisely the same point about Ohio, yet Romney only won there by the skin of his teeth."
Romney is scheduled to raise money in Redwood City on March 26 and Stockton on March 27, but don't expect any of the candidates to start spending a lot of time in California just yet. With so many other states up for grabs between now and June, they're likely to make only brief fund-raising forays here but spend most of their time campaigning elsewhere.
Next up are Kansas on Saturday, and Mississippi and Alabama on Tuesday. Sabato expects Santorum has the edge in Kansas and could give Gingrich a run for his money in the deep South, while Romney is strongest in the Northeast and the West.
California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro agreed it's likely nobody will have crossed the 1,144-delegate threshold before June 5, but said if things continue as they are now, Romney will be so much closer to it that the other candidates effectively will have no chance.
"Santorum is correct in his analysis that neither he nor Gingrich has been able to solidify enough votes to stop Romney from being the nominee," he said. "Unless they come up with a better narrative ... this may take longer than people expected but I don't think anyone can argue with the fact that Romney is in the lead."
Still, he said, "if California's delegates matter at all, it will drive up our voter participation rate."
Kenneth Kotter, 64, of Belmont, contributed $1,000 to Santorum's campaign on Jan. 4, the day after Santorum's surprising first-place finish in the Iowa caucuses. He still supports Santorum, but even given recent weeks' developments, he still finds it hard to believe his June 5 vote will make a difference.
"I think it's in the Lord's hands because it's out of mine," Kotter said. "I did what I could and we'll see how it lays out."
Since CA is a big nut and its electorals distributed proportionally his plan is making more sense.
Well it’s about Freeping time.
Hard to imagine Rick dominating the coastal States.