Two clear frontrunners are now running for the GOP nomination.  Since the end of the 2010 election cycle the conventional wisdom has been that Mitt Romney was the clear favorite.  Afterall, this is the guy who never stopped running for president even after he lost the GOP nod in 2007.  As a result, Romney’s campaign infrastructure in key early primary and caucus states remained active.  This has given him a leg up on more conservative challengers such as congresswoman Michelle Bachmann.  That was until the Governor of Texas Rick Perry jumped into the race.

Perry’s entrance into the race changes the dynamics of the contest.  Where there was once one front-runner there are now two.  Where there was Romney and everybody else there is now Romney/Perry and everybody else.  Romney’s biggest strength, his campaign infrastructure, is neutralized by the simple fact that Perry brings a massive political operation from Texas into the national arena.  These same advisors have seen Perry through six statewide elections in victory.  They have experience building up and maintaining campaign infrastructure.

Perry and Romney initially saw the moderate/conservative divergence over their path to the nomination.  Romney would not really compete in Iowa and stake his claim to New Hampshire.  Building off that he would win in South Carolina and proceed to dominate Super Tuesday.  Perry’s initial strategy started to focus heavily on South Carolina due to Bachmann’s early domination of Iowa.  But Perry’s entrance into an unsettled GOP field has suddenly opened up a strategy to hit Iowa and South Carolina and compete heavily in New Hampshire.  In fact, Romney’s lead in New Hampshire is built more on his name recognition in the state than solid voter preferences for his candidacy.

If Romney were to lose badly in Iowa (as many expect), barely win New Hampshire and lose in South Carolina then Perry’s campaign would likely have all they needed to lock up the nomination by Super Tuesday (even if does not dominate the delegate count).  For Perry, if he were to lose Iowa to Bachmann, lose New Hampshire to Romney and et win South Carolina it would set up a three-way race between Bachmann, Perry and Romney.  Romney has to be hoping for this occurrence as Bachmann and Perry would heavily be competing for the same types of votes. 

But this is looking less and less likely to happen.  Perry has jumped into the lead in Iowa and is dominating South Carolina.  Despite the different strategies both campaigns are pursuing it is becoming increasingly clear that Perry will fight for New Hampshire and that will force Romney to battle for South Carolina.  If, as I believe is the case, the race comes down to Romney and Perry the initial edge has to go to Perry.

Bringing this out of the early voting states Perry and Romney both would need delegates from the big states on Super Tuesday.  The conventional wisdom says this set of states favors Romney but if Perry has momentum and is able to continue to win conservatives and other types of GOP votes than Romney could be in deep trouble.  Perry could lock it up that day like McCain did in 08 (though he was not a conservative by any means).  Romney and Perry definitely converge on the states on this day. 

If the election drags on longer the math favors Romney.  States that vote after Super Tuesday due to RNC rules would be able to implement winner-take-all systems for their delegates allocation and the moderate/conservative GOP identifications in the state on the surface appear to favor Romney.  Now this could all be moot if Perry continues to gain broad-spectrum support from all aspects of the GOP coalition but it is to early in the race to say whether he can keep it up.

So to summarize the Perry/Romney race comes down to the states they target, what the results of those states are, and the duration of the race.  Perry wants Iowa and South Carolina.  Romney needs to keep New Hampshire in his column.  If that happens it is anybody’s ballgame come Super Tuesday.  Wildcards like Bachmann complicate this strategy for Perry, though she appears to be fading heavily.  The duration of the race will also have an impact.  The states voting after the early states (Iowa, NH, SC, NV) and their identifications of ideology among GOP voters favors Perry as do the Super Tuesday states.  But if Perry cannot lock up the nod than or come out of it convincingly ahead then the race could come down to delegates and in the end that favors Romney (winner-take-all rule in later voting states).

That’s all I got at this time.  Take it or leave it.

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