The GOP nomination has been a roller coaster. We have had Romney consistently polling in the 20’s and multiple candidates polling ahead at one time or another. Bachmann, Perry, Cain and now Newt have all surged at one point in time and come back to Earth. But now less than a week from the Iowa Caucuses one must ask which candidates have the staying power to compete in a long nomination?
Perry has a strong organization in Iowa, South Carolina and Florida. But he has not developed a strong organization elsewhere and his campaign funding has dried up since when he surged. Perry is not polling strongly nationally and needs strong finishes in IA and South Carolina to give his campaign new life.
Rep. Michelle Bachmann and former Senator Rick Santorum only have organizations in Iowa. Santorum has never risen like Bachmann and does not have such a fervent following. Bachmann since falling in national surveys has continued to poll well in IA and in the single mid to low digits in national surveys. Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman’s entire campaign seems to be in NH. He hopes to use his moderate record on social issues and his fiscally conservative record to break into Romney’s lead in the state. Gingrich’s unexpected rise has essentially derailed this plan. But again, organizationally Huntsman is in bad shape nationally.
This brings us to the last two contenders. Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Gingrich has surged to the lead in the last month in national and state surveys. But Gingrich, much as former GOP candidate Herman Cain did, lacks any form of an organization. In recent weeks his campaign team has scrambled to hire new staff and open up offices in IA, NH, SC and even Florida. Gingrich’s lead has also dropped as negative ads from all comers has bombarded him. Gingrich’s camp has money but not enough to fight the onslaught of attacks coming at him. Rep. Ron Paul has deep organizations across the country due to the small but staunch support of his supporters and its grassroots nature.
All these GOP candidates have organizations to a degree but none can match that of Mitt Romney. And perhaps that will be his saving advantage. Romney’s staff from 2008 learned a lot. Romney went all in for IA where he struggled. He lost NH and SC and never recovered. Now his campaign team is paying more attention to building infrastructure then dominating in the polls. Romney has a deep well of support from rich donors in the West and East to fall back on. Then there is his K Street money which is allowing him to prepare for a long, protracted nomination contest. The only other candidate near Romney in organization is Paul and his national support looks to small to lead him to the nomination.
Thus Romney may be saved by being the “Slow and steady candidate.” Alternatives to him have risen and fallen in the GOP ranks but he has always remained. And while the other candidates have jockeyed for position among conservatives Romney has always been in the lead or close. His campaign has built up an organization no other candidate can hope to match. Romney’s organizational advantage is sure to run up against the obstacle of many conservative voters turning to anybody but him. Turnout will be crucial for his camp to finish strong enough in IA and SC to keep going (assuming he wins NH which he must). Romney’s organizational advantage over the GOP candidates may just turn out to be his saving advantage in this race.