Can S.C. trash talk stop Romney’s big mo?

By the numbers, Mitt Romney can’t have the GOP Presidential nomination wrapped up until late April. By then he could have aggregated enough of the 1144 delegates needed to win next summer’s convention to take off some time and go boating on Lake Winnipesauke. To date, only 40 delegates have been chosen, two percent of the total. Romney has 20 of them. And he still has to show he can win in the South, which, before the anticipated negative ad barrage in South Carolina, he is poised to do.

He certainly has what George H. W. Bush called “the big mo.” Romney is two for two (omitting that there may have been a 20-vote typo in his favor in the Iowa results) and garnered more than 40 percent of the vote in New Hampshire (better than he, or winner John McCain, did last time). Even more significantly, he won most of the constituencies identified by the pollsters and pundits. Even some Tea Party types (who are not numerous in the Granite State) found him acceptable. New Hampshire also lacks evangelicals, but they will be out in force in South Carolina, where former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum should do better. And Gingrich’s SuperPAC should test the power of negative advertising. Lee Atwater would have really enjoyed this campaign. Romney will still benefit, however, from a fragmented field of primary opponents.

Romney’s teleprompter-delivered speech last night was perfectly packaged and timed to maximize his audience. It had all the rhythm, alliteration, and parallel structures to qualify as an acceptance speech at the Tampa convention. It focused on President Obama rather than on any of the other GOP candidates, and had all the platitudes befitting a promise of “an America that is a land of opportunity and a beacon for freedom”. It was a window into the rest of the 2012 campaign, which, from Romney’s perspective, will be a choice between two destinies: Obama’s “European Socialist welfare state” careening toward bankruptcy and Mitt’s promise of a federal government that is “simpler, smaller and smarter.”

Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and 3rd place finisher Jon Huntsman have all pledged to go on to South Carolina. It will be very surprising if they all continue beyond that to Florida January 31, given the costs of campaigning there. Florida, by the way, starts the traditional GOP winner- take- all delegate computation, so, if Romney comes in first even with a low plurality, the locomotive sound you hear will be the Romney train steaming toward inevitability. February is mostly a caucus month, with two of the three primaries to be held in Michigan (home state to George Romney and Mitt as a child) and Arizona, a state with a sizable Mormon population, also home state to John McCain, who has endorsed Romney.

Romney has the money and the organization to surmount the bumps he may hit in less hospitable states, especially in the South, but those bumps should at a minimum make the trip a little more interesting for us political junkies, for whom an early decision would be a bit of a disappointment.

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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