Romney Was Never Really In Trouble In The Primaries

Looking back on the GOP nomination fight, it's rather obvious that the media overplayed the idea that there was ever a real race going on.

The above is a chart on the Wikipedia page for the results of the 2012 Republican primaries and represents the states won by each candidate. Mitt Romney’s wins are orange, Rick Stantorum’s are green, the two wins by Newt Gingrich in South Carolina and Georgia are purple, and the Virgin Islands are yellow representing Ron Paul’s popular vote win there, though he lost the race for delegates due to the allocation rules.

The map, I think, speaks for itself, but the page also tells us that Romney received more raw votes than Santorum, Paul, and Gingrich combined and ended up with 65% of the delegates awarded.

It reminds me of all the coverage we endured from December through April that kept repeating the meme of how Romney was “in trouble” because of surges by Gingrich and Santorum. In reality, we see here that he was never really in trouble at all and it seems clear that the only reason that the primary fight lasted as long as it did is because of a combination of the primary schedule, which placed many primaries later on the calendar than they had ever been, and delegate allocation rules which meant it took longer for Romney to get to the “magic number” needed to secure the nomination. But a real race for the nomination? It seems pretty clear now that it never actually existed.

Indeed, it had been apparent since at least November once Rick Perry’s candidacy failed to revive, that this was Romney’s race to lose rather than any other candidate’s race to win. In that regard, it’s eminently clear in retrospect that Romney’s primary campaign was incredibly well-run, well-funded, and well-organized. There really wasn’t anyone in the race that had any realistic capability of matching him in that regard, and while candidates like Gingrich and Santorum could be bothersome on the campaign trail, and did help to slow down the time it would take for Romney to win the nomination, there was never any realistic chance that either one of them, or any of the other candidates were going to overtake Romney and win the nomination. The 2008 nomination fight was more in doubt than this one ever was.

Of course, it would have been boring for pundits and political reporters to point out the rather obvious, by March at least, fact that Romney had the nomination sewn up, so we got constant narratives about how the race was still competitive when it really wasn’t. Heck, my own coverage of the race fed into that idea mostly because I was relying on the media reports. Maybe next time there’s a primary fight, we’ll keep this in mind and remember that just because the media says there’s a fight that doesn’t mean there really was one.

Update: To address a point that’s being made in the comments, yes Florida was the big test for Romney and had he lost there the race would have gone off in an unknown direction. It’s still possible that Romney’s advantages in money and organization would have won it for him anyway, but it certainly would’ve been a tougher fight. However, just like McCain in 2008, Romney won Florida and the race was effectively over by then. The only difference this time, I submit, is that the primary calendar and delegate allocation rules mandated that it would take him longer to get to 1,141 than it might have otherwise. Additionally, the existence of SuperPacs meant that Santorum and Gingrich could stay in the race longer than they would have in a previous election cycle. Like I said, this was Romney’s race to lose, and he won it in Florida.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. neil says:

    what’s the point of comparing results from before and after Romney’s opponents all dropped out?

  2. Dean Esmay says:

    I mostly agree, except, had either Gingrich or Santorum dropped out before Florida, the game would have been different and there would have been a singular “not-Romney” candidate for voters to consider. A loss of Florida would have called into question Romney’s electability and thus his ability to win future primaries.

    That said, once he secured Florida, I at least predicted that it was now almost certain that he was going to get the nomination and nothing much was likely to stop that.

    It was a fun ride but after Florida it was pretty much over, like a baseball game where Romney had an 11-0 lead in the 9th inning. He still could have lost but the odds were so low it was miniscule.

  3. Chris A says:

    Ignoring the big issue here. Romney had much more money than basically everyone. Perry had the potential to accrue more, but once his candidacy started to die down it became clear who the winner would be. Romney would just hammer anyone who decided to go after him with tons and tons of money. That’s what the deciding factor was. The map was sorta irrelevant. Plus, it didn’t hurt that NONE of his opponents did any oppo research on Romney.

  4. @Dean Esmay:

    I’ve addressed the point about Florida in an update, essentially yea I agree that was the point where the race could’ve gone off in a completely unknown direction had Romney lost. But, he didn’t.

  5. gVOR08 says:

    Barring the usual quibbles about smoking guns and young boys, it was obvious from the get go that Romney was the establishment’s boy and would get whatever money it took to whack each succesive mole. And a lot of pundits said so at the time. It was also obvious that most, if not all, of the opposition was either running for ’16 (Huntsman, not all plans work out), veep (Christie, Pawlenty), delusional (Bachmann, Paul, Santorum, Johnson), or grifting (Gingrich, Cain). (Weren’t there 20 or 30 of them? Who’d I miss?)

    Meanwhile, you say the press dragged out the horse race drama to draw eyeballs? I’m shocked, shocked I tell you.

  6. al-Ameda says:

    The media loves the battle, loves the race. Many party voters simply want to vote for the candidate most likely to win – they settle. Party activists show up in in the crappy little primaries and caucuses of states like Iowa, South Carolina, and New Hampshire and that distorts the “vote for the likely winner” notion.

    Whether you want to say that media overplayed the “Romney in trouble” meme, it is certainly clear that Romney through his non-stop equivocating, backtracking, and pandering to the base, gave all of us a damned good picture of the inauthentic and phony politician that Romney really is.

    And we also learned by way of the performances of Cain, Bachmann, Santorum, West, Perry and Gingrich – just how unhinged the Republican Party is right now.

  7. PJ says:

    @neil:
    Here’s how the same map looked when Santorum suspended his campaign.

  8. Dazedandconfused says:

    Make one wonder just how close this race actually is, doesn’t it?

    The media is obsessed with this stuff.

  9. As far as polling in the General Election goes, I still put myself in the camp with those that it is still far too early to be paying much attention to day-to-day movements. Trends are worth keeping an eye on, and the trend still indicates a close race. But, these polls aren’t really going to be worth obsessing over until September

  10. al-Ameda says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Trends are worth keeping an eye on, and the trend still indicates a close race. But, these polls aren’t really going to be worth obsessing over until September

    Yes but … political junkies like me just can’t resist these polls – they’re the black tar heroin of electoral politics.

  11. G.A. says:

    🙁 are you saying Cain would have had no chance even if he would not have been Axleroded?

  12. al-Ameda says:

    @G.A.:

    🙁 are you saying Cain would have had no chance even if he would not have been Axleroded?

    Cain had no chance because he presented himself such as as he is. He was almost Bachmannesque in his ability to provide a good quote:

    I would have to have people totally committed to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of this United States. And many of the Muslims, they are not totally dedicated to this country. They are not dedicated to our Constitution. Many of them are trying to force Sharia law on the people of this country.

  13. G.A. says:

    I would have to have people totally committed to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of this United States. And many of the Muslims, they are not totally dedicated to this country. They are not dedicated to our Constitution. Many of them are trying to force Sharia law on the people of this country.

    lol……What Constitution…like that matters anymore.

    But you are right he should not have singled out the muslims on that count.I thought he might have had a chance but latter I figured that America is not ready for a black president.

    Crap don’t matter to me anymore after recent events. I will just vote anti abortion and call it a day in the presidential.

    I think…

  14. Tsar Nicholas says:

    A craven desire for higher ratings + an obvious political agenda = faux drama about GOP primary campaigns. They’ll do the same thing next time around.

  15. Boyd says:

    @G.A.: While many of Cain’s supporters were serious about him becoming President, Cain himself never was. There are many examples that point out that reality, but among the most obvious were his YouTube campaign videos. Anyone who can watch those and still believe that Cain was a serious candidate is simply delusional.

  16. Tillman says:

    It could’ve been doubted if the Iowa GOP hadn’t botched up who won their caucuses. Mitt received momentum from a false start.

  17. mattb says:

    @Boyd: And that truth bomb is exactly why I heart you.

  18. Boyd says:

    @mattb: You’re gonna make me blush, Matt.