With Wisconsin over, Newt and Santorum should go - Macleans.ca

With Wisconsin over, Newt and Santorum should go

Reality will soon catch up to Romney’s opponents in the Republican primaries

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The general consensus in U.S. Republican circles (outside of the usual pundit spin) is that the primary season did little to advance the GOP cause. Last autumn, a generic Republican candidate was generally ahead of President Obama in matchup polls.

This Tuesday, Romney won three races and most importantly, Wisconsin. Now we know Mitt Romney’s win in the GOP nomination contest is inevitable, yet his unfavorables are currently at 50 per cent compared to 32 per cent favorables in a recent Washington Post NBC poll. A gender gap of 18 per cent in favor of Obama has also developed. And lest we forget: Hispanic voters are at 14 per cent support for Romney.

With Romney’s win in Wisconsin, we should expect an earlier withdrawal of Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich from the race than was anticipated a few weeks ago. Ron Paul, the Libertarian standard bearer, may stay in the contest but he is a negligible factor. Recent signals from both Santorum and Gingrich indicate that they would be willing to serve in a Romney administration. Meanwhile, Romney is picking up endorsements from establishment Republicans by the handful. Should Santorum and Gingrich stay the course, they would demonstrate a lack of judgment. And that will make them less attractive to Romney down the road.

However, reality will soon catch up to Romney’s opponents. Money still plays a major role in U.S. politics and will actually increase in the months ahead. Here Romney maintains a significant edge. Gingrich has lost his principal benefactor and recently fired his principal campaign director. The outlook for him is greater campaign debt and becoming more marginal than he already is.

Santorum is no longer trashing Romney to the same extent, and says he would consider the Vice Presidential nod with Romney. Santorum has proven to be an effective campaigner, but his views are clearly out of the mainstream and in the minority within the Republican party. The best he can do is drive Romney’s unfavorables higher. Not a good prospect if you want a future in the GOP.

So we can expect Romney to be confirmed much earlier than was anticipated a few days ago. This may not be good news for Obama, who prefers a longer Republican race. In addition, Obama is wrestling with higher gas prices, a fragile recovery, and approval figures in the 40s. The earlier it becomes a two-person race between Obama and Romney, with a nearly 50-50 type electorate, and unlimited access to huge amounts of money, the more this race will be polarizing and tight this autumn. This is the wish of the Republican establishment.

Finally, Romney may have proven to be a weaker candidate on the hustings than was originally thought, but his current GOP opponents have far greater liabilities. Romney has been merciless in his attacks on Santorum and Gingrich. He owes them little right now. An early withdrawal could be enough for him to begin gravitating to the centre (remember the ‘Etch a Sketch’ metaphor), and thus become even more competitive against Obama in the presidential showdown next November. Time for Santorum and Gingrich to go.