For those who believe the current commentariat consensus that Mitt
Romney should be coronated as the inevitable Republican nominee,
consider the excellent story by Alicia Cohn
in The Hill about conservatives uniting to defeat Romney, and remember
the GOP primaries in 1976 when Ronald Reagan was almost nominated after a
Cohn's included one bit of news that has not been adequately covered by most media, the creation of a group of conservatives to be found at the notmittromney.com, and one subject that has also not been adequately covered: the importance of the Florida primary in late January and Super Tuesday in March.
I would add one additional factor: the growth of proportional delegate selection in the GOP process, which creates the possibility the nomination battle remains open and conservatives could unite behind one candidate long before Romney locks up the nomination.
This piece is an attempt at straight political analysis and news analysis. Here is my take on the state of the GOP race:
1. Mitt Romney is having great trouble winning the loyalty of Republican voters above the 25 percent level. About 75 percent of Republicans do not support Romney as their first choice. In fact, for many of these GOP voters Romney is their fourth, sixth or even eighth choice behind the conservatives now running and the conservatives who chose not to run.
2. Conservatism is in crisis at the presidential level, and Romney is a strong front-runner for now, for two reasons. First, the current crop of conservative candidates is extremely weak, and second, they divide the conservative vote. The three conservative favorites who have been serious front-runner contenders (Donald TrumpDonald TrumpGOP grapples with chaotic Senate primary in Pennsylvania Trump social media startup receives commitment of billion from unidentified 'diverse group' of investors Iran thinks it has the upper hand in Vienna — here's why it doesn't MORE, Rick Perry, Herman Cain) are not credible presidents or coherent national voices for a conservative alternative to President Obama.
3. Proportionate delegate selcation creates strong odds for one of two GOP scenarios. Either conservative favorites (Perry, Cain, Bachmann, Gingrich, Santorum) drop out before Super Tuesday, creating a head-to-head between Romney and one conservative on or after Super Tuesday, or they stay in, with proportional delegate voting leaving Romney well short of the nomination by Super Tuesday.
4. This is why the 1976 analogy is so relevant. In 1976 Ronald Reagan was well behind President Ford, and then around the time of the North Carolina primaries Reagan caught fire. He stormed into the convention with a major head of steam and came within a few delegates of defeating Ford at the convention, which set the stage for Reagan's victory in 1980.
Conservatives have to make a big decision. If they unite behind one serious conservative candidate who is credible as a president between Super Tuesday and the close of primaries, that single conservative candidate could defeat Romney and gather enough steam to surpass him. Or that candidate combined with proportional delegate voting could deny Romney a first ballot victory. This would create a brokered convention with more than 50 percent of delegates supporting a candidate they believe is a credible conservative alternative to Romney.
In short, do not believe anyone who suggests the nomination will be decided before Super Tuesday. Cancel the coronation of Mitt Romney as the inevitable GOP nominee. There are plausible scenarios for conservatives to defeat Romney on the first ballot or after a brokered convention, if they unite in time.