Think about the unthinkable. What if Santorum does manage to throw this Republican nomination process into more chaos than it has been in for the past year? What if he wins Michigan or comes close and Super Tuesday is a mess, with Romney barely hanging on?
The hand-wringing and wailing on the part of Republican operatives will only escalate exponentially. There will be more calls for another candidate, for a “managed” (as opposed to “brokered”!) convention. Republicans will be in a state of shock and suspended animation. Democrats will be close to euphoria.
The Republicans are engaged in complete self-destruction. The Democrats are coasting, right?
Stop the video!
Many years ago, I was working for a member of Congress from Washington state, Jolene Unsoeld. She had a very tough race in a very tough district in the southwest part of the state. The Republicans were about to unite behind a candidate with serious personal flaws and a tin ear on the stump. We were licking our chops. Suddenly, details came out late in the race; suffice it to say they were beyond damaging.
At the last minute, a state legislator, Linda Smith, got into the race as a write-in and defeated the damaged Republican in a September primary. She had negatives, but we had little time to exploit them and she was the savior for the Republicans. In a tough year for Democrats, 1994, Jolene Unsoeld lost.
My point with this story is to be careful what you wish for in politics.
Let’s play out one scenario for the Republicans — unlikely, certainly, but possible.
What happens if this process unfolds not with a meltdown but with a rational decision to bring in another candidate prior to the convention in August? What happens if no current candidate has clear momentum and someone such as Chris Christie, Jeb Bush or Mitch Daniels becomes the “go-to” person for the Republicans and files for the New Jersey and California primaries? Suppose, in this late-late strategy, he begins to unite the Republicans and the current field begins to lose steam and fall by the wayside.
If neither Romney nor Santorum has a majority and consensus develops around another major candidate, that candidate could be a big problem for Obama. The knight on the white horse has arrived, swept into Tampa, ready to do battle, fresh and free from the baggage the others collected on the campaign trail.
Farfetched? Probably. And it would all have to unfold in pure storybook fashion for the Republicans. But I still have nightmares about southwest Washington way back in 1994!