Michigan and Arizona will have their turns at picking the Republican presidential nominee tomorrow, but the contest is in no way going to end there. After the votes are counted, what’s next for the GOP candidates?
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is back in the lead in Michigan, although his lead is likely still much tighter than the candidate would like to see in what was supposed to be a sure thing state. And an endorsement from Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is helping to help Romney’s standing in Arizona as well.
But once upon a time, it was believed that Romney was inevitable and invincible. Now, it’s not even clear if he will survive the nomination process. The party leaders still see him as the likely winner, but now, it’s going to a a long haul win, not a clear, decisive victory. And to protect themselves, the GOP is now attempting to spin that as a good thing. Roll Call reports, “Speaking on CNN’s ‘State of the Union,’ [South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham] said that the drawn-out, bruising presidential primary contest has actually made Romney more likely to win the nomination.’Gov. Romney is a better candidate because of the primary process,’ Graham said. ‘By the time Florida came around Romney took it to the field, and the upside of the process is that our frontrunner has gotten stronger.’”
The attacks on Romney make him stronger? It’s hard to believe that when a majority of Republican voters are still rooting for other candidates. Even worse, although Romney supporters are stating they still expect the nomination to be wrapped up by Super Tuesday — a mere seven days after the Michigan and Arizona elections finish — Romney’s campaign itself is saying that things could go on much longer. “Mr. Romney’s campaign has warned donors and supporters that even with his victories in the coming contests, the Republican competition may very well last until at least the middle of May. They said the situation did not indicate diminishing prospects for Mr. Romney but rather was the result of the party’s delegate-allocation rules and the additional time those require for any candidate to accumulate the 1,144 delegates necessary to secure the nomination.”
The biggest fear, for Romney as well as the party itself? A brokered convention. With former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich refusing to leave the race and playing hard in Georgia, where he has a substantial lead, it becomes clear that Gingrich is hoping having some delegates under his belt might make him a kingmaker down the road. It also adds to the speculation that Congressman Ron Paul is possibly a Romney campaign ally, maybe even planning to, as Jessica Pieklo speculates, trade his delegates for a Vice Presidential slot for himself or his son, Rand.
Tomorrow’s primary battles were once thought to be the end of the road. Now, they are just the beginning.
Photo credit: Jessica Rinaldi