When Cenk asked me last week about the Super Tuesday vote, I said on the show that Rick Santorum would be the front-runner on Wednesday. I will be wrong.
I actually wasn’t fully committed to the idea of Santorum as a post-Tuesday frontrunner, but I knew that Cenk was being playful so I went along. What I was fairly sure of was that Santorum was going to have the best Tuesday, and now my serious prediction seems to be a waning possibility.
Romney is now ahead in the polls, or at least within the margin of error, when he had been down by as many as nine points only a week ago. He has also closed rapidly in Tennessee, another big Tuesday prize. Yes, and reassuringly, a lot of this is about the repudiation of Rick Santorum, but it speaks more to a systemic weariness into which the Republicans are finally settling.
The more information that we learn about the long primary hurting the GOP, the more the long primary hurts the GOP. It resonated for me this weekend when I learned that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor stepped gingerly off of the fence to endorse Romney. When Barbara Bush also endorsed Romney, it meant that the Republican establishment, like a jockey forced to mount a second-tier horse, is finally realizing that it is “post time” and they have got to ride someone. The former First Lady’s endorsement is also bad news for the “brokered conventionists” who fantasized in more serious ways than ever about this year finally being “that” year. Count me among them. If she knew that her son Jeb was planning to run, she wouldn’t have chimed in on Romney.
The polls have not closed, and the numbers aren’t in, but there is a sentiment of resignation coming out of the Republicans with the most familiar names, not to mention the conservative press. Michael Savage, the firebrand radio host who rarely sprinkles his hateful and divisive rhetoric with a hiccough of wisdom, has said repeatedly that Romney is the only chance that the GOP has of defeating President Obama in November.
Even if they aren’t taking Savage’s cue, they are coming to conclusions of their own. Exit polling in Michigan showed that just over 33 percent of primary voters voted based on electability alone. Romney hasn’t proven that he is electable — I would even argue that he has proven the opposite for failing to gain a serious majority in any primary election thus far. Massachusetts will change that, but little else, on Super Tuesday.
When I read that George Will is urging Republicans to concentrate on the Senate and the House, and to basically forget the presidential election, it left me slack-jawed. The party that has been single-mindedly focused on the defeat of Barack Obama is now backpedaling, all because they can’t find a candidate to agree upon. They have flirted with two options in Gingrich and Santorum. Gingrich seemed too far out there; too angry, too scandal-laden with all of the wrong scandals for this crowd (if only he had taken over companies, laid people off, and driven those companies into the ground).
Newt may be back, but he is more than a win in Georgia away from the nomination, and he just doesn’t have the money to re-define the race. Santorum was forced to show who he really was — the man that anyone who has followed politics in any depth over the past two decades knew would emerge. He has been rejected by the voters of Pennsylvania, and the longer the voters of the nation got to know him, the more they understood the people of Pennsylvania. If Santorum wins Ohio, then we forge ahead.
If it is possible for someone to inspire apathy, then Mitt Romney has proven time and again that he can. But winning with a dispassionate electorate is still winning. Wins in Ohio in Tennessee on Tuesday would mean that they are giving him the chance to prove that. If, after running for five years, Romney hasn’t been able to generate enthusiasm, what makes them think that he will in eight months? I frankly don’t think that he can as the nominee. Tomorrow, the voters may finally settle on their white horse, and in so doing they just may be throwing up a white flag.