Monday, November 14, 2011

What Would Newt Need?

I appreciate the force of Jamelle's arguments that Newt Gingrich faces major obstacles in his campaign for the GOP nomination -- in particular, a lack of organization and focus in key primary states. But the way I'd put the point is just that Newt only can win the nomination if he has a really big national lead over Romney. Even with a PPP survey coming out soon that puts him on top, he's far from that point yet. But what if January rolls around and he's at 45% and Romney's at 25% nationally? Even if Romney's focus on key states and organizing advantages are worth 15% in the early primaries, you've still got Newt in the lead. This doesn't strike me as an implausible scenario, as he's a more plausible candidate than Cain or Trump or Bachmann in terms of formal qualifications. His ceiling is likely to be higher than theirs.

The other thing is that there's a track to the nomination for anyone who comes out a clear second to Romney in early primary states. If Iowa and New Hampshire winnow down the candidates to where it's Romney versus any one other Republican, the large number of Republicans who find Romney unacceptable can be united. It's not only important for Romney that he win Iowa -- it's important that it come out being something like 30-20-20 in his favor rather than 30-25-15. In the first scenario, there's no clear person for later-state Romney haters to align behind. In the second scenario, there is.

One of the things that made the war in Libya so interesting from a purely military-strategy viewpoint was how different the two sides were. Gadhafi had a conventional army with lots of tanks and trained soldiers. The Free Libyan forces had a ragtag band of dudes with small arms backed up by awesome NATO airpower. It was interesting to see who would win, with the two forces so differently configured. If Gingrich, or really any Republican other than Perry, is at a major national polling advantage over Romney when the Iowa caucuses come around, Iowa and New Hampshire are going to be interesting in much the same way.
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