New highways after Florida
AS POLLS showed Mitt Romney pulling far ahead of Newt Gingrich in Florida, both campaigns have begun looking ahead to a period of campaigning that is likely to look and feel very different.
The state of Nevada will hold its Republican caucuses this Saturday. Last Sunday, Romney’s campaign said that the former Massachusetts governor had received the endorsement of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which called Romney “a Washington outsider, not a capital insider”.
Gingrich repeatedly said in Sunday morning interviews that he would press ahead “all the way to the convention” regardless of what happens today in Florida.
Congressman Ron Paul, who has largely skipped Florida’s primary, has already spent several days campaigning in Maine, which also holds caucuses on Saturday. Rick Santorum has promised to stay in the race for the long haul as well.
Four other states will hold contests during the coming month: Colorado, Minnesota, Arizona and Michigan, where Romney’s father was once governor.
Here are five ways in which the Republican campaign will change as it leaves Florida:
Perhaps the worst feature of the post-Florida campaign for Gingrich is the paucity of nationally televised debates. Despite his lacklustre performances in the Florida debates, Gingrich still has proved that these events can be one of his best tools for sparking excitement about his campaign.
The next debate does not happen until February 22nd, when CNN sponsors a face-off in Arizona. That leaves more than three weeks in which Gingrich will have to find another way to engage Romney nationally.
With the big four early voting states out of the way, national polls could take on more significance. That could be an advantage for Gingrich, who has been ahead of Romney in polls conducted nationally even as he has sunk in the Florida polls.
Romney though has advantages that could affect the national polls. One is the momentum that he would probably receive from a big victory in Florida. Winning there would draw plenty of media coverage that will no doubt affect his standing in national polls.
The campaign’s shift to other states will also test the ability of campaigns to spread their resources across different regions of the country. That is likely to benefit Romney, whose ability to solicit money has so far been unmatched.
The impact however of that money advantage could be muted in some places, such as Maine, where organisation and passion are more likely to turn people out for caucuses. Colorado and Minnesota also hold caucuses rather than primaries, which could benefit candidates like Paul and Santorum.
Thanks to changes in Republican Party rules this year, the upcoming caucuses and primaries will not produce clear victories for the candidate who wins the most votes. Rather, many of the contests will provide each of the hopefuls with a share of the state’s convention delegates based on their level of support.
That change will provide additional incentive for the candidates to compete even if they remain behind in the polls. It will also begin a new narrative in the national media, which will soon begin publishing running tallies of the delegates each candidate has amassed. That will crest on March 6th – once again dubbed Super Tuesday – when 11 states hold contests for 466 delegates.
The campaign ahead will also be a chance for the candidates to test their appeal in regions that have so far received scant attention from them. Contests in Nevada, Colorado and Arizona in February will introduce the candidates to western voters, who focus more on issues surrounding immigration and gun control. The candidates will also campaign in swing states like Missouri and Michigan. – (New York Timesservice)