I like Robert Novak. Not for his conservative views, but for his journalistic grit, and political judgement. I was fortunate to meet him in Madison a couple years ago and talk, as we walked slowly due to his hip replacement surgery, about the way he writes his columns. He took the time to talk, and that impressed me. He became a journalist in the scrappy days of the profession, and I admire that about him. I also enjoy the tales he can tell!
So I pay attention when Robert Novak writes the following. As I find Mitt Romney loathsome I smile.
Once again, (FL) exit polls suggest that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney split the bulk of the conservative vote. McCain picked up some of the conservative vote and most of the moderate-to-liberal vote.
Romney’s second-place finish here highlights his shortcomings. He is not nearly as appealing personally as either Huckabee or McCain, and his conservative credentials are not strong enough to carry him on ideological grounds.
Exit polls and county results (FL) suggest that Huckabee again was unable to reach outside his evangelical base. While his voters are ideologically closer to Romney’s voters, it’s unclear if many of them would support Romney.
Romney simply has not shown a broad appeal. His three wins have been in his native state and two basically uncontested caucuses. He tends to finish second quite a bit, but now that the field is basically narrowed down to two men, that’s not worth much.
Romney’s ability to mount a comeback based on anti-McCain sentiment is crippled by the short timeframe. If Super Tuesday were in a month, conservatives might have time to rally behind Romney.
Huckabee does not have a realistic chance of winning the nomination. He can take votes away from Romney (though this is an open question) and collect delegates, while also bolstering his case to be a running mate.
Seven states have winner-take-all primaries, and McCain is likely to win some of the biggest — New York, New Jersey, and Arizona — as well as Connecticut. Romney should win Utah. The others — Missouri and Delaware — are unclear, but Romney is not likely to carry Missouri. From those seven states, Romney’s best-case scenario is winning two, while Huckabee carries Missouri. This would give McCain 230 delegates from four states, Romney 54 delegates from two states, and Huckabee 58 delegates from one state.
Romney’s best hope is to win a bunch of congressional districts in California, where each is worth 3 delegates. He also will do well in Massachusetts, but McCain will also win delegates there.
It is very possible that Huckabee will pick up more delegates on Super Tuesday than will Romney. If Romney is in third place in delegates on February 6, that could end his bid.
In short, Super Tuesday looks to be a McCain blowout, putting him on the threshold of the nomination.
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