By Robert Schlesinger |
In a sane nomination system, we would never ask this question when the leading candidate has won just seven firm delegates (delegates are not allocated at the precinct level in Iowa) out of 1,144 needed for the nomination. Doing the math, that means former Gov. Mitt Romney has won just 0.6 percent of what he needs to secure the nomination—with 99.4 percent to go!
But alas, we do not have a sane nomination system, so the answer is a barely qualified no—nothing can stop Mitt Romney. Every eventual candidate in the modern era but one—Bill Clinton—won at least one of the first two races in Iowa and New Hampshire (and Clinton claimed a moral "Comeback Kid" victory in the Granite State). And no one who has swept the first two races has ever been denied the nomination. That accomplishment alone makes Romney the prohibitive favorite.
Indeed, with six candidates standing, one has to ask who could topple Romney at this point? It looks increasingly obvious that South Carolina will be the last stand for former Gov, Jon Huntsman and Gov. Rick Perry, and Sen. Rick Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich do not have the ground game necessary to prosecute this campaign much beyond Florida. Rep. Ron Paul will do what Ron Paul does best, but it will not halt Romney, who has both the money and the organization to go the distance (which may not be much beyond January 31).
The only thing that could derail Romney at this point would be some sort of Internet-era self-inflicted wound—perhaps YouTube footage of Romney kicking little dogs and cats, or some other egregious sin that calls into question his basic electability.
But don't count on it. The laws of politics may not be as precise as the laws of physics, but the importance of national poll strength, fundraising, and key endorsements has been known for some time. Someday someone will break the rules and win the nomination despite poor showings in Iowa and New Hampshire—but not this year.
Which makes the presidential nomination the only race that can be won with less than 1 percent of the distance traveled.
About David Crockett Author of 'Running Against the Grain: How Opposition Candidates Win Presidential Elections'
Rob Collins Former Chief of Staff for Majority Leader Eric Cantor
Ron Bonjean Former Chief of Staff for the Senate Republican Conference