By Kira Zalan |
First, I don't believe the primaries have been drawn out. The campaigns have perhaps started earlier than ever. We've had more debates than ever. But with his sweep of three winner-take-all states Tuesday former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has mathematically assured himself the Republican nomination three months from the day voting began in Iowa.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum no longer has the opportunity to deny Romney the majority of delegates in regulation and hope the contest is settled at the convention in August, which was perhaps remotely possible, though highly unlikely, had he won Wisconsin last night, where he was up in polls a few weeks ago and which might have helped him regain some momentum.
We should not come to expect a coronation. It's a multi-stage process. The truth is, in a contest of such consequence it should be regarded as remarkable that anyone can effectively sow it up before all the ballots have been cast. While Romney needs to run hard in the states ahead to get his message out, he has the resources and will not be hampered in the general election by spending to win over the next three months.
Not only have Romney's chances not been crippled against President Obama by the primaries, all noise aside, the GOP nomination battle will have little or no effect on the race against the president. The general election will be about which individual can positively articulate--read embody--what is in the hearts and minds of the people at the time they pull the lever November 6.
The election will ride on whether Romney or President Obama can demonstrate the way forward, with the policies, political ability, and the confidence of the people who believe he can get us there. The advantage Romney has is that he will be relatively fresh to millions of Americans, while President Obama will have been heard for four years.
The good news for Romney is that the future is out the front windshield, not in the rear view mirror. For Obama, there is a gap for independent voters between the rhetoric of his last campaign and the way he decided to govern. Romney can exploit that. The challenge for Romney, and it is significant, is simply this: If the people feel that things are getting better (i.e. the economy) at the time they vote, they will need to be sure about him before they jump to a new horse. He will need to make certain the electorate understands what his governing philosophy is, where he will go with it, and why he is the person to lead this country at this time in our history.
Aside from the importance of communication and policy differences, the fact is, there will be a defining moment in this campaign, when, mano a mano, the people get a glimpse of the individual who will sit in the Oval Office for the next four years. They will decide who they trust, who they like, and who will get their vote. Rest assured at that moment in time it will have nothing to do with what happened many months prior in the battle for the GOP nomination.
About Michael Marshall Policy Adviser and Communications Director to former Sen. Bob Dole
Ford O'Connell Republican Strategist, Conservative Activist, and Political Analyst
Jamie Chandler Political Scientist at Hunter College
Krystal Ball MSNBC Contributor and former Democratic nominee for Congress
Ron Bonjean Former Chief of Staff for the Senate Republican Conference