By Kira Zalan |
At long last, it seems Mitt Romney has wrapped up the Republican presidential nomination. He not only defeated Rick Santorum in all three primaries on Tuesday, he matched Santorum —or came close—with evangelicals and those who call themselves "very conservative."
Now, the trick is to keep those groups on board and broaden his appeal in other ways as he pivots to his general election confrontation with President Obama.
It won't be easy. Political prognosticator Stuart Rothenberg says Romney won the GOP nomination "because he had a well-funded, national campaign that could destroy his opponents, respond to attacks at a moment's notice and recover from mistakes," and his opponents didn't. His next opponent will—and more.
Moreover, White House incumbents are 14-5 since 1900, Romney suffers from sky-high unfavorables, particularly with some key demographics, and his opponents have provided President Obama a generous supply of points on which to attack him.
Romney can still win. He obviously knows how to move previously unfriendly voters into his column. Plus, it is his general election opponent who must explain America's high unemployment rate, the enormous debt racked up in the last four years, rising gas prices and the unpopularity of his top legislative accomplishment–Obamacare—in the battleground states.
But to prevail, Romney will have to close the gap on a well-funded propaganda machine that enjoys the backing of an adoring media. He will have to demonstrate he can solve problems and shares the concerns of everyday Americans. And he must make up ground with women, Latinos and independents—three critical demographics in which the president has built up enormous leads.
He could make up a lot of ground among those groups with the right vice presidential selection. But this is no time for another Sarah Palin, and Romney is cautious by nature—so it's unclear how bold he can or will be.
Fortunately for Romney, national polls are not as important as electoral math —and the 2012 election will likely be decided by fewer than 10 states—perhaps as few as four. If Romney can win in Florida, Ohio, Virginia, and North Carolina, he likely will acquire the 270 electoral votes needed to win. If that happens, this seemingly endless primary season will be but a distant memory.
About 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
Michael Marshall Policy Adviser and Communications Director to former Sen. Bob Dole
Ron Bonjean Former Chief of Staff for the Senate Republican Conference