Matt Romney will stump for his dad in Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands.
Matt Romney is hitting the beach. For work, that is.
His dad's campaign announced Thursday that Matt, 40, would be traveling to the Northern Marianas Islands and Guam to meet with local GOP groups with an eye on securing the support of the handful of delegates up for grabs way off in the Pacific Ocean. Matt Romney is one of five of Mitt Romney's children, who are all sons. The two U.S. territories, along with American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, all will have their (relatively) weak voice heard in the Republican presidential primary race in the coming weeks.
More importantly for the Romney campaign, they provide an opportunity for bright spots and positive headlines during a potentially bleak run in Southern primary states scheduled to weigh in next week.
"They do have delegates," points out Danny Hayes, political science professor at American University. "If you add up Guam, the Marianas Islands, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa and Puerto Rico, it's like 59 in total."
Puerto Rico, which is scheduled to vote on March 18, represents the lion's share with 23 delegates. The former Massachusetts governor is the current front-runner in the four person field when it comes to securing the 1,144 delegates necessary to secure the GOP nomination.
But with the exception of Florida, which is somewhat of a Southern outlier because of the high number of regional transplants, Romney has failed to notch a victory in the South. So far, he's lost South Carolina and Georgia to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Tennessee to former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. Next week, the only states slated for primaries are Alabama and Mississippi, likely losses for Romney, although caucuses are also scheduled in Kansas and Hawaii.
"I think he's conceding those are not going to be states where he's going to do well and is deciding to go campaign in the places where he thinks he can win some delegates, and that happens to be in these territories," Hayes says.
Hayes compared the current state of the GOP nomination fight with 2008, when Mike Huckabee remained in the hunt against the eventual nominee John McCain by picking off southern states.
"Romney faces the same kind of situation, but the problem for Romney is that I think that the antipathy for his candidacy among very conservative voters in his parties is greater than it was for McCain," he says. "So it's going to take him longer until he can accumulate enough delegates so that he can put enough pressure on Santorum and Gingrich to drop out."
Romney's campaign is solely focused on the arithmetic of securing the nomination, Hayes says, in an effort to encourage the Republican establishment to rally around him.
"That's the argument that I think he's going to make, whether explicitly or not, that he's on his way to accumulating more delegates than anybody else and so if the party wants to rally around a nominee they should go ahead and do so now," Hayes says.