The "Dog Days" in American sports jargon describe a part of the baseball season after the midway point in July and before the stretch run of September. During those grueling and scorching Dog Days, teams that are destined to win (think of the Yankees) continue their march toward the playoffs and those that have no shot (Pirates, anyone?) are left in the dust.
Even most avid baseball fans often turn their eyes from the American pastime in August and focus on family vacations, the upcoming school year, or football training camps. More often than not it is way too hot outside to even think about spending three hours at a ballgame. Usually the baseball world looks the same once the Dog Days are over in September as it did when they began in mid July.
However, a couple of times in every generation, a front-runner takes the Dog Days too lightly, loses too many games in August, and the underdog comes out of nowhere to take advantage and shock the world.
We are deep in the Dog Days of the GOP primary season.
The All-Star break was the Florida Primary, and Super Tuesday on March 6 begins the stretch run. From the Nevada caucuses last Saturday, through the contests in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri today, to Maine, Arizona, Michigan, and finally to Washington on March 3, these Dog Days are crucial.
Former Gov. Mitt Romney is entering the Dog Days as the well oiled machine, a division leader running on all cylinders. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is the hungry second place team running about 10 games behind but not yet out of contention. Former Sen. Rick Santorum is the cellar dweller who needs a miracle, but hey, don't forget the 1969 Mets.
Once the primary process is all over and if it ends the way it should, with Governor Romney becoming the Republican nominee, few will remember what happened in February. However, a lack of focus, any semblance of internal strife, or, worst of all, a losing streak by Team Romney could give Team Gingrich and even Team Santorum the opening they need to shock the political universe.
If that is the case, political analysts will look back on February 2012 the way baseball historians look at the summer of 1978 when the Yankees came back to beat the Red Sox from 14 and a half games behind—historic.
To keep the Dog Days a non-event, Team Romney has to continue behaving as it did in the run up to Florida—disciplined, driven and as if its chasing the leader, not being chased.
It is also vital that the GOP electorate not follow the example of baseball fans and tune out for the Dog Days. Those registered in the states where voting is before Super Tuesday have to go to the polls and make sure that the strongest team Republicans have, Team Romney, is the one representing the GOP in the political version of the World Series—the general election against President Obama.