New Hampshire was a big win for John McCain and a serious setback for Mitt Romney. But do last night’s results mean that Romney is finished? Not at all. In fact, he is the current leader on the Republican side in delegates, as tabulated by CNN.
As the only one of the major Republican contenders who currently takes conservative positions in all three major issue categories–foreign policy, economics and the social issues–Romney should have a base of support in every state. And he has the financial resources to continue delivering his message.
2008 shapes up as a very unusual year, with five candidates on the Republican side who can be expected to win delegates: McCain, Romney, Giuliani, Huckabee and Thompson. McCain obviously is back, and Giuliani, while he has slipped recently in national polls, has not yet (in the words of John Paul Jones) begun to fight. It seems likely that he will carry some big states, as will Thompson and/or Huckabee once the campaign moves to the South. Some big states, like California, will be fragmented with delegates going to multiple candidates.
In most years the winner of a handful of early primaries develops unstoppable momentum. But I don’t see that happening in 2008. Rommey hasn’t shown the political muscle to pull it off; Huckabee is the fourth or fifth choice of a great many mainstream Republicans; and McCain’s stances on immigration, campaign finance and tax cuts should prevent him from running away with anything.
In short, I think it is entirely possible that we may arrive at the convention in Minnesota next summer in a position where no candidate commands a majority of the delegates. We could be in for a very interesting 2008.
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