February 2, 2012

THE CHOICE:

Five Paths Forward for G.O.P. Nomination (NATE SILVER, 2/01/12, NY Times)

What Happens Next -- The Long Version: Mr. Romney gets a lift in national polls and takes a considerable lead in most surveys. He easily wins next week's caucuses, building further momentum. He begins to roll out more endorsements, including some important and surprising ones from conservative leaders who are trusted by the Republican base. Rick Santorum drops out and either endorses Mr. Romney outright or otherwise makes clear that he considers Mr. Romney the most acceptable choice. Newt Gingrich either drops out or reverts to running a half-hearted campaign.

Popular attention to the nomination race dwindles, and the news media's focus shifts to the general election. The outcome of Super Tuesday is a foregone conclusion. Any further losses that Mr. Romney takes are a result of special circumstances -- for instance, to Mr. Gingrich in Mr. Gingrich's home state of Georgia.

Precedent: The 2000 Republican race is the best example of a contest in which the front-runner, George W. Bush, lost a couple of early states but was perhaps never in any real danger of losing the nomination.

The Evidence For: This is a fairly common path, historically speaking. Nominations are generally not won without at least a few twists and turns -- in the modern primary era, Al Gore was the only non-incumbent to sweep all 50 states.

There is also theoretical evidence for this scenario in the political science scholarship. A nomination race is a delegate-counting contest in theory, but if at all possible, the nominee is picked by consensus, with influential party leaders nudging the process along if it seems to go astray. Mr. Romney is the clear choice of party leaders, having far more endorsements than any other candidate. He was also the only candidate deemed to be acceptable by a majority of Republicans in a January Gallup survey.
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Posted by orrinj at February 2, 2012 6:53 AM
  
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