Mitt Romney is looking more and more like the inevitable Republican nominee. Romney won 6 of the 10 Super Tuesday states, including the crucial state of Ohio. He won the majority of the delegates at stake. He now has more delegates than the rest of the field combined, and more than twice as many of his closest opponent, Rick Santorum. Kris Broughton points out that it’s a larger lead than Obama had at this point in the nominating process four years ago. As Jonathan Bernstein says, the bottom line is that Romney won “the most states, the most votes and the most delegates; and he has a solid lead in the national polls, money and endorsements.”
But Romney’s victory nevertheless wasn’t compelling enough to convince his rivals to drop out of the race. As Larry Sabato says, “If anything, Tuesday’s results confirm that Romney still has some big problems with the base of his party.” Romney still hasn’t won a Southern state besides Florida—which is very different from the states in the so-called “traditional South”—and will probably lose the upcoming primaries in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
In addition, Romney’s victory didn’t do much to dispel doubts about his ability to beat Obama in the fall. He won in Ohio by just a single point, and exit polls show that once again he lost both among voters without a college degree and among voters who make less than $100,000 a year. It may be, as Ezra Klein suggests, that Romney will be a better candidate in the general election when he can tack back to the center. But Romney’s larger problem is that the very idea that someone could be excited about his candidacy seems to be a joke.
Intrade now gives Romney an 84% chance of winning the nomination. That’s up a slightly from last week, but it’s actually less chance than traders gave Romney in the middle of February. The reason that figure is not higher is that traders have begun to speculate that someone else—Jeb Bush is their leading candidate—will be recruited in Romney’s place. That seems unlikely at this point. But Republican party leaders still aren’t ready as a group to end the race by steppping in and endorsing Romney.
Romney is winning the nominating race because he is a consistent, capable campaigner, and has a much better national organization than any of his rivals. Romney probably does represent the Republicans’ best chance of retaking the White House. But winning the Republican nomination against this particular field of candidates is like hitting a lot of home runs in the minor leagues. It’s impressive, but it doesn’t mean you’re ready for big league pitching. Consider that Romney’s chief opponents weren't even able to get their names on the ballot in every state, or—in Santorum's case—able to field a full slate of delegates in Ohio. But in Obama, Romney will be facing someone who has an organization and resources that more than a match of his own.
Political Futures Markets
Chance President Obama will win reelection: 60.7% (Intrade)
Chance Mitt Romney will win the Republican nomination: 84.1% (Intrade)
Chance that Republicans will win control of the Senate: 60.0% (Intrade)
Chance that Republicans will maintain control of the House: 65.0% (Intrade)
President Obama’s approval rating: 47.7% (Pollster)
Mitt Romney’s favorable rating: 31.7% (Pollster)
Republican advantage on a generic congressional ballot: 0.0% (Real Clear Politics)
UP NEXT: caucuses in Kansas, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands on Saturday, March 10, followed by the Alabama and Mississippi primaries and the Hawaii caucus on Tuesday, March 13
Mitt Romney image from Gage Skidmore