So what did last night mean?
Rick Santorum won the two non-binding caucuses where all candidates competed, and the Missouri non-binding primary where Newt was not on the ballot.
Does it mean that the Republican electorate all of the sudden has fallen in love with Santorum? That remains to be seen. Santorum has done well in three caucus states so far (IA, MN, CO), and very poorly in one caucus state (NV) and the three binding primary states where everyone competed (NH, SC, FL).
While Santorum deserves to bask in last night’s glow and the media will give him plenty to glow about for a day or two, Santorum cannot be considered the designated not-Romney until he proves he can win or at least do very well in big states with binding primaries where everyone competes.
In other words, let’s see how Santorum does on Super Tuesday. Then we can talk.
As for Newt, he’s still hurting from the almost $30 million in negative ads run against him in about a 45 day period starting in December in Iowa, as well as the conservative media and political establishment pile on.
Newt’s best chance was to slow Romney, gain some breathing room, and hope for a strong showing on Super Tuesday.
Romney has been slowed by Santorum, giving Newt some breathing room as Romney of necessity will have to turn at least some attention to stopping Santorum. Newt needs to prove himself on Super Tuesday.
As for Romney, his completely over-the-top attacks on Newt hurt Newt, but they also hurt Romney. Tellingly, the percentage of the vote for Romney in the three states which voted last night completely collapsed since 2008.
A lot of people are disgusted with the way Romney has run his campaign, and it forced powerful voices like Sarah Palin and Mark Levin to speak out against the smears.
I’m not sure Romney can carpet bomb Santorum successfully the way he carpet bombed Newt — the Republican electorate will not stand for it again.
Romney will have to find a more subtle way to take down Santorum. Maybe Romney should start thinking outside the box, and convince people whey they should vote for him not just against others.
The other take away from last night is the damage done to Republican enthusiasm by Romney’s carpet bombing. Once again, turnout was down dramatically.
It’s the problem I highlighted in my post the other day, When did you decide to become politically active?
… the way in which the Romney campaign has been run — uninspiring but brutally negative and efficient yet dependent upon massive supporting fire from establishment Republican media and politicians – will do great damage….
We may be seeing the early signs of that damage in the moribund and sometimes lower turnout numbers in states and counties where Romney does well. We are at risk of heading back to the lifeless, limp political body of 2008.
Those who tuned in in 2009 are tuning out, getting ready to go back to their previous lives, rebuilding walls around themselves.
My post was mocked by Gabriel Malor at Ace of Spades HQ, who completely misunderstood my point. It’s not about being anti-Romney, pro-Newt, or a Santorum fan.
We have a problem folks. Romney’s carpet bombing is coming home to roost.