Santorum Sweeps

Former Senator Rick Santorum has swept three state caucuses yesterday. One was non-binding (delegates will be chosen in a separate process later in the year) but they do give Santorum a sudden moment in the sun, and once again the Republican front-runner looks weak in his own party. Although there may be some exaggeration there–low-funded candidates tend to do better in smallish caucus states when they have a good ground game, which Santorum has already proven to excel at. That said, caucuses are less common and there are fewer and fewer of them coming up, and Santorum is going to need a lot of money to compete in big upcoming primary (not caucus) events.

Many are calling this a serious blow to the Gingrich campaign as well, although the Gingrich campaign did not really try to compete in these three caucuses, focusing their efforts on Ohio and the southern states on Super Tuesday in March. Counter to earlier statements, the Gingrich campaign now says it plans to de-emphasize its plans to do well in Michigan, which is probably an opportunity for Santorum (and which makes my earlier statements that Michigan might be a place where Gingrich upsets Romney now look less likely).

I maintain that the most important states coming up this month are Michigan and Arizona. Maine will hold a caucus before then and we can expect Romney to do well there, and Santorum’s less likely to do so well with those New England voters. The big contest is going to be Arizona and Michigan on the 28th. Santorum, Gingrich and Romney will all be hoping those states provide them with momentum going in to Super Tuesday, but it appears that Gingrich is backing off on Michigan.

It’s a little early to speculate at this point, but it is interesting to contemplate the possibility of a brokered convention for Republicans this summer. That would be interesting for a lot of reasons, because there’s no predicting what comes out of such an event, and no such event has happened to either political party in more than half a century (the last one for Democrats was 1952; the last one for Republicans was 1948). The neat thing about a brokered convention is that it’s even possible for someone who did not even compete to win the nomination. It’s pretty unlikely, but, at the moment we appear to have three viable Republican candidates, and a fourth (Ron Paul) who can’t possibly win but will be a distraction for everybody.

My own guess is that it’s going to end in a showdown between Gingrich and Romney, but who knows? Michigan and Arizona are the states to watch most closely next, because of Santorum does well in either or both, we’ll have a three-man race going into Super Tuesday.