Thuman's Capitol Thoughts: Super Tuesday: When a win equals a loss equals a win
If political junkies thought it was tense watching the numbers come in last night ... well, OK ... at least Ohio's numbers, imagine what Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum felt like Wednesday morning. It's safe to say they're both suffering from Buckeye state-sized hangovers. This fight sums up the entire race to date and echoes a sentiment that won't go away: Mitt has a hard time sealing the deal.
But then again, just because it was close that doesn't mean we have carte blanche to paint this as another pitfall for Romney.
If I had to put a headline on Super-PAC Tuesday, it'd probably be this:
WHEN A WIN=A LOSS=A WIN
Explain? OK. Mitt won where he needed to and then some (after all, this night wasn't just about Ohio. Mitt took Vt, Mass., Va., Idaho, Ala., and plucked delegates from other proportional states). That's hardly anything to sneeze at.
So there's the first "WIN." The "LOSS" portion of that title is based on the ensuing spin from those who can't seem to find optimism in their reluctant support for the frontrunner. The autopsy results will be skewed as another chink in Mitt's wanna-be white-knight armor, and you can be sure the one claiming responsibility for that dent will be Rick Santorum. Just as he did after Michigan, he declared victory even when he lost. He'll do it again under the premise that he's being outspent; that he's a victim of the 'elite' media; and that he's just a blue collar guy with a pickup truck going up against a perennial five-year candidate.
And the final "WIN" — that's what voters need to understand matters most in the end. I've used the analogy before, but I'll use it again. Sometimes in sports — imagine football in this one (since in some circles Super Tuesday was overshadowed by the news of Peyton Manning's split with the Colts) — when the first team has a commanding lead, the second team scores a thrilling touchdown, does a showy dance and then barks in the face of the winning team's quarterback. This, sports fans, is when the winner can get back in the face of the celebrant and utter one word to shut him up: "scoreboard."
The delegate count, while tough to figure out these days thanks to the muddy system of state and RNC rules, is almost 3-to-1 in favor of Romney now.
Yes, he'll face likely losses next week. Alabama and Mississippi aren't necessarily fertile ground for Romney, and true, states like Vermont, Massachusetts and Virginia were basically gimmes for him, but the numbers are indisputable. Pundits who want to add perspective and show off their abacus skills will point out that it's virtually impossible for any other candidate to amass the numbers needed to take the nomination away from Romney. That same group will also remind tepid Republicans of two sobering messages:
— there WON'T be a brokered convention
— stop dreaming of Ronald Reagan's ghost
Jeb Bush, Chris Christie amd Mitch Daniels have made it clear they're not going to take a stab at this thing this year. They're savvy enough to know you often only get one good shot at these races and they'd rather roll those dice in a cycle when Mr. Obama won't be on the ballot.
With all of that said, Tuesday night was indeed Mitt's night. Like it or not, he's now picked up 10 of the last 14 states and the time for Mitt to get out the hammer, break open the delegate piggy bank and cash in is now getting enticingly closer.
That Ohio hangover is a rough one, but the state that means as much symbolically as it does delegate-wise has, in the end, been determined (even if we somehow see another "Iowa," the delegates will soon be mostly Mitt's since Santorum failed to organize early enough and was ineligible to win all — including in Steubenville where he gave his speech) as another prime example of WHEN A WIN=A LOSS=A WIN.
P.S. A big thanks to everyone who tuned in to get five and a half hours of Thuman's Capitol Thoughts during Tuesday night's special POLITICO LIVE coverage broadcast on C-SPAN, Newschannel 8 and Politico Live.
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