Romney's Dilemma

It is hard to know where Mitt Romney looks for a big victory on Tsunami Tuesday. In Georgia and Arkansas, conservative states with plenty of wealthy country club Republicans (Mitt’s base, if you will), Mike Huckabee stands between Romney and victory. Georgia’s rich load of delegates will be awarded proportionately, so even if Romney wins there, he will not get a huge delegate boost. Romney should do better in the Midwestern states of Illinois and Missouri. His biggest win to date was in Michigan, another Midwestern state where conservatives are more likely to be found at the Rotary Club than at the megachurch. And, of course in heavily Mormon Utah, we can expect Romney to dominate. The biggest delegate prizes on Tsunami Tuesday, however, are in the three winner-take-all primaries in the Northeast: New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The now defunct campaign of Rudy Giuliani was assumed to have those states locked up. Neither McCain nor Romney fits the mold of the classic northeastern Republican the way Giuliani did. But, Romney has distanced himself very far from the more liberal positions he espoused in order to get elected governor of Massachusetts, and one has a hard time imaging him breaking bread with Nelson Rockefeller or John Lindsay. McCain is no liberal, but his reputation as a maverick should be enough to earn him the huge cache of delegates coming from those three states, and the most recent polls have him leading comfortably in all three. California, then, emerges as the place where Romney must win. There are plenty of arch-conservative Republicans who will find McCain’s positions on campaign finance and immigration reason enough to vote against him. His "can-do" optimism may be a good fit for a state governed by that larger than life incarnation of the American Dream, Arnold Schwarzenegger, despite the fact that the Governator will be endorsing McCain today. Most importantly, in a state with two expensive media markets, a series of negative spots may be just the thing to slow down McCain’s momentum. It is do or die for Romney in California: if CNN puts a checkmark next to McCain’s name on the map of California next Tuesday, the race is over. Michael Sean Winters
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