My friend Carolina Alvarez sent an email asking about the Republican primary follies in the US. I replied that, since I was in Santiago, we should meet for coffee. But no time today, and her deadline for El Mercurio is tomorrow. So, today the "interview" and tomorrow the coffee. Here were her questions, and my answers, a KPC "Read it before you can buy it on the street!" special!
—Even though Romney still needs almost the double of delegates he now has, last night primaries allowed him to sustain a momentum he is carrying since March. Do you think this was check-mate, or a turning point?
The US primary system for choosing presidents is a war of attrition, not a battle. It is a war of logistics, and planning ahead.
It is important to remember that in 2008 the Democratic race between Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton was not decided until May. Romney is in a better position now, April 5th, 2012, than Obama was on April 5, 2008. I did an analysis of the delegate counts, based on this information. For the Democratic candidates in 2008. On April 5, 2008:
Obama--52% of delegates up to that point
Same date, 2012
Romney--58% of delegates up to this point
It's not even close! Romney is FAR ahead of Obama at the same date. One difference is the super delegates, and timing. By this time, Obama had 70% of the delegates he needed for the nomination, while Romney has only 56% of the delegates he needs. That's because the Republican primaries have decided only about half the delegate totals, while by this time the Democrats had held more primaries, and so had determined 70% of the total.
Let's put it in futbol terms. On April 5 2008, Obama led Clinton by a score of 3-2 with ten minutes left in regulation time.
On April 5 2012, Romney leads Santorum 3-1, at halftime. So, Romney has a bigger lead, but there is more game left. Still, a 3-1 lead is a very big lead. Romney can just hang back and play defense at this point, and can continue to run out the clock. All he needs to do is split the remaining primaries 50-50, and he will win.
—Rick Santorum vows to stay in the race. How important is for him to compete in his home state (next 24th), and what does he win staying longer in the race?
Santorum is not popular in Pennsylvania. It is not assured he will win. The polls say he is ahead, but Romney will spend money on ads in Pennsyslvania. And Santorum lost his own Senate seat there. If Santorum loses in Pennsylvania, it will hurt him, but it will not kill him. Santorum will in any case stay on until Texas, May 29,whether he wins or loses in Pennsylvania. The Texas primary has LOTS of delegates, and Texas is very conservative, a good place for Santorum. If Santorum wins Texas, he can claim that he is still viable. If Santorum loses Pennsylvania AND Texas, then he might think about quitting.
—Finally: Republicans changed the rules to have longer primaries, in part to excite voters —thinking perhaps in a contest like the one Democrats had in ’08. But many have pointed out that in the end this prolonged competition did more damage than good to the party, since President Obama is already campaigning. How much is the damage caused to the potential Republican nominee by “friendly fire” and how much has the President won?
Wait, "prolonged competition"? As I noted above, Obama was not selected until the end of May, six full weeks from now. Romney is FAR ahead of Obama, in terms of competition. The Democratic Party actually benefitted from the excitement and interest generated by the contested primary. It helped the Democrats to have a race that ran through the end of May.
So, this will likely help the Republicans, too. One difference, which was a product of the court system, is the very late Texas primary. The federal court system forced Texas to move its primary to the end of May, because the court rejected the Texas redistricting plan. That is a problem, because Texas has so many delegates (155, more than 13% of the TOTAL required to win) and it's so late. The Republican choice may not be made until June, for that reason. But that's only a week or so later than the Democrats in 2008, and the long competition helped the Democrats, so it may help the Republicans.
If the long competition does NOT help the Republicans, I think that will be because the candidates are weak, not because the competition was strong. As Clinton-Obama showed in 2008, a strong competition between good candidates is actually helpful.