9 p.m. ET on Fox News. If you’ve been reading the site today, you already know what to expect. Santorum will attack Romney for being an Obama clone, Gingrich will attack both of them for being unelectable, and Romney, I suppose, will attack Newt for his Bain criticism — all of which will be punctuated by grumbling about how unfair the other guy’s Super PAC is. Then Ron Paul will say something about the Fed and Perry will say something self-deprecating, and we’ll rinse and repeat. For two hours.
Philip Klein dares to think a terrible, terrible thought. I’m entitling this blockquote, “What if the tea party never existed?”
Is there anything stopping [Romney] from sweeping all 50 states?
Think about it. Romney has a commanding lead in Florida, and will simply obliterate the field if he enters the Sunshine State after having won South Carolina. And if he does win South Carolina and Florida, what will become of the rest of the field? Rick Perry, who came in fifth in Iowa and bailed on New Hamphshire, already has very little justification for continuing. A distant finish in South Carolina would give him even less reason. It’s true that there are states in which Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich can theoretically beat Romney, but if they can’t beat him in South Carolina, where will they go from there? Even now, Romney has a 23-point lead nationally, according to Gallup.
Sure, perhaps Rep. Ron Paul’s fervent supporters can out-hustle Romney’s organization in a caucus here or there. But it’s also possible that Romney will run the table. Remember, as the field gets narrowed, it’ll get a lot harder for Paul to outright win a state, because he’ll have to start getting into the 40-50-plus point range.
Skim this LA Times piece for a reminder of what makes Klein’s scenario plausible. It’s not just that Romney’s national organization is so solid; it’s that, apart from Ron Paul, he’s the only candidate who even has a national organization. And since I’m beating a dead horse by making that point again, let me beat another one by reminding you that even a Romney loss in South Carolina is unlikely to put Florida in play. PPP’s new poll tonight shows Mitt leading Gingrich there 41/26, and by an even wider margin among voters who say they’ve made up their minds. His favorables are 68/24 generally — better than in Iowa, New Hampshire, or South Carolina — and 70/18 on the narrower issue of his business record. So much for the Bain attacks. In fact, I’m curious to see whether Gingrich brings up Bain tonight or whether Romney himself does. That’ll be the best evidence yet of what the campaigns’ internal polling shows on this issue. Do note that Newt conspicuously passed on a golden opportunity to hit Romney on it yesterday.
Here’s the Hot Air/Townhall livetweet widget. Fox is going to solicit Twitter feedback tonight during the debate to track whether viewers think a candidate is answering a question or dodging it, so there’s one way to kinda sorta amuse yourself as debate fatigue sets in circa 9:05. Exit question: Is it racist to give money to someone in need? It is on MSNBC, apparently.