Today was supposed to be a big day in the Republican nomination process. Republicans (and others) go to the polls in five states to make their pick for the GOP presidential nominee — New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Delaware — after the race has been all but decided. The contests put 231 delegates up for grabs in mostly proportional-allocation contest, but with Rick Santorum out of the race, there isn’t much drama left. Mitt Romney will almost certainly win at least four of the five states, and it’s very likely that he’ll win by a large enough amount to claim all of the delegates in New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, which have a combined 142 delegates.
The only potential surprise could be Delaware, where Newt Gingrich has concentrated his campaigning efforts. The state’s small size makes campaigning economical for an organization buried in millions of dollars in debt, and the state’s winner-take-all allocation makes it a prize of at least a little value. However, its seventeen delegates won’t make a lot of difference in the math, as I explained yesterday, and that presumes that Gingrich can actually win — something he hasn’t managed in seven weeks, not even in the South. Last night, NBC reported that reality may be dawning on Gingrich, and that a loss in Delaware might convince the former Speaker to pull out:
Newt Gingrich hinted he may withdraw from the presidential race if he has a poor showing in the Delaware primary Tuesday – a state where he has been actively campaigning for several weeks.
“I think we need to take a deep look at what we are doing,” Gingrich told NBC News in an exclusive interview on Monday. “We will be in North Carolina tomorrow night and we will look and see what the results are.”
He acknowledged that he would have to “reassess” his campaign depending on how he fares in Delaware, a winner-take-all state with 17 delegates at stake.
Oddly, though, Gingrich seemed to hedge that statement by saying a close second might be enough to keep going:
“This has been a good opportunity for us, we have been here seeing a lot of people,” Gingrich said. “We have got really positive responses and I would hope we would do well here – either carry it or come very, very close.”
Huh? What good does a “very, very close” second place do in a winner-take-all state? That kind of finish in a proportionally-allocated state might produce a tie in delegates, but in this case would be the same as a drubbing in delegate allocation. Even with the 17 delegates, Gingrich doesn’t have a prayer of stopping Romney before the end of the primaries, but without them he doesn’t have a fig leaf to cover up reality.
The other interesting state today will be Pennsylvania. Romney had eroded Rick Santorum’s standing in the Keystone State, but never took a clear polling lead. Everyone assumes Romney will win easily in the state, which elects delegates directly in a primary process, but that assumes the Romney voters will show for the vote. If Romney doesn’t win a clear victory today, that might prove a little more unsettling than a Gingrich win in Delaware.