I think we all know that there is really no logical reason for Mitt (or Huckabee for that matter) to stay in the 2008 race. McCain has the nom all but locked up. So why on earth is Mitt hanging around?
He says (and must say) that he is sticking around because he wants to provide conservatives a candidate to get behind and give voters a choice. Fine, that is what he is suppossed to say, but I don’t buy it. Mitt is a business man and easily the smartest person in the race. He understands principles of investment and when to cut your losses, seemingly the time to do that is now.
But there is another, more logical, motivating factor that I think is in play behind the scenese and that is 2012. Mitt and Huckabee are in a race for 2nd place now and 2nd place can set one of them up as the early frontrunner for the GOP in 2012, after McCain gets it handed to him in November by the Democrat. You see, the GOP has knack for nominating the “next” guy in the GOP and that next guy is often the runner-up in the previous election. Thus, if Mitt finishes in 2nd he is the natural front-runner four years from now.
Now many may say that if Mitt drops out now he still finishes in second because he has more delegates and you are right. But we are dealing with the realities of public perception. The public doesn’t care about delegate counts, they care about last man standing. So that is why Mitt needs to be one of the last two standing.
However, I think the best Mitt can do is finish in a tie for second because Huckabee will not drop out until McCain has crossed the delegate threshold for the nomination. Huckabee is playing both the 2nd place game and is trying to basically force McCain into making him the veep candidate. Thus, what I see happening is the day after McCain crosses the delegate line, both Mitt and Huck drop out of the race because the race is over. Thus neither Mitt nor Huck can legitimately claim sole 2nd place.
So Mitt goes from there to do whatever it is he wants to do and Huckabee pleads for a spot on the McCain ticket. Huckabee gets the veep slot and proceeds to lose to the dem in November and looks like a loser but still not as bad as McCain and decides to run in 2012.
Huckabee claims to be the next in line in the GOP due to being the veep candidate, while Mitt comes in and claims the same due to his 2nd place tiebreaker-the delegates- and the fact that he performed well in all parts of the country in 2008. Thus, very early, in spring 2011, the party faithful gravitate towards Romney as the next guy, both because he doesn’t alienate huge swaths of the party and because he can win outside the South.
So right now it is all about 2012, nothing about 2008.
UPDATE: Romney Suspends Campaign
How about that, two days after South Carolina, I wrote about why Fred Thompson may stay in the race and motivation for doing so, no more than about 5 hours after writing that Fred dropped out. Today I write as to why Romney would stay in, despite thinking he shouldn’t, and sure enough, about 5 hours later he drops out. Maybe I should write about why McCain should drop out tomorrow and see what happens