Yesterday, Mitt Romney practically conceded South Carolina to his fellow GOP competitors for the nomination and announced that he would spend the weekend campaigning in Nevada. This is wise, yet gutsy, move for Mitt. It is wise because he knows he has no chance to win. South Carolina is naturally a better fit for McCain (Military members and veterans), Huckabee (evangelicals), and Thompson (accent) as opposed to the smooth NE state governer Mormon candidate.
So here are the positives:
1. Nevada has more delgates than South Carolina, the SC delegates are likely to be more divided due to more people splitting the vote, including Mitt.
2. Minimizes the impact of a McCain or Huckabee victory, although only slightly.
3. Winning Nevada gives him a win going into Florida, counters the Mo for the winner of SC.
4. Helps solidify Mitt in the West, the western States are going to be more important than the Southern in the general, as the South will most likely stick with the GOP candidate regardless.
5. Losing SC is becomes not as big of a deal, he can say, “what do you want? I wasn’t contesting there and I, as a Mormon, barely lost to two Southerners and a military hero.
6. His organizational strength, coupled with the strong SC endorsements and the MI win, could still give Mitt a 2nd or 3rd place finish. If in the unlikely event that he finishes 2nd, that would be a major victory for Mitt that he can play up. It would also all but eliminate Thompson and Huckabee from the race (assuming they finished 3rd and 4th)
7. Mitt is saying that McCain looks like a foregone conclusion in SC, this raises McCain’s expectations, while lowering Mitt’s. So if Huck or Fred beats McCain, it will look like an even bigger loss for McCain, which could be devastating for him.
Here are the negatives:
1. Demonstrates Mitt’s inherent weakness in the South. Can he overcome this? (I think so)
2. Nevada is being ignored by Republicans, will Nevada be viewed the way Wyoming was? (By the way, if I were a Republican in a western state, I would be pretty offended that this is the second time that important region is being ignored by the bulk of the party).
3. Possibly being overshadowed by the Democrats in Nevada with media coverage.
4. More positive media coverage for the SC winner (especially because the media doesn’t like Mitt at all) rather than the Nevada winner.
5. Media and McCain will try to pass Mitt’s Nevada win off as only being because of all the Mormons there. The media will conveniently forget that Nevada should a natural McCain state, as he is from the neighboring state and the only candidate from the West. (I hate the media)
So this is how I see Mitt’s strategy. It is obviously less than ideal, but considering the circumstances, it was a wise decision. It is more important for Mitt to have another win to offset the likely McCain win in SC heading into Florida. This will set up a 3-way race in Florida. The big question is how does Rudy play in Florida, he has been dedicating all his time and money there, yet he is not getting any traction. I also think that Rudy and McCain split the vote in Florida and it will provide a great opportunity for Mitt there.
It is way to early to make predictions about Florida, but one thing is for sure, it is going to be a fist fight. One of the good things, is that it is likely that Fred will drop out of the race if he doesn’t win in SC on Saturday (which he won’t). I think Fred will endorse McCain, but I don’t see many of his supporters heading that way, they more logically fit with Mitt (and vice-versa, Mitt supporters-like myself-would have moved to Fred’s camp had Mitt dropped out). If Fred drops out, I definitely give the advantage to Mitt in Florida, but that is all dependent upon how this weekend and the subsequent news coverage plays out.
One final note regarding strategy for Mitt, I would put in a lot of really quiet effort into getting out Huckabee, Paul, or Thompson voters in Nevada. I would try to push McCain into third or fourth there. That would be pretty embarassing for McCain to come in third in both his neighboring and pretty moderate Republican state. An ideal finish in Nevada would be a huge margin of victory for Mitt, someone not named McCain in 2nd, and McCain far behind. GO NEVADA!