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January 10, 2008

Missing The Point

MItt Romney has attempted to steel the resolve of his supporters by reminding them that he has the lead in delegates. That's true, as far as it goes. Right now, Romney holds a nine-delegate advantage over Mike Huckabee, with John McCain trailing 20 delegates back:

Romney - 30
Huckabee- 21
McCain - 10
Thompson - 6
Paul - 2
Giuliani, Hunter - 1 each

That may look impressive -- but not when one considers what it will take to win the nomination. The Republican who wins the nomination will need 1,191 delegates voting for him. Right now, Romney has 2.5% of the number of delegates necessary, while Huckabee has 1.7%. McCain has 0.8%, which only leaves him 1.7% behind Romney.

The value of the early primaries doesn't get found in the delegate counts. It gets found in the ability of the campaigns to generate momentum and to score actual victories. Romney won in Wyoming, but he only ran against Thompson and Paul, with the rest of the candidates skipping the caucus there when Wyoming violated the rules to move it up in the schedule. He has not won a race against the entire field yet, despite spending a lot of money in Iowa and New Hampshire and holding significant leads in polling for both states until the last few weeks before the election.

Twenty-two states go to the polls on February 5th, and the candidates cannot be everywhere in the week between Florida and the Super Tuesday primaries. They have to generate momentum in the earlier states and let their campaigning skills show through these early victories. This is the major change we see with this cycle's front-loaded primary season. It gives candidates only a short window of opportunity to prove themselves.

Romney's team knows that, which is why they have decided to focus all of their advertising on Michigan, their remaining best chance for a big win that will give them that credibility. It's a smart move, and I'd say that Romney's chances are good that he will prevail with that kind of effort. That's what it will take to go into February 5th with enough credibility to compete in the states where the candidate has no time to campaign himself, and attempt to lock down the nomination for good. The fact that Romney's actions shows he understands this, while his campaign spins the delegate totals, is a positive sign for Mitt.


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