Last year, New Jersey’s legislature voted to return to a “unified” primary in June (as opposed to a separate presidential contest in the winter).
The reported reason was to save money. The real reason was to aid party bosses with turnout in otherwise uninteresting June contests for down-ballot offices. Go figure. And the anticipated effect? That New Jersey would be rendered effectively irrelevant for presidential primary nominating purposes. Nominees from both respective partyieswould obviously have it sewn up by then.
Or so we thought?
It appears as if the joke was really on us, Save Jerseyans. There’s no escaping this endless primary despite our best attempts! As I speculated yesterday, New Jersey’s chances of serving as Mitt Romney’s last-ditch delegate “firewall” (along with California) increased significantly after yesterday’s Super Tuesday contests. Governor Christie may have to test out his re-election machine (one year early) to help his endorsed candidate across the finish line.
Let’s briefly review the relevant highlights from Super Tuesday to understand why New Jersey might decide this thing…
- Mitt Romney won 6 of 10 GOP state contests last night, including the all-important battleground Ohio.
- Mitt Romney won Ohio, albeit by a close margin, amid record turnout despite being down by double-digits just three weeks.
- Mitt Romney now boasts a +1,230,870 popular vote lead over his closest rival after Super Tuesday.
- Most importantly of all, Mitt Romney picked up 208 delegates last night, bringing his delegate total to 381… more than all of his competitors combined.
This time, let’s break it all down to a single sentence: Mitt Romney finished Super Tuesday with six new states and a solid majority of delegates in his pocket including Ohio which turned out in record numbers.
Sounds like he’s well on his way to the nomination, right?
Governor Romney needs 1,144 delegates to clinch before Tampa in August. He’s still 763 short after Super Tuesday. Mathematically, even if he wins EVERY delegate up for grabs between now and May 15th, he wouldn’t clinch unless he won Oregon on that date. Over two months from now. Worse still for Romney, the next few contests are predominantly in the South and Midwest… not exactly his delegate breadbasket.
Can Santorum, Gingrich or Paul win outright at this point? No.
Could Romney clinch before New Jersey’s winner-takes-all 50 delegate primary on June 5th? Yes.
Is it increasingly likely that he won’t? Yes; if current voting trends continue, then Santorum, Gingrich and Paul will have enough delegates to prevent the GOP from selecting its nominee pre-Tampa. Romney’s best hope for NOT needing New Jersey is to create a sense of inevitability that overpowers his ardent detractors’ desire to prevent a so-called “coronation” before it’s absolutely, procedurally necessary. I’m starting to wonder if this feat is even possible; Santorum voters in Ohio yesterday overwhelming felt that perceived “moral character” was more important than electability. How do you reason with folks who consider victory over Obama as a secondary objective?
At the moment, Romney holds a solid polling lead in New Jersey. Will it hold?
Get your phone banking arms warmed up, Save Jerseyans. We’re on deck.