It's still unclear how he can really compete against all of Mittens' money as the contest turns to "Super Tuesday". But then again, it's unclear how Mittens can keep proclaiming himself "The Inevitable One" while continuing to lose in critical states. Steve Kornacki reminded us earlier this morning that despite what Mittens wants us to believe, what happened last night matters.
Romney’s campaign knew trouble was coming, which is why they started Tuesday by releasing an expectations-lowering memo that pointed out that John McCain lost 19 individual contests in the 2008 race and emphasized the long game. And they hoped that the fact that no delegates were directly at stake in any contests would lead the media to downplay the results.
But the delegate situation was mostly a red herring. Really, there was no difference between the caucuses in Minnesota and Colorado and those that were held in Iowa on Jan. 3. In all three states, Republicans gathered at precinct caucuses that officially functioned as the first in a multi-step process to choose national convention delegates. At the local caucuses, Republicans were polled on their presidential preference, with the results not tied to delegate allocation. So if the political world is going to treat Iowa as a legitimate nominating contest, there’s no reason not to extend the same treatment to Colorado and Minnesota.
And while Missouri’s primary truly was a beauty contest (no delegates of any type were selected or allocated), 250,000 Republicans voters still turned out for it. That number is considerably lower than the 2008 total, but it still represents a significant statement by that state’s Republican electorate, especially when you consider that Romney only mustered a quarter of the vote without one of his chief foes on the ballot. [...]
February was supposed to be a cruise control month for Romney – a series of effortless, momentum-building victories that would marginalize his opponents and lead to one emphatic, nomination-sealing sweep on Super Tuesday. Instead, he now faces a real challenge just to make it through the rest of the month, which will include contests in Michigan and Arizona, without any more embarrassments. And the prospect of further setbacks in early March, when Ohio and several Southern states that are culturally ill-suited to Romney will vote, now seems likely.
What’s worse for Romney is that Santorum may get such a boost out of his big night that he further marginalizes Gingrich and gets the one-on-one shot at Romney that he’s long coveted. In this sense, the Missouri result may actually be meaningful; Gingrich wasn’t on the ballot, but it seems that his would-have-been supporters flocked to Santorum. If Gingrich fades out now and Santorum claims the lion’s share of his voters, he could do some real damage – maybe even this month. The flip side, of course, is that Santorum will now experience what Gingrich has faced for the past few weeks: a withering and well-funded assault from the Romney campaign.
And if that isn't crazy enough, consider this. Nevada Republicans jumped through all sorts of ridiculous hoops, and ultimately caved to the RNC and New Hampshire election officials, just to get that shiny little RNC seal of approval for its caucus. So what exactly does the Nevada Republican Party have to show for it? The supposedly "meaningless beauty contests" in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri actually changed the national conversation in a way that Nevada's never did, and now rumors are surfacing that national Republicans are indeed considering yanking Nevada off their early calendar.
Think about it. Nevada Republicans tried their best to put on a glitzy show for the RNC and national media. They staged a big conference in October, one that included a big debate. Yet as soon as they succumbed to "The Great RNC Cave of 2011", which was right after that big conference and big debate, the media stopped caring and the RNC went back to bashing President Obama from DC.
And even as Mittens was basking in the radioactive glow of his Nevada "win", Ricky went on to campaign in "the meaningless states"... And now, "the meaningless states" have upstaged the Nevada G-O-TEA and captured the media's attention.
Great job, Nevada Republicans. You botched your own caucus. You're now begging "Big Government" for a "socialist" state-run primary bailout. And now, a bunch of supposedly "meaningless beauty contests" are getting more attention than your meaningless "fracas caucus" fiasco ever will.