TROY, Mich. — Whether Mitt Romney wins or loses the Michigan and Arizona primaries on Tuesday, his advisers are warning donors and other supporters to prepare for a longer, more bruising and more expensive fight for the Republican presidential nomination that may not be settled until at least May.Continue reading.
That is prompting a new round of intensified fund-raising by his financial team, which had hoped by this point to be collecting money for a general election match with President Obama. The campaign is increasingly trying to quell anxiety among Republican leaders, while intently focusing on the mechanics of accumulating delegates needed to secure the nomination.
Mr. Romney’s aides said they were confident their sustained attacks portraying Rick Santorum as a Washington insider, and Mr. Santorum’s shaky debate performance in Arizona on Wednesday, had slowed their rival’s recent surge here in Michigan.
But Mr. Romney is by no means in the clear, they said, as he fights to avert a loss in the state where he was born and raised — and where less than three weeks ago he was expected to win handily, before Mr. Santorum’s surprise triumphs in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri.
Regardless of the results Tuesday, Mr. Santorum is preparing to fight on for weeks or months, enticed by new rules that award delegates in early primaries and caucuses based on each candidate’s share of votes. “The race is going to go a long time,” he said after addressing a meeting here of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group.
The party’s new delegate system is a major contributor to the prolonged nature of the contest, along with the advent of supportive and well-financed “super PACs” that have helped Mr. Romney’s competitors stay in the delegate hunt when their candidacies might otherwise have withered without enough cash.
For many Republicans, the question is not just whether Mr. Romney will eventually capture the nomination, but at what cost.
It seems to me that this is exactly the kind of prolonged campaign that the GOP National Committee planned for when they "back-loaded" the nomination process and shifted more delegates to proportional representation. I wrote about this at Pajamas Media in December, although at that time it looked like Newt Gingrich was about to permanently dethrone Romney's coronation. But the Times' piece has all sorts of examples of party insiders biting their fingernails about how the harsh primary battle will diminish the party's prospects against Obama in the fall. I think we hear the same worries every four years. Frankly, as Sarah Palin has said repeatedly, the long process will strengthen the nominee because the dirty laundry will have been fully aired and the MFM will have little left for those October surprises that work to damage the Republicans.
In any case, there's some polling out that substantiates the idea of a long campaign, at WSB-TV, "Gingrich holds commanding lead in Georgia" (via Memeorandum) and at Second Front, "Poll: Santorum comes from behind in Alabama three-way" (via Buzzfeed and Memeorandum).