The press would play up every little rift at a brokered Republican National Convention so much that it would turn into a public relations disaster for the GOP, political guru Larry Sabato tells Newsmax.TV.
“Think about this: There would be thousands and thousands of press people covering the delegates in Tampa — probably three press people for every delegate,” he said on the eve of the Illinois primary.
“A contested convention inevitably would involve intense feelings, some anger — and you would have every nasty comment made by every delegate aired and printed during that week. There is no way that is going to play out to the Republicans’ favor,” Sabato said during the exclusive interview with Newsmax.
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Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said he was “amazed that anyone thinks a contested convention could be a positive for the Republicans. He said he was surprised that former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour suggested during the weekend that it would “not necessarily be all bad.”
“I have great respect for Haley Barbour, but he’s whistling past the graveyard on that one,” Sabato said.
“It would make reunification of the Republican Party much more difficult — and think about a nominee under those circumstances. In late August, he would not have been able to put together his general election campaign or raise much money for the general election because he would have been fighting the convention battle all summer long.”
Sabato said he is convinced that Mitt Romney will be the eventual nominee, saying he probably will reach the 1,144 delegates he needs on June 5, the day of primaries in California and New Jersey. If he doesn’t clinch it then, he will sweep Utah three weeks later.
However, he said he does not believe that rivals Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, or Ron Paul would drop out “as long as the money holds out,” because they want to carry their influence to get prime-time speeches in the Tampa convention hall.
But he said he believes that, by that time, the party will be speaking with one voice. “Romney, assuming he’s the nominee, will want to have the image and reality of party unity.
“The last thing that he needs is to have one or more of his previous rivals saying negative things about him or negative things about his chances. All nominees want a love-fest at their convention, and it’s pretty clear that Romney’s going to have to work hard to achieve that.”
There is only a remote chance that Romney can be stopped, he said. “You never know when a scandal is going to pop up — certainly in his case not a personal scandal — but you just never know what’s out there.”
It also is possible that the remaining primaries could offer some surprises, although he believes that Romney will win all but Louisiana and Pennsylvania out of the next 10 states to vote. “In politics the surprise is the norm,” he said. “We have to be ready for the possible surprises.”
Sabato was speaking the day after Romney’s crushing primary win in Puerto Rico, where he garnered 83 percent of the vote. He said Santorum, Romney’s main rival, made a mistake spending time there, when he never stood a chance, even before angering many islanders when he said they should speak English if they want statehood.
“It was always in the cards that Romney was going to win and Santorum was going to lose. Why he spent a couple of days in Puerto Rico I can’t tell you. It makes no sense to me unless he wanted to take a vacation.”
Looking forward to the general election in November, Sabato said Romney will carry the South easily, despite his weakness there in the primaries.
“Any candidate with an ‘R’ next to his name is going to win the vast majority of the South — and that includes even Mitt Romney, even with the Mormon problem, even being seen as too moderate by more conservative southerners.”
He pointed out that Barack Obama won only Virginia, Florida, and North Carolina in 2008. “I’ll be surprised if he wins all three of them this time. He said Obama has his best chance in Virginia, and while he could win Florida, he still has “a lot of fence-building to do there.” However, he said he would be “very surprised if North Carolina ends up going Democratic again.”
“Florida is going to be critical for Republican chances,” Sabato said. “It is possible to find several pathways to 270 [Electoral College votes] for Obama without Florida, but it is really-difficult-to-almost-impossible to find one for a Republican.
“So the Republican nominee, presumably Mitt Romney, will have to do well in Florida. Let’s remember he did very well in the primary and that is one reason why Romney spent as heavily as he did. It wasn’t simply to turn things around from South Carolina and defeat Newt Gingrich, it was also to prepare the way for the general election.”
He said he does not believe the Democrats will win enough seats to retake the House in November. “We would think Democrats would gain maybe 10, at most 15 seats, we don’t think it’s going to come anywhere close to the 25 they need.”
But the Senate is a tossup, especially since moderate Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine announced she would not be standing.
“We now see that as being 51-49 in either direction, it’s not impossible it could turn out to be a 50-50 Senate with the vice-president breaking the tie.”
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