The longer the presidential race lasts, the better for Mitt Romney’s chances and the worse for Rick Perry’s.
That’s partly because five Northeastern states that the former Massachusetts governor is almost guaranteed to win (unless New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie enters the race) are scheduled for April 24, according to a Politico analysis of the primary schedule.
The schedule, of course, is still very open to change. But here is how the news service sizes things up now.
The GOP’s move to have delegates divided proportionally in each state as opposed to winner-take-all makes it more difficult for a candidate to amass a large early lead, keeping the race competitive for a longer period and making later primaries more important.
Romney’s side was able to influence the schedule and is still trying to move up the dates for states he’s likely to win.
“I talked to the Romney people and said, ‘Is this important for you?’ And they said, ‘A win is a win, and delegate votes may really count,’ ” Utah Lt. Gov. Greg Bell, a Romney supporter, told the Salt Lake Tribune this summer, discussing the Romney side’s efforts to shift the Utah primary to spring from late June.
As it stands now, the race is unlikely to be decided early and could even run through all 50 states, similar to the Democratic race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2008.
“I think it’s going to be a dogfight,” said Democratic pollster John Anzalone. “I don’t think it’s going to be as long a dogfight as Clinton-Obama, but I think it’s going to be a week-by-week trench warfare battle between these two guys.”
Romney and Texas Gov. Perry could well be running neck-and-neck after the early primaries.
Perry is the front-runner in Iowa, South Carolina, and the now-likely Feb. 7 Missouri primary. Romney leads in New Hampshire, Nevada, and Michigan, which is scheduled for Feb. 28. Other important early states, such as Florida and Arizona, rate a tossup.
After the four traditional early states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina), “it becomes a real game of electoral math,” said Phil Musser, a Republican consultant who isn’t tied to any candidate. “I suspect that the Romney people are the only ones to really, truly focus on this map with any seriousness.”
A smaller-than-usual Super Tuesday is set for March 6 — about 10 states compared with 24 in 2008. Perry has the edge in these, as they include Texas and some other Southern states.
A few small southern states have primaries after that in March. And then the calendar turns in Romney’s favor, particularly April 24, with its races in blue states.
Politico’s five most likely outcomes:
1. Romney Wins Early
That seems improbable now, but Republicans have a history of choosing their nominees early.
“I tend to think despite the Obama-Clinton example from 2008, that the odds favor an earlier rather than a later resolution,” said University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato.
If Romney can amass major victories in New Hampshire and Nevada and produce respectable showings in Iowa and South Carolina, that could propel him to victory in other pre-Super Tuesday states such as Florida and Arizona.
2. Perry Wins Early
Given the preponderance of southern states on Super Tuesday, Perry has a chance to clean up in the early states and then dominate Super Tuesday. In addition to possible victories in Iowa and South Carolina, Perry has a good chance in Nevada and Missouri as well.
“If Perry wins Nevada . . . it puts some more pressure on Romney,” said Davidson College political scientist Josh Putnam.
3. The Illinois Pivot
After the Illinois primary of March 20, half the delegates will have been allocated. The Illinois election could spark a Romney rebound after a poor Super Tuesday or launch Perry toward the nomination.
4. A Northeast Knockout
Romney has a chance to put Perry away in the April 24 primaries, which are being held in five Northeastern states, including biggies New York and Pennsylvania.
5. The Long Slog
This is the Obama-Clinton model, which could play out if neither Super Tuesday nor the Northeastern states decide the race. Then California and New Jersey could determine the winner June 5. That scenario favors Romney, given that he can finance his own campaign.
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