Mitt Romney’s victory in New Hampshire Tuesday doesn’t cement the former governor’s lead quite as much as he had hoped. Ron Paul came in a strong second – maybe not as strong as Santorum’s close second in Iowa – but strong nonetheless. Since everyone who scores gets some delegates this time around – unlike past years where it was winner-take-all – this leaves Paul with the second most delegates. Now the Paul campaign is urging that everyone other than Romney drop out and unite to defeat Mitt and support Paul.
“Ron Paul tonight had an incredibly strong second-place finish in New Hampshire and has stunned the national media and political establishment,” said campaign chief Jesse Benton in a statement.
“When added to Paul’s top-tier showing in Iowa, it’s clear he is the sole Republican candidate who can take on and defeat both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.
“The race is becoming more clearly a two-man race between establishment candidate Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, the candidate of authentic change. That means there is only one true conservative choice.
“Ron Paul has won more votes in Iowa and New Hampshire than any candidate but Mitt Romney.
“Ron Paul and Mitt Romney have been shown in national polls to be the only two candidates who can defeat Barack Obama.
“And Ron Paul and Mitt Romney are the only two candidates who can run a full, national campaign, competing in state after state over the coming weeks and months. Ron Paul’s fundraising numbers — over $13 million this quarter — also prove he will be able to compete with Mitt Romney. No other candidate can do all of these things.
“Ron Paul is clearly the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney as the campaign goes forward.
“We urge Ron Paul’s opponents who have been unsuccessfully trying to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney to unite by getting out of the race and uniting behind Paul’s candidacy.”
Of course, this is never going to happen. Romney’s enemies may despise him but they tend to despise Paul just as much. It’s dubious that Newt Gingrich could deflate his ego long enough to forget that Paul called him a chickenhawk. Even Newt’s deep-seeded loathing for Romney won’t erase Paul’s own attacks on the former speaker.
Beyond that, while Paul is certainly positioned to run a national race, he may lose momentum in South Carolina. He’s polling around fourth place there behind Santorum, Gingrich, and Romney. No chance anybody but Perry drops out before South Carolina though the bumbling Texas governor doesn’t seem to realize this.
At some point we’ll start to see candidates leaving the race. Huntsman put all his eggs into the New Hampshire basket. If he can’t make headway in South Carolina or Florida I don’t see any reason he’d stick around. Santorum will likely get a boost in South Carolina though that may not last beyond Florida and neither he nor Gingrich have the warchest to keep this act up much longer.
So it is possible – likely even – that sometime in the near future this does become a two-man race between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney. But don’t expect chickenhawks like Gingrich to lend him their support. Santorum and Huntsman are wild cards, but it’s hard for me to imagine either of them going to bat for Paul. Which means he’s on his own, paving the way for his son, Rand Paul, to win in the next election or the election after that.