“Nothing is more killing in politics than boredom.” Newt Gingrich, January 2008
Newt (the irrepressible) hit on something four years ago: closing down the nomination race too early–however much a top contender might prefer that result–is probably not in the best interest of the party. For good or ill, the nomination process today is structured as a marathon; for the race to end almost before it begins would leave voters uneasy and journalists with too much free time, which can only lead to mischief. So it is best for the tie being for the contest to remain where it is: unresolved.
As for the sport of odds making, a few weeks back I opined (partly to highlight a point) the following: Romney 80%, someone else in the field of active candidates 3%, and 17% for a candidate not now active (e.g., Ryan, Jeb etc.). The thinking was that Romney was the only really viable choice of the lot–and that if he could not really pull out a strong plurality (go through the primary schedule and do the math), an ongoing brokering process involving the people, internet, delegates could “meet” and at some point put someone else forward, so to speak. I imagine that the option would probably come as a ticket, with the presidential and vice presidential nominees being paired. Again, an unlikely though not impossible scenario.
Has Newt’s surge changed the odds? The three percent was really only a “shock” number (At the time, the alternatives to Mitt were Herman Cain and a just rising Newt.) As for wondering about either of those two becoming the nominee, I suppose I was still somewhat “stuck on virtue,” seduced by those rhetorical passages in The Federalist that speak of the Founders’ expectations for the selection process (admittedly, a very different process than the current one). Here’s a couple of them: (a) “their votes will be directed to those men only who have become the most distinguished by their abilities and virtue, and in whom the people perceive just grounds for confidence” (Fed. #64) (b) “It will not be too strong to say, that there will be a constant probability of seeing the station filled by characters pre-eminent for ability and virtue” (Fed. #68). (Well, maybe it is a little strong!)
In any case, if you set aside the risk that certain candidate weaknesses will become more evident over the campaign, it is better that it should continue. Romney’s new line that he will have to “work for the votes” is something that would certainly be good for him; he’s a person who would only gain by doing more to connect with the voters: That which would not kill him would only make him stronger. Plus a real challenge helps to build up the organization. Newt will no doubt confine himself mostly to the studios, where he performs so well, launching a self-proclaimed new big idea at a rate of one every five minutes.
So for the moment, fasten your seat belts. It may not be so boring. And after all, what else is a blog for?