Fore­cast still cloudy on even­tual Re­pub­li­can pick

The Washington Times Daily - - From Page One - BY RALPH Z. HAL­LOW

De­spite Mitt Rom­ney’s twin wins in Ari­zona and Michi­gan this week, the long slog to clar­ity in the GOP nom­i­na­tion con­test looks set to last well be­yond next week’s Su­per Tues­day pri­maries and could ex­tend well into the spring.

Even with 419 del­e­gates from 10 states at stake next Tues­day — 36 per­cent of the to­tal needed to clinch the nom­i­na­tion — it may be May or later be­fore Mr. Rom­ney or one of his ri­vals fi­nally amasses the req­ui­site num­ber of del­e­gates to end the race.

“In the­ory, Su­per Tues­day could do it for Rom­ney, but it’s un­likely, be­cause, in prac­tice, all the can­di­dates ap­pear poised to stay in,” said Cal­i­for­nia GOP cam­paign con­sul­tant Arnold Stein­berg.

GOP poll­ster Whit Ayres said that, de­pend­ing on the out­come, Su­per Tues­day “could ef­fec­tively end this con­test — or ex­tend it for many more weeks.”

De­spite Mr. Rom­ney’s win in Michi­gan, for ex­am­ple, cur­rent pro­jec­tions are that he and for­mer Penn­syl­va­nia Sen. Rick San­to­rum, the sec­ond-place fin­isher, will both re­ceive 15 del­e­gates to the party con­ven­tion from the state.

Mr. San­to­rum and House Speaker Newt Gin­grich each has one ma­jor donor who is cru­cial to keep­ing their cam­paigns alive fi­nan­cially. Whether their back­ers con­tinue to help bankroll them will de­pend on how each of these back­ers greets the out­come of con­tests later this month — and such im­pon­der­ables as how their can­di­dates re­act to na­tional and world events that could dis­rupt the dy­namic of the cam­paign.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul re­tains his own ar­dent base in the party and is ex­pected to stay in the race through to the con­ven­tion.

Su­per Tues­day of­fers chances for both of Mr. Rom­ney’s top ri­vals to stay in the race. Mr. San­to­rum leads the polls in Ohio — a cru­cial state for the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion — and in sev­eral other states, while Mr. Gin­grich leads in his home state of Ge­or­gia, which has 76 del­e­gates in the big­gest sin­gle prize up for grabs March 6, and he could run strong in other South­ern con­tests.

“Clearly, a world fis­cal cri­sis would put the ball in Mitt’s court ‘Ad­van­tage Mitt,’ ” said Amer­i­can Con­ser­va­tive Union Chair­man Al Car­de­nas. Mr. Rom­ney’s top claim to the pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion is his suc­cess­ful busi­ness and fi­nan­cial­man­age­ment ex­pe­ri­ence in the pri­vate sec­tor.

The hunt for del­e­gates has a long way to go. Based on pro­jec­tions fol­low­ing Tues­day’s vote, Mr. Rom­ney leads the over­all race for del­e­gates, with 167. Mr. San­to­rum has 87 del­e­gates, Mr. Gin­grich has 32 and Mr. Paul has 19. It takes 1,144 del­e­gates to win the Re­pub­li­can nom­i­na­tion for pres­i­dent.

Four years ago, 13 states had win­ner-take-all del­e­gate rules al­low­ing a can­di­date to amass big to­tals in a short pe­riod of time. Just six states this time are not award­ing del­e­gates on a pro­por­tional ba­sis.

One gi­ant un­known is how the race could be re­shaped by a for­eign cri­sis, par­tic­u­larly in the face of soar­ing ten­sions be­tween Is­rael and Iran that could lead to a mil­i­tary strike against Tehran’s nu­clear pro­grams.

Mr. Paul has put him­self squarely in op­po­si­tion to an at­tack on Ira­nian nu­clear en­rich­ment plants, while Mr. Rom­ney, Mr. Gin­grich and Mr. San­to­rum have been hawk­ish to vary­ing de­grees on the sub­ject.

“It de­pends on how can­di­dates han­dle it,” said Mr. Ayres. “Who­ever seems most knowl­edge­able and rea­son­able — who seems the best in a for­eign pol­icy cri­sis — will end up ben­e­fit­ing most.”

An­a­lysts gen­er­ally agreed that ex­cept for Mr. Paul, the can­di­dates would com­pete to be seen as Is­rael’s strong­est cham­pion in the race. The GOP can­di­dates are sched­uled to ad­dress the an­nual Washington gath­er­ing of the pro-is­rael lobby AI­PAC next week.

“The im­pact an Is­raeli at­tack on Iran would have on the race and on each can­di­date in­di­vid­u­ally would be com­pletely de­pen­dent upon what Obama does or doesn’t do,” said for­mer Virginia GOP Chair­man Jeff Fred­er­ick. “The whole de­bate will be if Obama did enough or too lit­tle.”

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