Saturday, January 21, 2012
South Carolina thoughts: What Romney, Gingrich, Paul, and Santorum needs to do now..
South Carolina results are in and Newt Gingrich didn't just beat Mitt Romney, he demolished him as effectively as Romney demolished the competition in New Hampshire. Some people on the internet are upset about this and claiming the Republicans are fractured and grasping at straws. I think this is where things get fun actually. The continuously shifting momentum isn't really a problem as long as it produces a stronger overall candidate in the end. I do have some thoughts on what each of the remaining candidates need to do now though:
Romney has to prove he can appeal to more than 20-30% of the Republican voters, something he has failed to do so far. If he can't, he's screwed. For that (and some other reasons), I personally think that the DNC would prefer to run against Romney than any of the others, but explaining that takes more time than I have right now.
Gingrich has to prove this win wasn't a fluke and that he can adequately counter the concerns about his past (whether those are political or personal) and improve his negative perception numbers. He has momentum on his side right now, and he typically gains the most from the debates, but there are a lot of people out there that still have very negative feelings about him and he needs to win some more of them over. I was one of them, so I know it's possible, but it takes effort on the voters part and that's not something I'd want to be relying on... Voters are lazy. He needs to find a way to make the Republicans that can't stand him now, for one reason or another, more comfortable with the idea of a Gingrich nominee.
Santorum needs money and organization to start doing better again, but I don't think he will. His stances are too extreme even for many social conservatives and he is possibly the worst overall speaker of the bunch. If he continues the tactics that failed him during the S.C. debates of lashing out at all his opponents with exaggerated (and occasionally false) attacks, I think what momentum he has will fade and his campaign will be over in the next few weeks. He would have to replace his attacks, despite his statement tonight that he is running a positive campaign, with real substance and plans, something that he has yet to really do. His pro-family views appeal to some conservatives and we all know by now that he wants to get manufacturing going again, but how any of that translates into policy or action has been poorly defined in debates or ads so far. Any chance for his campaign to survive requires fixing that issue.
As for Ron Paul... well, I don't know that he has to prove anything. He's done better than most early media assessments thought he could, and his message has appealed enough to the voters that all the other candidates are paying attention and adopting more and more of his principles. He seems very happy with that and I'm honestly not sure if Dr. Paul actually wants to be president or not. If he does, he needs to have a primary win and soon to allow him to get enough momentum to have a shot at the nomination. To do that he needs to focus on his strengths and shy away from the issues people aren't comfortable with, like his stance on Iran. Personally, I think he should start talking about how he would fix healthcare. As a physician this should be a strong point for him, but he hasn't used it to his advantage yet and I don't understand why. He also needs to stop rambling during speeches and debates because it's pulling him off his message and dilutes his natural passion. If he can do those things he's still very much in the game and I personally think he has a better shot than Santorum at remaining a viable candidate.
But those are just my ramblings, I'd like to hear your ideas on this one. Reply below and let me know what you think!