The Florida GOP may have lost the battle against South Carolina for which state will be the first primary in the South, but the indecisiveness of Republican voters, not being able to back one candidate, seems to be making Florida’s “2nd in the South” primary the final word in the GOP nomination race.
No offense to my home state of South Carolina, but it’s unlikely that the candidate who wins its “1st in the South” primary will undoubtedly go on to win the nomination; making last year’s animosity between these state’s GOP organizations foolish.
Of the three front runners, Mitt Romney’s lead is so statistically insignificant that despite worries about the other candidates’ general unelectability, Iowans seem eager to snub the preference of the rest of the nation. So far, there is no chance any candidate will be able to beat Romney in the New Hampshire Primary, but even if he takes Iowa — winning 2 out of 3 early contests — South Carolina will almost certainly reject him. Newt Ginrich is holding strong in South Carolina and local attitudes are largely anti-Romney. The anti-Romney fervor is the reason Gingrich’s poll numbers haven’t fallen as sharply here as in other states
A Ron Paul win in Iowa will mean absolutely nothing than the characteristic show of hard-headed Iowan mentality, since he has no shot at winning New Hampshire or South Carolina. Ron Paul supporters who will undoubtedly vehemently disagree with me: I look forward to proving you wrong, as always.
Rick Santorum, who nevertheless best matches a typical Iowa winner and is by all appearances a solid conservative, does not stand a chance in New Hampshire and will not have enough time to engineer a lead in South Carolina, since he has so far dedicated all of his campaign resources into Iowa and has no presence in “The Palmetto State.”
Therefore, after the South Carolina Primary, no candidate will have won more than one contest. Romney may win two, but winning just one contest more than any other candidate will not silence Romney haters. Romney’s persona and message does not ring well in the “Deep South” — few “yankee” Republicans do.
Clearly, that leaves Florida, whose voters should consider themselves lucky to have lost the chance to have their primary precede South Carolina’s. It will be the tie breaker.
Florida polls have so far been lock-step with South Carolina, maybe even setting the trends, as seen when Herman Cain’s Florida Straw Poll victory gave him a lead in both states.
Along with its position on the primary calendar, Florida is noteworthy for having a more diverse GOP field that includes not only conservative white Christians like South Carolina, but has a significant number of Conservative Jews and Hispanics. Their GOP is also more diverse in ideology, a better reflection of the national Republican Party.
If South Carolina was the fourth nomination contest, the chance of a candidate other than Mitt Romney winning the nomination would be much higher. The current schedule means that Mitt Romney has a very good chance of locking it in Florida — no matter who wins Iowa or South Carolina — if Gingrich is unsuccessful in turning around his falling poll numbers nationally, but especially in Florida.
Even though it’s amusing to speculate about and watch the Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries, they won’t matter as much in the general race as their respective GOP establishments would like voters to believe.
Dmitriy Shapiro can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @dmitriyshapiro