Thursday, February 7, 2008

Mitt Romney Suspends Presidential Campaign; Ron Paul Still An Alternative To The Emerging John McCain-Mike Huckabee Axis

Only two days after scarfing up 90% of the Republican votes in Utah, sweeping every Utah county, Mitt Romney has decided to piss on the fire and call in the dogs. He announced at the American Conservative Union's CPAC convention that he is suspending his presidential campaign. Full stories published by the Deseret Morning News, and several by the Salt Lake Tribune, HERE, HERE, and HERE, and KSL Channel 5, and KTVX Channel 4, and KUTV Channel 2.

The full text of Romney's "suspension" speech can be viewed HERE.

Actually, the term "suspend" is not the same as "dropping out". Romney's committed delegates remain his for the time being. But Sen. John McCain's campaign just publicized a memo in which they state it is basically impossible for Romney to win.

Romney apparently became more concerned about the potential impact of a Democratic victory in November than a McCain victory. He said that although he disagrees with McCain on a number of issues, but agrees with him on "doing whatever it takes to be successful in Iraq."

"If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win," Romney said. "And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror." He said he will continue to stand for conservative principles and "fight alongside you for all the things we believe in."

"If this were only about me, I would go on," Romney said. "But I entered this race because I love America, and because I love America, I feel I must now stand aside, for our party and for our country."

Romney had spent more than $35 million of his own fortune in his bid for the GOP nomination and some $55 million more in donations, including $5.2 million from Utahns.

Both John McCain and Ron Paul also addressed the CPAC crowd this afternoon. McCain appealed for unity, admitted he needed responsible conservativesto join with him, and grudgingly apologized for not always having met their expectations. Ron Paul chastised McCain for his common ground with Ted Kennedy on immigration and emphasized the need for fiscal conservatism.

The McCain memo, sent out by the campaign on February 5th, stated, in part: "For Mitt Romney to match our delegate count, he would have to win more than 50 percent of those delegates. And, he would have to win nearly every single delegate still available in order to become the nominee. And, many of these contests are proportional, so Mitt will have to win by big margins in many states to garner every last delegate."

Charlie Black, a McCain strategist, pointed out that McCain ended Super Tuesday with 707 delegates, while Romney had 294 and Huckabee 195. The remaining elections have roughly 963 delegates, Black said.

Apparently, Romney, realizing that trying to prevail over both John McCain and Mike Huckabee would be to great of a challenge, decided it was time to call it off. Perhaps had it just been McCain, Romney would have stayed in the race.

An article published in the New York Times attributes the failure of Romney's campaign to three factors; his perceived "flip-flopping" on social issues, misconceptions about Mormonism, and his failure to win either Iowa or New Hampshire.

Romney's withdrawal from the presidential race Thursday caught some of his most devoted supporters by surprise and disappointed many who hoped the nation would elect its first LDS president. The Kansas City Star reports that Missouri's Republican Governor Matt Blunt is particularly disappointed.

Local Utah politicos also expressed disappointment. "I'm very disappointed," said state Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem. "Of course I wanted him to go all the way. But what I view him doing is that he's withdrawing now for the benefit of the party."

Utah's Third District Republican Rep. Chris Cannon said that he has "no doubt that Mitt Romney will represent the Republican Party and conservative causes in the years to come. Today, Mitt Romney put the need to defeat the Clinton/Obama axis ahead of his own ambition. And I know Mitt well enough to know that he will do everything he can to help the Republican Party be successful in this pivotal election year. We need his voice and his energy, and I am confident both will play an important role in the months and years to come.."

"There'll be a fairly strong sense of disappointment," said University of Utah political scientist Matthew Burbank. "John McCain, for whatever set of reasons, has never been all that popular with Utah voters." Burbank also believes that Utah Republicans will come around to support McCain in a general election. Utah is one of the nation's most conservative states, and President Bush won re-election in 2004 with 72 percent of the vote.

Validating Burbank's contention about McCain is a BYU poll discussed by the Deseret Morning News, which shows that McCain would defeat Obama in Utah 55% to 45%. That same poll, however, shows that Obama would defeat Huckabee 58% to 42%, although Huckabee would defeat Hillary 60% to 40%.

Commentary: Though the establishment downplays it, Republicans still have a legitimate alternative to the emerging John McCain-Mike Huckabee axis, which many believe will lead to a formal ticket. We do NOT have to accept the establishment's anointed ticket.

Ron Paul remains a viable alternative. Though few in delegates, Ron Paul is still flush with cash, and his performance in primaries continues to improve, beginning to hit double-digit percentages more frequently. Many Romney supporters, particularly those in Utah, will find it natural to take a second look at Ron Paul's candidacy, which promotes values of patriotism, self-reliance, and personal responsibility quite compatible with those of the predominant LDS culture.

National list of Ron Paul Meetup groups HERE; Utah list HERE.

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