Presidential candidate Mitt Romney expanded his lead on Super Tuesday, but the narrow margin of victory suggests that he will not secure the nomination anytime soon. Since Romney is not accumulating enough delegates to win the nomination before the convention in August, many Republicans worry that the long process will damage the party and deny them a victory in November.
"And here's why D.C. GOP teeth are gnashing so fiercely and loudly: It won't be over for a while," Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, wrote Wednesday.
None of Romney's rivals have a realistic chance of winning the nomination, but as long as they remain in the race, a contested convention becomes more likely.
"Consider this: if Mitt wins every remaining all-or-nothing state but one, and half of the remaining proportional delegates, he would likely still fall short of the magic nomination number of 1,144 – which would force him to rely on unpledged delegates, the Republican version of the infamous Democratic super-delegates in 2008, to claim his party's mantle," John Avlon and Ben Jacobs wrote Wednesday for The Daily Beast.
Romney barely won Ohio on Super Tuesday and continued to show weakness in the South. He lost Tennessee to Santorum by almost 10 percentage points (28 to 37.3 percent) and he lost Georgia to Newt Gingrich by more than 20 percentage points (25.7 to 47.4 percent). He won Virginia with almost 60 percent of the vote, but that was because he and Ron Paul were the only candidates on the ballot.
Overall, Romney won six of the 10 Super Tuesday states – Ohio, Virginia, Massachusetts, Idaho, Alaska and Vermont, and his main rival, Santorum, won three states – Tennessee, Oklahoma and North Dakota.
With Romney unable to secure the nomination early and with none of his rivals able to win the nomination, political strategist Dick Morris explained the dilemma Republicans face in a Tuesday editorial for The Hill.
The only way that Santorum or Gingrich could win the nomination, Morris explains, is to deny Romney enough delegates to secure the nomination and force a contested vote at the convention. Morris believes, though, that the fight would almost guarantee a victory of President Obama in the general election.
"If the Republican Party does not have a nominee until Sept. 1 and we have to spend the next six months watching these candidates beating the living hell out of one another, you can kiss our chances of defeating Obama goodbye," Morris writes.
The Romney campaign is making the same point.
A Wednesday blog post on the Romney campaign website, titled "Our Opponents' Last Stand: A Postmortem," stated, "Super Tuesday dramatically reduced the likelihood that any of Governor Romney's opponents can obtain the Republican nomination. As Governor Romney's opponents attempt to ignore the basic principles of math, the only person's odds of winning they are increasing are President Obama's."