Polling results continue to indicate that Mitt Romney should win the New Hampshire Primary tomorrow, which would put him in position to likely wrap up the Republican nomination for President should he win in South Carolina on January 21.
Putting aside whether or not Romney can win in South Carolina, it’s worth wondering whether or not it would be good for Romney and Republicans if he were to seal the deal so early in the process. As “The Fix” explains:
Regardless of whether Romney could handle a short primary season, a longer one is likely to help more. Although more primaries mean more money spent and more time expended on a fight within one party, it also means scads of news media attention – the press would much rather cover an active race than one in which the ultimate vote won’t come for nine months or more – and the chance to run a series of real campaigns in states that will be competitive in the general election.
In practical terms, Romney and his team don’t care when they win the nomination – as long as they do win it. But a look at recent presidential history suggests that a quick victory may provide short-term gain in exchange for long-term political pain.
“It’s like sitting your starters in football,” Matt Bennett, who was a Clinton administration official, said of a short primary. “The rest may feel good and prevent injury, but it doesn’t steel you for the championship.” (Ask the 2009 Colts or John Kerry).
We don’t normally subscribe to the idea that Primaries are good for candidates. Heated primaries in Congressional or Senate races are often more harmful than good because local media no longer has the size and capability to really provide serious coverage; the winning candidate gets all the downside of a tough Primary (negative ads, etc.) without the benefit of significant earned media coverage.
The race for President is the exception to that rule, in our minds, because a protracted primary fight really does generate tons of free press. If Romney wraps up the nomination by February, Republicans no longer will get the lion’s share of the political coverage because the media will immediately turn its attention to the matchup with President Obama. We don’t disagree that Romney just wants the nomination however he can get it, but the best-case scenario for he and his party would be a few more months with the spotlight to themselves.