With the Florida Primary looming less than 10 days away, the GOP has still been unable to get closer to anointing a front-runner to unseat Barack Obama from the White House. Just a few weeks ago it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Mitt Romney would be the Republican presidential nominee. Unfortunately for him (yet thankfully for those who enjoy wild elections) his missteps have prolonged the race. With three events producing three different winners, amassing the necessary 1144 delegates is going to be a beat down, drag out, street fight. Here is the Answers From Men betting guide to the Republican Party Florida Presidential Primary of 2012.
Governor Romney totally screwed himself. Prior to all the voting he had all the momentum, all the money, the “most electable” mantra, and the public’s sense of inevitability. As the voting began he still had all of those things going for him; all Romney had to do was keep close in Iowa, and all would be well. By the time the candidates moved from Iowa to New Hampshire, Romney had won Iowa by a grand total of 8 votes over upstart Rick Santorum, but that was completely acceptable because everyone expected a 1st or 2nd place finish. Furthermore, the only question concerning New Hampshire was not if Romney was going to win, but if he would win by double digits or not. Three days before South Carolina the Romney train was rolling as he had won Iowa by a nose, won New Hampshire by more than 10%, secured the endorsement from South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, and poll numbers had him leading in South Carolina by a very comfortable margin. All that turned on its head the next day as Rick Santorum was declared the winner of Iowa, Rick Perry dropped out of the race and gave Newt Gingrich a strong endorsement, Gingrich provided yet another stellar debate performance, Romney admitted that his effective tax rate is roughly 15% (roughly around half that of his competitors and Barack Obama), and Romney flubbed impressively for the second time in the week regarding the release of his tax returns. The result was a landslide Gingrich victory in South Carolina and lots of questions for the alleged front-runners campaign. For a guy everyone assumed would have the nomination rapped up by early February, Romney has won only 1 of the 3 events and he’s facing a surging conservative candidate in Gingrich. All that being said, Romney is still the one to beat. He’s currently favored in Florida, he’s got foot soldiers covering the state, and he’s got the money to spend on commercials to slam Gingrich. This tactic worked in Iowa, so it may succeed in Florida, which is a state that requires candidates to spend significantly to garner substantial votes. Gingrich and Santorum still split the conservative vote, Ron Paul will always have a group of supporters, so Romney only has to be the best of a plurality, as opposed to outdueling someone one-on-one. Until/unless Gingrich or Santorum drop out, he’s going to be the nominee. Lastly, not only do Romney’s two biggest adversaries split the conservative vote, they also will have a hard time flooding the airwaves in opposition to Romney. He may be flawed, robotic, a “vulture capitalist,” and unable to properly defend his wealth, but he’s still the candidate best positioned to win.
Odds to win Florida: 2 to 1
The former Speaker’s meteoric ascent during the last 48 hours of South Carolina was absolutely legendary. He was positioned to finish in a distant 2nd or 3rd, but robust debate performances pushed him to a huge victory. A well coffered super PAC supporting his candidacy (and repeatedly slamming Romney) didn’t do much good, but Gingrich’s verbal assault on CNN debate moderator Jeff King catapulted him to the early delegate lead. It’s expected that Gingrich will do well in the next two debates, but with the talk of his tax returns behind him, so should Romney. Moreover, Romney and others will more than likely call for Gingrich to release his income reports from Freddie Mac, and the details behind his ethics scandal which ultimately produced his resignation from congress. Gingrich’s appeal is scorching hot right now, but Florida is not the best state for him at this point. It’s not overly conservative, it’s very large so finances are a legitimate concern (Gingrich’s campaign pockets are laced less than one-tenth as much as Romney’s), and Florida is having considerable real estate problems. The housing issue is quite noteworthy for Gingrich because of his ties to federal home loan mortgage corporation Freddie Mac. With all that surrounds Gingrich, he’s the Florida wild card. He could pull out a 1st place finish, but more than likely he will fall in line right behind Romney. That doesn’t help him much since Florida is a winner take all state, but that’s unfortunately how it’s probably going to end up for the former Speaker.
Odds to win Florida: 5 to 1
The former senator from Pennsylvania has had an interesting last few weeks. He rode an enormous wave to a victory in Iowa, but the momentum from his triumph didn’t stand a chance against Romney’s home-field advantage in New Hampshire. Santorum finished a disappointing 3rd, much closer to 4th place Gingrich than 2nd place Ron Paul. South Carolina provided unsatisfactory results, as Santorum was also a victim of the Gingrich explosion, and finished a distant 3rd. If it weren’t for Gingrich’s stupendous debate 2 days before the primary, Santorum possibly could have maintained his buzz as the non-Romney candidate. The former senator has already secured the evangelical Christian vote, but that’s not very significant in Florida. In addition, he can’t steal the staunchly conservative vote completely because Gingrich’s popularity remains consistently high. Considering his solid 3rd place position, Santorum’s best chance is to hope that the bombs Romney and Gingrich throw at each other are so severe that he can climb out from the rubble to edge one of them out for a victory.
Odds to win Florida: 10 to 1
Dr. Paul’s campaign is not planning to win Florida. In their estimation it takes several millions of dollars to win the state, and considering that it is a winner take all delegate scenario, they figure it’s not worth the gamble. Paul has a legion of passionate followers, but his message isn’t especially popular with an older, retiree population … exactly what Florida is. His team has moved on and plans to amass delegates by making a big charge on Super Tuesday and winning a large number of caucuses in smaller states.
Odds to win Florida: 100 to 1