Out here, in the dark quiet of the winter suburban night, it's startling to hear the harsh sounds piercing through the cold air from the direction of Washington, D.C. It takes a while to recognize the sound as the gnashing of thousands of D.C. GOP power brokers' teeth. It was supposed to be over tonight!!! What the hell are the voters doing?!?
What they're doing is, on the one hand, casting more votes for Mitt Romney than for anyone else. But what they're also doing, on the other hand, is denying Romney enough votes to win decisively and end the race.
So it's not over.
And here's why D.C. GOP teeth are gnashing so fiercely and loudly: It won't be over for a while.
Mitt Romney of course remains the clear favorite. But the schedule over the next few weeks does him few favors. There are 14 primaries and caucuses in the next month, including Kansas on March 10, Alabama, Hawaii, and Mississippi on March 13, Missouri on March 17, Illinois on March 20, Louisiana on March 24, and Maryland and Wisconsin on April 3. Rick Santorum will probably hold his own—maybe more than hold his own—against Romney in these contests. (Furthermore, if Santorum can win Alabama and Mississippi next week, Gingrich may either get out or become fairly irrelevant, which would presumably help Santorum.)
Then there are three weeks off in April, so the get-the-race-over-crowd will have lots of free time to stew and gnash until the Northeast weighs in big on April 24, with Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. Which, however, probably won't provide an unambiguous verdict either. So then we'll be on to the merry month of May.
When one tries to do delegate projections, assuming that current voting patterns continue and taking into account various Santorum ballot access problems, one finds that Romney will probably continue to hover at a bit over 50 percent of the delegates chosen. He'll clearly be in the lead. But it's hard to see him amassing so insurmountable a lead by mid-May so as to be able to discourage Santorum from hoping to be able to catch him at the end with a huge victory in Texas on May 29, and then big upsets in California and New Jersey on June 5.
Unlikely? Sure. Impossible? I don't think so.