I’m flattered to be welcomed by Karl Rove, writing in today’s Wall Street Journal, to membership in the GOP establishment. I’m even more pleased by Rove’s statement that “No group of power brokers can pressure others into uniting behind one candidate. Millions of primary voters and caucus-goers will select the GOP's nominee. That's good enough for most of us.”
It’s certainly good enough for me.
But how is a professed deference to “millions of primary voters” consistent with the statement, a couple of paragraphs earlier, that “South Carolina will be the last chance for several candidates”? Why would South Carolina be the last chance? Rove explains: “It will be hard to justify going on after being at the back of the pack in three contests—especially with Florida's 10 expensive media markets and four million registered Republican voters for this closed primary looming at month’s end.”
But if South Carolina is to be “the last chance for several candidates,” then who would be left, per Rove, for the “millions of primary voters and caucus-goers” in the remaining 47 states to select among? Can’t all or almost all the candidates at least “justify” going on to Florida on January 31, where the total vote count for the Republican primaries will pass one million? Otherwise, “millions of primary voters and caucus-goers” will not in fact have selected the GOP nominee—it will have been several hundred thousand voters, in only three states. And even after Florida, there will have been less than three million votes cast. The Democratic race in 2008 didn’t conclude until 40 million votes had been cast. And, I’d note, Barack Obama did better in the 2008 general election than his predecessors who had clinched the race earlier—better than John Kerry in 2004, better than George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000, and better than Bob Dole in 1996.
Rove is of course right, to a point: Whatever happens in South Carolina, it will be daunting to stay in against the Romney juggernaut. That’s not because Romney has rolled up so many votes (25 percent in Iowa and 39 percent in New Hampshire aren’t show stoppers, after all), but because of the Romney organization and money. (Rove himself suggests the centrality of money when he refers to “Florida’s 10 expensive media markets.”) Romney deserves credit for putting together his organization and amassing all that money. Those factors, along with other qualities, may well propel him to the nomination.
Fair enough. Money matters. But do we really want a Republican party where money talks, and candidates walk?