The one thing I've always loved about campaigns and politics is the uncertainty, the unpredictability. It's like the twists and turns of a good thriller, one where you think you've figured out who did it but then — BAM! — you're left with your jaw dropped saying "I didn't see that coming."
And so it is with the storyline of the GOP primary. Just when you think you've figured out who is going to get it (the nomination) — ZAP! — the Iowa and Colorado caucuses twist the political plot in a new direction. When it seems the GOP and it’s contenders for the presidency have backed the White House (and Democrats) into a tough spot on the issue of religious liberty —POW! — they wind up getting skewered on the issue of women’s health.
Just as the dust finally settled on those earlier contests and you were starting to feel Mitt Romney had this nomination thing under control, up pops the mother of all plot twists: Super Tuesday. Using “Conventional Wisdom” at this point was virtually oxymoronic. Party officials, mega-donors, and the campaigns themselves saw too many ways this Super Tuesday worm could turn and did the only thing they could do: complain. The hand-wringing and head-scratching about the GOP primary process was just the beginning. Soon enough, the Romney campaign and its allies got cantankerous that the process was taking too long. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie went so far as to grumble that the rule requiring early-voting states to award delegates on a proportional basis “was the dumbest idea anybody ever had.” Of course, such sentiments can be expected from the frontrunner and his supporters who increasingly find they have to fend off “lesser candidates” with a greater amount of resources.
But the road to Super Tuesday, indeed the road to the nomination, was built a little differently for 2012. For the first time, more states opened their primaries to independents (and in some cases even Democrats) and allocated their convention delegates on a proportional basis, allowing for “lesser candidates” to have an equal shot at grabbing the brass ring. The result has been, in my estimation, an important step forward for a GOP nominating process that had become stale, predictable and boring. Not to mention, under the old system, once the four to six states had their primary or caucus, Super Tuesday was nothing more than an exclamation point on the choice they had already made. Well, that’s no fun.
However, this week we would witness something completely different as Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul (yes, he’s still running) executed very different strategies that had Romney barely winning Ohio, Santorum stealing Oklahoma and Tennessee, Gingrich with only Georgia on his mind and Paul holding another goose egg — but he still picked up 21 delegates.
And that’s the point. Just as important as the winning (or losing) is pinching a few more delegates here and there and living to fight another day, week or month.
2286 delegates will attend the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August. 1762 are legally bound to a candidate on the first ballot (that’s what all this voting is about). Of those legally bound delegates 1144 are needed to win the nomination. But here’s where the plot thickens. There are only eight winner-take-all states remaining (California, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, Utah and Wisconsin) with a total of 382 delegates. If Romney swept all of these states, he would only get to 786 delegates. He would still be 358 delegates short of the 1,144 needed to secure the nomination before arriving in Tampa this August.
This means he would have to carve his 358 delegates out of the remaining 649 bound delegates — which will be allocated on a proportional basis. With states like Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas (total 297 delegates) tucked inside that 649, the numbers just don’t add up for Mitt to land in Tampa with the nomination in his back pocket. Now that’s what I call a plot twist.
Michael Steele served as the first African-American chairman of the Republican National Committee. He is a former lieutenant governor of Maryland and a political commentator. He will be providing commentary on all things politics for BET.com each week.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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