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Don’t Buy Into the Establishment’s “Inevitability Strategy”

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There seems to be a determined chorus coming from Republican party leaders and insiders pushing the idea that it’s time for Rick Santorum to get out of the primary race and arguing the inevitability of a Romney victory. The strategy now seems to be to just discourage Republican voters, telling them Romney is going to win so there’s no point in even looking for alternatives. It’s a desperate kind of strategy which might lead to many Republicans staying home in November…

The lead cheerleader for throwing in the towel and giving it all to Romney seems to be Karl Rove who is likely to be acting as a flak for the establishment, describing Santorum as a desperate, fading candidate.

Rove may be right about the hopelessness of Santorum’s campaign. The latest poll shows Santorum losing his own home state of Pennsylvania to Romney, and prospects are not good for him in many of the major remaining states. The inevitability of a Santorum defeat, however, is not the inevitability of a Romney win, no matter how much the insiders climbing on his bandwagon want it to be.

The problem is that despite the hopeful claims Rove is making, the delegate math just doesn’t support his theory of inevitability, and the ongoing chorus of big name endorsements doesn’t seem to be helping Romney much either, since the same concerns which have alienated much of the party from Romney also make them unresponsive to establishment leaders.

Take a look at the numbers. There are 1089 delegates to be assigned in the remaining primaries. To reach the magic number of 1144 Romney needs 588 more delegates. That’s 53.9% of the remaining delegates. That seems achievable. By the accepted estimates Romney has averaged 60% of the delegates so far. In theory, if that trend continues, he will eventually end up with 653 more delegates for a total of 1231, 42 more than he needs.

The problem with this theory is that it assumes that delegate estimates largely based on the initial popular vote in past primaries are accurate. Yet in most of those states there is only a very rough relationship between the popular vote and how delegates are assigned. Delegates are actually chosen through arcane hierarchies of caucuses and conventions which give an advantage to candidates with strong grassroots support, which is Romney’s weak point.

While most media estimates put Ron Paul’s delegate count at around 30-50 delegates, there are reliable reports from a number of states that Paul has far more delegates than most estimates give him – by as many as 70 or more at this point. Despite shameful attempts to manipulate the system it appears that states whose delegates were credited to Romney are actually going in part or total to Paul. Not enough to win Paul the nomination, but enough to deny Romney the inevitability of his victory.

In fact, the actual delegate totals from most of the states where the elections ended months ago, won’t actually be final until later this summer, and in the meantime only Paul has people on the ground working in every state to advance his interests and increase his delegate count. They are chipping away at the other candidates and when real, final delegate numbers are revealed it seems quite likely that Romney will be much shorter of the mark than anyone realizes.

To a large extent the goal of all of the players except for Romney is to avoid a first-ballot win. If they can get to the convention with no clear winner, then deals can be made and votes can be changed on later ballots and there will be concessions to be won by someone. Romney may indeed end up being the nominee, but no one wants him to get there too easily. And in the end it’s quite likely that the big payoff will be to Ron Paul, because if he has enough delegates to get Romney to 1144, then a deal with him would be much more attractive and require fewer hard to swallow concessions than a deal with one of the other candidates.

The purpose of the “inevitability strategy” is to avoid the outcome of a convention where deals have to be made. Deals benefit the grassroots. They mean safeguards and accountability and concessions to groups which don’t like the party establishment much at all. It’s a strategy which might give Obama the win in November, but those who are pushing it would rather keep control of a losing minority party than make concessions and give up some of their control to what they see as barbarians pounding at the gate, though others may see them as a hope for a future for an aging and increasingly irrelevant party.

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About Dave Nalle

Dave Nalle is Executive Director of the Texas Liberty Foundation, Chairman of the Center for Foreign and Defense Policy, South Central Regional Director for the Republican Liberty Caucus and an advisory board member at the Coalition to Reduce Spending. He was Texas State Director for the Gary Johnson Presidential campaign, an adviser to the Ted Cruz senatorial campaign, Communications Director for the Travis County Republican Party and National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus. He has also consulted on many political campaigns, specializing in messaging. Before focusing on political activism, he owned or was a partner in several businesses in the publishing industry and taught college-level history for 20 years.
  • zingzing

    “hope for a future for an aging and increasingly irrelevant party.”

    quite an admission there, dave. although i see the current young-ish/new crop of republicans as a bit reactionary and single-minded to the point of stupidity, there has to be some opposition. something has to keep the more loony ideas of the liberals in check… the cartoon version of conservatism that is the tea party won’t do, the bloody version that is the neocons won’t do either.

    way i see it is that conservatives are going to lose this time around. might be wrong, but unless the economy takes a nosedive, romney et al are just wasting time and money and reputations. the party and its base were fired up in 2010, but i don’t really see that anymore. the whole “hope and change” thing that the tea party covertly promoted didn’t pan out (where are the job bills?). and this whole war against women thing isn’t polling well. and many minorities are alienated by them. so… they’ve kinda failed the people that voted for them, half the population and the fastest growing portion of the population all in one. flash in the pan.

    i’d just offer up your most reasonable candidate as the sacrificial lamb and get to rebranding around a group of people a little less insane than the likes of the tea party and rick santorum. romney may just be the goat you’re looking for. romney’ll eat that shit. romney’ll eat anything. romney’s your goat.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    The GOP’s been under a siege mentality since the 2006 midterm election cycle. They can see the changing electorate: it’s browner, more tolerant of those who are different, and the younger generation which is most liberal of all is slowly replacing the old, white, and (thanks to the GOP’s War on Women) mostly male conservative voting bloc. It is as Obama said – today, even Reagan couldn’t make it through the GOP primary – he’d be tarred-and-feathered as a tax-and-spend RINO. And then there’s Georgia’s new anti-abortion law that will force women to give birth to fetuses that both the doctors and the mothers KNOW are not viable and will die within a day of birth.

    After this election, the GOP’s going to do a lot of soul-searching, wondering where they went wrong. But they won’t understand. Why? I can boil it down to one word: tolerance. The GOP has forgotten what that word meant.

  • Again, you’re both looking at the GOP as if it’s some monolithic entity. Yes, the leadership is clueless and stupid, but increasingly the base of the party is more open-minded and diverse than you give it credit for. The problem is that the leadership needs to get the hell out of the way and certain entrenched interest groups need to be pushed aside if the party is going to move forward.


  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dave –

    The problem isn’t the leadership – it’s the Pandora’s Box of conservative radio talk show hosts and Fox News that vilifies anything remotely associated with liberal and/or Democratic politics. Back before the mid-1990’s, the Republicans knew that anthropogenic global warming was real. They knew that an individual mandate for health care was a good thing that would work. They were not afraid to negotiate and compromise to pass crucial legislation. But now no Republican politician dares cross the line…for Fox News and the talk show hosts will make damned sure they won’t get reelected.

    I’m sorry, Dave, but you’ve got a media hydra on your hands that’s driving your party ever further to the right to the point that John Boehner had to brief Rush Limbaugh on the debt ceiling plan before he briefed his own caucus.

    Whatever your own opinions may be, Dave, you’ve gotta admit that the talk show hosts and Fox News have waaaaay too much influence on the Republican party.

  • Zingzing

    I don’t know what part of #1 said “monolithic” to you, Dave. And it seems to me that the leadership and interest groups aren’t the only problems the party faces. Part of the base has become irrational. The party as a whole has shifted too far to the right.

  • Igor

    #5-Zing is right. The party is too wacky. By shifting so far to the right, to preclude any hint of moderation, the republicans have closed the door on reasonable people, and all they have left are the Creationists, Muslim-haters, ultra-christians, oakies, n*gger-haters, uneducated, …etc.

    They have CONSCIOUSLY and purposely excluded anyone who isn’t ruled by some severe doctrine.

    When all 7 (or 9 or whatever it was) candidates volunteered that they disbelieved evolution I knew they were sunk. IMO a reasonable person could see how a reasonable person might disagree with evolution, especially in some of it’s particulars, but that response was just a pure appeal to the Luddites. And a demand that any supporter MUST be anti-evolution.

    IMO the stupidity and rigidity of the republicans have deprived the USA voting public of a good alternative to Obama, which I, for one, would like to have available, since I have many misgivings about the Obama administration.

  • Clavos


    Would you consider (and vote for) a Democratic candidate whose political platform dovetailed neatly with your own ideas but who was an atheist?

  • Baronius

    Most people have Romney in the mid-600’s; Dave has him at 556 (and doesn’t have much confidence in him holding onto them). Let’s split the difference and put him at 600. That means Romney needs 544.

    New York, New Jersey, and Utah have winner-take-all primaries. Assuming Romney wins those, that gives him 185 more. So he’s down to needing 359.

    The remaining states have 816 delegates. Romney would need to win about 44% of those, not 54%. He’s averaged better than 44% during the first half of the primary season.

    Paul, Dave tells us, has great grassroots support. Then why hasn’t he shown well in the caucus states? And why are Romney’s post-election efforts to gain delegates nefarious, but Paul’s are wholesome? And why would delegates become more likely to break against the voters as Romney gets closer to 1144, and closer to the Convention?

  • Baronius

    And I forgot to question another point the article made: that “deals benefit the grassroots”. Maybe if you take grassroots to mean the newly-positioned apparatchiks, but not if you take grassroots to mean the majority of the voters. The voters, who’ve gone roughly 40% Romney, 30% Santorum, 20% Gingrich, and 10% Paul, don’t benefit by a procedural move toward their fourth choice.

  • Igor

    This long primary season has not served the republicans well. Undoubtedly, Romney will be nominated, but his luster has been dimmed by this campaign. To me the damage comes from his breathtaking rich mans elitism, and confrontation with his business experience, which IMO is sham experience, of the kind I’ve seen too much of in Santa Clara valley. He’s never really built a company, he’s just feasted off other peoples efforts.

    As I said before, the rule-or-ruin lunk-headedness of the republican far right has deprived us of a suitable republican candidate this time.

    Too bad.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Would you consider (and vote for) a Democratic candidate whose political platform dovetailed neatly with your own ideas but who was an atheist?

    I would – and you KNOW I’m a Bible-thumper, too. I really don’t care if he or she is Hindu or Muslim or Buddhist. I would draw the line at some of the more outre religions, of course, but the most important metric is “can this person govern well”.

    FYI, I disagree on Obama with a few things, and certainly more than I disagreed on with Hillary…but he’s shown himself to be very good at governing despite opposition not faced by any other president since the Civil War. The fact that he’s faced such epic opposition should in and of itself should earn him your respect.

  • Igor

    #11-glenn makes a good point: Obama has done much better than anyone has a right to expect in view of the intransigent opposition he’s faced.

  • Clavos

    …opposition not faced by any other president since the Civil War. The fact that he’s faced such epic opposition should in and of itself should earn him your respect.


    Your self-imposed pen name is VERY appropriate, you really are a contrarian; when I see a man opposed to the extent that Obama is, my reaction is a sense of confirmation of my own opinion. As the old saying goes, “fifty million Elvis fans can’t be wrong.”

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Oh, THAT’s good! So if millions of Southerners are racist (and millions there are racist), that means you should be racist, too?

    And last I recall, you’re atheist – so if the majority of Americans believe in God (and most do), then by your logic, you should, too.

    Clavos, you know better than to give me the line you did in #13. If a million people say one thing and one man says another thing, who’s right? Galileo was one who was right against millions who were wrong. LBJ – when it came to the Vietnam War – was one who was wrong against millions who were right. So don’t give me that kind of excuse, Clavos – you know better than that!

  • Glenn Contrarian

    And Clavos –

    Here’s a story that’s pretty humorous – no politics, just a priceless bit of hypocrisy by the Orthodox church over in Russia….

  • Clavos


    Once again, your deficient reading comprehension steers you into a completely erroneous conclusion. You say,

    Oh, THAT’s good! So if millions of Southerners are racist (and millions there are racist), that means you should be racist, too?

    What I actually said was that if millions of others agree with me (in an opinion I already hold independently on my own), then I get a sense of confirmation of the correctness of my opinion. I DID NOT say that I form my opinions by determining where the masses lie on an issue and then adopting that stance, which is what you implied, and the proof of that is precisely the fact that I deny the possibility of the existence of a deity in the face of literally billions of people’s belief worldwide that that imaginary creature exists.

    And again, like most clichés, there is more than a grain of truth in the phrase “fifty million people can’t be wrong.” Indeed, the concept is the basis for the basic tenet of American governance, majority rule.

    So, if the majority of American voters elect a Republican president, they’re all wrong/mistaken/even stupid.

    C’mon, Glenn you know better than that!

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Speaking of problems with reading comprehension, what I was trying to tell you is that whether one person or one million or one billion people believe a certain thing, it has NO BEARING on whether that certain thing is right or factual. And if one billion people think as you do, maybe you get that “sense of confirmation”…but that doesn’t make it right or factual.

    Clavos, I’m a contrarian because I have no problem going against the grain regardless of whose wood it is I’m cutting – I have even done so with the Church of which I’m a member, and I feel a lot stronger about the Church than about any political party. And I’m a Democrat because instead of choosing who I think has the greatest proportion of better ideas, I go with the one who is most likely to actually be able to implement the greatest number of better ideas.

  • Clavos

    whether one person or one million or one billion people believe a certain thing, it has NO BEARING on whether that certain thing is right or factual

    And that, of course, would include your belief in the existence of god, as well as your belief in the probity and competence of Barack Obama.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    That also has a direct bearing on Galileo’s belief in a heliocentric solar system, as opposed to, say, millions of Republicans trying to wish away anthropogenic global warming.

    It’s not how many do or do not believe in a thing. It’s whether the thing is true, or is not true…and that’s why I am no longer a conservative, for if I depended on that “sense of confirmation” that I would get as a conservative in a military career and among my particular circle of friends in the Church, then I’d still be a conservative.

    But that’s not where the facts led.

    As I said above, the very fact that Obama has persevered against opposition not faced by any president since Lincoln should earn your respect…because you neither have to like someone nor agree with them to give them the respect they’ve earned.

  • I respect Obama the same way I respect a rattlesnake…


  • Fifty million Elvis fans ARE wrong!

  • Clavos

    because you neither have to like someone nor agree with them to give them the respect they’ve earned.

    Well, Glenn, I’ll put it this way: I don’t see anything Obama’s done in that regard that merits my respect.

    You can respect him all you want to; it is still a free country (sort of).

  • Clavos

    It’s not how many do or do not believe in a thing…

    Especially true in the case of theism, in which literally billions of people are deluded.

  • Igor

    Dve, You SHOULD respect a rattlesnake. They’re creatures like any other.

    Is there any president you would treat differently?

  • Clavos

    And Chris (@#21): I bet I could say the same thing about at least half of the musicians/singers/groups you like.

    And, as in most things, we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

  • Now Warren, THIS is how you write a political article without looking like an damned fool idiot in the process!

    It is well presented, reasonable and though I don’t agree with some of it, I still RESPECT Dave’s intellect and point of view after reading it ALL THE WAY THROUGH without gasping or giving up not wanting to read any more of it.

    Kudos to Dave

    Perhaps he gives writing courses, Mr. Beatty?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Could you explain the difference between that “sense of confirmation” you referred to, and the proverbial echo chamber?

  • Clavos

    Here’s the answer you’re looking for, Glenn:

    There isn’t any.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    You know that’s the real answer…so what are you going to do about it?

  • Clavos

    Not a thing, Glenn.

  • Clavos

    I don’t do, I just complain.

    It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it…

  • Igor

    IMO, the second amendment is clear:

    “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

    It was intended to enable arming of a citizen militia, probably in case of attack by Indians. It says “people” not “person”.

    It’s clear that the second amendment was to assure a militia, a semi-organized civilian force, that could be called together for mutual defense.