Rupert Cornwell: As the first battle ends, which of these Republicans can win over the nation?

Of Romney's rivals, only Ron Paul has a genuine national organisation, built up in previous runs

Share
Related Topics

To paraphrase Winston Churchill's words about the battle of El Alamein and its place in the Second World War, this month does not signify the end of the race for the Republican presidential nomination, nor even necessarily the beginning of the end. But it is very much the end of the beginning.

Click HERE to view graphic

Within barely three weeks the nature of the campaign will change completely. Retail politics – where candidates go from small town to small town and meet individual voters in the flesh – may be the stuff of yesterday's Iowa caucuses, next Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire and, to a lesser extent, 21 January's South Carolina primary. But after that, the campaign goes wholesale.

For months, Iowa and New Hampshire, two small and demographically unrepresentative states, accounting between them for less than 1.5 per cent of the US population, have hogged all the attention. But thereafter the focus shifts to big states and big media markets, rich in delegates, where candidates deliver their message to voters not in person on the stump, but through costly TV advertising and a ground operation. What counts is not how many hands they shake, but the money, and above all the organisation, at their disposal.

Take Rick Santorum, who according to polls was surging in Iowa, his reward for 200-plus days he has spent in the state, visiting every one of its 99 counties. But the former Pennsylvania Senator won't be able to repeat those tactics again – he simply won't have the time.

Belatedly, donors are opening their wallets; Mr Santorum claims he has raised more money in the last six days than in the six previous months. But momentum, and the money which follows, will not alone suffice. Mr Santorum must now rush to set up campaign infrastructure operations in states where he has barely set foot. Only on Monday did he air his first ads in New Hampshire and South Carolina – and the experience of Mike Huckabee in 2008 underlines the difficulty of his task.

Four years ago, Mr Huckabee mobilised Iowa's social conservatives to deliver a shock defeat to Mitt Romney. But Mr Huckabee would prove no match for the better-known, better-organised and better-financed John McCain, who wrapped up the nomination by March.

For Mr McCain four years ago read Mr Romney now. The first big primary comes in Florida. Even as their man was staging a final blitz in Iowa, the Romney campaign was mailing absentee ballot forms to potential supporters in Florida ahead of the 31 January vote. Mr Santorum cannot hope to match that – indeed no other 2012 Republican can.

Of Mr Romney's six rivals, only Ron Paul has something approaching a genuine national organisation, thanks to a devoted following built up in earlier presidential runs. In terms of money, probably only the Texas governor Rick Perry can match Mr Romney. But in 2012, all is not lost for the upstart outsider. For one thing debates, more numerous than ever this year, will provide a continuing free platform. Both the primary calendar and the delegate allocation system are kinder too. After Florida comes a four-week interval before the next important contests in Arizona and Michigan on 28 February, offering a chance to get a national infrastructure in place.

Moreover delegates in early primaries will be awarded proportionally, rather than on the winner-takes-all basis used previously. This means no candidate can wrap up the nomination by "Super Tuesday" on 4 March, when 10 states, including Ohio, Georgia and Massachusetts, hold primaries and caucuses.

Instead, the primary season has been stretched out: Texas, the second-most delegate-rich state, holds its primary on 3 April, while New York, the third, votes on 21 April. California, the largest prize of all, with 172 delegates, as well as New Jersey, votes only in June.

As a result only 700-odd convention delegates will have been chosen up to and including Super Tuesday, far short of the 1,143 needed to nominate. In theory a brand new candidate could even enter the race next month, and still have time to get on the ballot in most states.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Order Processing and Sales Administrator

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will have worked within the...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company provides mortgages, savings and i...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee / Qualified SAP Energy Assessor

£14000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a well-respecte...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Consultant - OTE £35,000

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to sell somethin...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A study of 16 young women performing light office work showed that they were at risk of being over-chilled by air conditioning in summer  

It's not just air conditioning that's guilty of camouflage sexism

Mollie Goodfellow
 

Ted Heath: If a PM can be an alleged child abuser, who's left in a position of power to trust?

Jane Merrick
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen