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

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?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The economy expanded by 0.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2014  

Government hails latest GDP figures, but there is still room for scepticism over this 'glorious recovery'

Ben Chu
Comedy queen: Miranda Hart has said that she is excited about working on the new film  

There is no such thing as a middle-class laugh

David Lister
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little