Will Gingrich Surge, or is it Mitt vs. the Walking Dead?
Yet as voting begins in the South Carolina primary, Mitt Romney’s remaining opponents sound more determined than ever to make him wage a long and potentially costly battle for the Republican presidential nomination. Driven by a range of personal resentments and unlikely strategies, the surviving anti-Romney candidates are following a path blazed every four years by one set or another of proud underdogs: pressing on with guerrilla-style campaigns that were never allowed much hope of success.
It’s not that they don’t recognize that the odds are stacked against them, or that they’re oblivious to Romney’s strengths. But for Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul, the campaign has always been a desperate errand — a windmill-tilting exercise in ignoring the overwhelming conventional wisdom that says that they have no chance.
The result is now a race that forces Romney to keep battling opponents he has vanquished — or thought he vanquished — at other points in the race. And they can keep on fighting him as long as they have the will and money to keep going.
“If Mitt wins South Carolina, then anyone that continues on is walking dead,” said California-based GOP strategist Rob Stutzman, who worked for Romney in 2008. “It was quite legitimate for all of them to go to South Carolina and see if they could break out. Because if one of them could win South Carolina, it would probably winnow the rest of the field out and leave more of a singular conservative for voters to coalesce behind.”