Gallup National Tracking numbers Feb. 1 through Feb. 23
The early weeks of February were great for Sick Rantorum as he climbed from third to first in national tracking numbers as well as winning caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota. But as has been the case in for several months now, getting to 35% support and staying there just isn't in the cards. Gingrich started December above 35% but plummeted, only to make a comeback in January that saw him over 30% but under 35%. R-Money was the only candidate to break the magical 35% barrier in January, and both he and Rantorum have been above that level in February, but neither could maintain it for more than a few days.
National numbers are little more than background noise in terms of delegates. Sadly for Senator Rick, his numbers are also slipping in Arizona and Michigan, the two states holding primaries this Tuesday. R-Money has had the lead in every Arizona poll so far, but Rantorum looked to be gaining until this last debate. We will see if the trend continues in the polls over the weekend. If it does, expect Nate Silver and me to project Mitt as the victor in both. In a normal election year I'd be a lot more confident of the general trend on a Friday before a Tuesday polling date, but this primary season is still as insanely volatile as this February has been insanely warm here in Northern California.
Eventually, Newt or Senator Rick will throw in the towel. In a two and a half person race, someone will have to climb over the 40% support level. My guess is the Last NonRomney Standing will take the lead and then be pulled back earthward both by his weaknesses and by attacks from R-Money and the super PACs that back him.
As for the talk about a brokered convention, right now that is just silliness, like trying to predict the Oscars that will be handed out a year from now. The fundamentals of this race still favor R-Money to get the nomination and face an uphill battle to unseat Obama. In some ways I'd like to see the Tea Party get who they want for a candidate and have that candidate drubbed soundly. If Mitt loses in November, I expect the crazier voices in the Republican echo chamber will just get louder and more strident. In any case, it's not going to be pretty.
I'll be back with my predictions for Tuesday races on Tuesday morning.