A few weeks ago, when a number of states in the northeast voted, I wrote that I would be winding down my coverage of the primary process. Since that time, a few incidents have happened in the news, one of which was Newt Gingrich's exit from the race. The only candidates with active campaigns are now Mitt Romney and Ron Paul.
Despite the fact that Gingrich's leaving gave another sign of the race being finally over, tonight's three contests still had some interest for me. Unlike the contests on April 24th, tonight's contests in Indiana, West Virginia and North Carolina took place in more conservative states. Would there be a flicker of support for the conservative candidates, even if they had officially left, or is Romney's nomination truly secure?
The answer is the second. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Romney has 65% of the vote. Ron Paul, now the only other active candidate, has 16% of the vote, while Rick Santorum has 13%, and Newt Gingrich has 7%. While the fact that even with token opposition Mitt Romney is still below 2/3rds of the vote does speak to Romney's lack of popular appeal, he is still the winner. So: nothing interesting about Indiana. Or North Carolina. Or West Virginia.
So, if I can slip in an aside, I will talk about one more interesting aspect of the overall race, and one that unlike tonight's contest across Indiana, might actually make a difference. As I mentioned in passing while discussing the caucus results, the stated votes in the caucuses are just a non-binding straw poll. What really matters is the selection of delegates to another series of conventions, who select the actual delegates. In Maine, although he fell slightly behind Romney in the straw poll, Paul has secured almost all of the delegates. Is it possible for Ron Paul to get enough delegates using this method to block Mitt Romney's majority? For various reasons, while it is possible, it is far from probable, and a Ron Paul campaign that resorts to such methods to block Romney's nomination will have about as much chance of impressing the convention with its wily ways as a man has of impressing a girl by showing her his Yu-Gi-Oh! deck and explaining how his trap cards work. Which might be a bad analogy, since that is exactly how Ron Paul supporters impress girls.
Anyway! That was a long aside, but tonight's results in Indiana, long regarded as a core, and fairly representative Republican state, show that the race is (if we hadn't already proved that) effectively over, and the Rube Goldberg circumstances that could lead to anyone other than Mitt Romney being the nominee are increasingly convoluted.