The purpose of this article is to sort out, as much as can be sorted at this point, which Republican candidates for president need wins in which states. The opinions expressed here are based on circumstances as they exist on December 18, as well as on my own prejudices and preconceptions about each candidate. I hope you enjoy reading.
Giuliani needs to win in Florida because he’s poured so much of his resources into it, and to prove that he’s capable of winning as a Republican. He can’t afford to give away states because although he’s a formidable campaigner with a deep rolodex and a strong resume, when you get down to it there’s a very large segment of the Republican party that believes he’s not a good fit with their values, and they may be right.
Huckabee needs to win a “Yankee” state early on, to prove that he isn’t strictly a Southern phenomenon. That means Iowa or Michigan. Either one would satisfy this requirement. To win both, obviously, would be best – despite his current strength Huckabee is still lacking in cash and organization. The asset which his campaign has the most of is momentum, and he’ll need all he can get.
McCain needs a win anywhere. His best chance is probably in New Hampshire, where he’s popular and very well known. But NHers might not want to invest their votes in him again, after what happened following his win there in 2000. McCain is also popular in his home state of Arizona, but Arizona isn’t a sought-after prize. Besides, a win there would easily be chalked up to homerism by McCain’s opponents, and probably by the mainstream media.
Romney needs to win somewhere other than New Hampshire. Right now it looks like his best bet is Michigan, since he was born there and his dad was a big shot in the auto industry there, as well as Governor from 1962 until 1969. Aside from New Hampshire, Michigan is where Romney is strongest: he’s currently tied with Huckabee for first place there. In an effort to salvage his enormous investment in his campaign, Romney has turned heavily to negative tactics, a strategy which could hurt the Republican party even as it fails to help the Romney campaign.
Thompson desperately needs South Carolina to love him. He’s pinned his hopes on taking the conservative vote, the Southern vote, and the Law and Order vote (if it exists). But Huckabee is the darling of the religious right and is trouncing him in almost every southern state so far. The Law and Order vote has yet to materialize. Like Romney, Thompson has turned to negative campaigning, with the same risks that dog Romney’s campaign.
Ron Paul, like McCain, needs a win anywhere. He may have a chance in a very small state with a large independent contingent and a love for mavericks. That could be New Hampshire, which would be a great win, and Vermont, which hardly anyone cares about. Minnesota has a history of going that way too, but Minnesota isn’t a big state population-wise and isn’t an early-voting state, either. The smart money says that Paul doesn’t win anywhere, but may not be wise to discount his chances totally, given his enormous bankroll and the unusual fervor of his supporters.
Duncan Hunter has virtually no chance of winning anywhere, so his campaign has made a shrewd decision to concentrate most of his resources in Nevada. Whether it works has yet to be determined, but even if it does work, it’s unlikely to make an impact anywhere else.
Tom Tancredo, although he usually polls higher than Hunter, probably has even less chance of winning. Tancredo isn’t only a single issue candidate (immigration), he’s a single issue candidate with a shrill message and almost no strategy.
Alan Keyes is a persuasive and inspirational speaker when he’s on his game, but he’s off his game most of the time these days. His rhetoric is infused with too much anger, and his daughter’s resentment and much-publicized lesbianism is an embarrassment. It hurts me to say this, having been a Keyes supporter in ’96 and ’00, but Keyes is probably the guy who could never win anywhere, even if the rest of the candidates perished in a plane crash together.