"The Sunday Political Brunch" -- March 18, 2012

St Pats Meal 2012.JPG

(Providence, Rhode Island) – Let’s see if the “Luck of the Irish” had any impact on the political season this St. Patrick’s Day weekend. In my Irish home, it was time for our traditional corned beef with braised vegetables, including cabbage, onions, carrots and potatoes! Oh, and we talked lots o’ politics, too! Cheers!

“Meet Me in St. Louis” – Well, apparently St. Pat and St. Louis don’t get along. Missouri held caucuses on Saturday, but St. Louis and Jackson County decided to postpone theirs until next Saturday, due to all the Irish festivities. As a result, no one really knows who won what “The Kansas City Star” is calling a statewide caucus full of “confusion and contention” yesterday. Rick Santorum won the nonbinding primary earlier this year, so he was considered the favorite going in on Saturday.

“Read the Fine Print!” – Tuesday night there was great fanfare for Rick Santorum, as he won the primaries in Alabama and Mississippi, although the vote was close in both states. If you were watching the networks, as I was, you got the clear impression it was a huge night for Santorum. But then most of us on the U.S. mainland went to sleep. We woke up Wednesday to find that Mitt Romney won the primaries in Hawaii and American Samoa. The bottom line: Romney won the most delegates on Tuesday and widened his overall lead. He remains the clear frontrunner, despite any claims to the contrary.

“Delegate Delegation” – As of today, Romney has 496 delegates; Santorum has 236; Gingrich, 141; and Paul, 66. Romney has double Santorum’s total. Even if Gingrich and Paul dropped out and “willed” all of their delegates to Santorum (which is unlikely), he’d be at 443. It’s still a long, long, long shot. The delegate total needed for the nomination is 1,144.

“Unconventional Wisdom” – The conventional wisdom among many of my fellow political analysts is that if Newt Gingrich dropped out of the race, all of his delegates would go to Rick Santorum, thereby making the latter a viable conservative alternative to Romney. But I have been saying for weeks – and repeated Thursday on KGO Radio in San Francisco – that I think that is a faulty assumption. I’ve been predicting that Romney might also gain a fair share of the Gingrich delegates. Now a new Gallup Poll backs me up, with a survey of Gingrich delegates showing 40 percent would go to Romney, 39 percent to Santorum, 11 percent to Ron Paul, with 10 percent undecided. This may answer, in part, why Gingrich has not dropped out.

“The Ides of March” – It was a bit ironic that on this past Thursday, March 15, I was on KGO Radio and brought up the recent George Clooney political movie, “The Ides of March.” In it, a prominent Senator puts his endorsement up for grabs, at first wanting a Cabinet post, then the Vice Presidential spot if Clooney's character won the Presidential nomination. The Senator was negotiating; he wanted something. He played both candidates, looking for the highest bidder. I think Gingrich may hold out for the long haul, because control of his delegates makes him more of a force should there be a brokered convention. And, yes, he may be holding out for a promise by the eventual nominee to appoint him Secretary of Defense. The movie had a certain ring of authenticity! These deals go on all the time in politics, and you can bet Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama had some sort of unspoken deal, too.

“Primary Colors” – Mitt Romney is favored in today’s primary in Puerto Rico; Santorum may well take home the most Missouri delegates once yesterday’s caucus is sorted out; Louisiana next Saturday is a toss-up among Santorum, Romney and Gingrich in a close poll, though Santorum has a slight lead. A new Rasmussen Poll has the critical Illinois Primary this Tuesday with Romney, 41 percent; Santorum, 32 percent; and Gingrich, 14 percent. Santorum says if he wins Illinois in an upset, he will be the nominee. Look for a roller-coaster of a week!

“Poll Vault” – Are you confused by all the polls? If nothing else, they indicate the uncertainty and volatility of this election year. This week’s ABC News poll has Romney ahead of Obama by 2 percentage points, but this week’s Pew Research poll has Obama up by 11 points. In response, the Obama campaign sent out the following email: “We're looking at a race that will be tighter than you think. And the other side has groups ready to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to tear down President Obama… If the idea of a President Romney scares you, it's time to own a piece of this campaign. Donate $3 or more today.” The White House clearly knows a second term is not a sure bet right now.

As of today, “The Sunday Political Brunch” will be posted on the website of my employer, WLNE-TV ABC 6. We welcome our viewers who join us at www.ABC6.com.

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