Mitt Romney has a very real chance of winning this presidential election, despite the fact that the Super Tuesday results have left the Republican Party further muddled and confused. According to CBS News, Romney took Massachusetts, Virginia, Vermont, Idaho, Alaska and, by the slimmest of margins, Ohio. Rick Santorum claimed Tennessee, Oklahoma and North Dakota. Georgians threw their votes away on Newt Gingrich. A close race has therefore ensued between the socially conservative Santorum and the more moderately leaning businessman Romney.
The most important aspect of Super Tuesday’s results though, remains where the Republican candidates have been winning support. While Santorum has taken social conservative states, Romney has seen rallying in liberal-leaning strongholds like Washington and Massachusetts.
A Republican candidate could have a real chance of defeating the current president if they manage to steal away the support from independent voters who gave President Barack Obama his win in 2008.
In the previous election, Obama managed to gain momentum by painting John McCain as a hardcore conservative and connecting him with the policies of George W. Bush. Despite this connection, in hindsight, McCain was far more moderate than the public began to see him.
The majority of American’s ideological beliefs reside somewhere in the middle of the road and tend to flip-flop on issues. The key to winning any election therefore exists in getting the public to perceive you as a moderate-leaning candidate.
However, even with a Republican candidate that the majority of Americans can get behind, a notorious incumbency advantage still exists with second-term presidents. However, five times in the last century the incumbency advantage failed and presidents lost after their first term. In each case, certain patterns occurred including social and economic turmoil, third-party challenges and political readjustments.
This can be seen in such events like the Great Depression where the traditionally conservative Democrats obtained liberal policies in the face of economic upheaval and badly defeated Republican President Herbert Hoover. This also occurred when President Jimmy Carter lost to Ronald Reagan during a recession all while the Iran Contra scandal was happening. In addition, there was also a conservative third-party candidate, John Anderson, who stole conservative votes away.
While Obama inherited the current economic problems that our country endures, it has not stopped critics from blaming him for hard times, and public perception is everything in an election. Also, our country has seen strong third party movements in both the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street movement demonstrating how people have begun to reexamine their political loyalties.
Therefore, if Romney manages to obtain the Republican ticket for president and can successfully portray Obama as a far left-leaning President who has not responded to the needs of the American people, then he will have a possibility of winning.
Santorum, on the other hand, has a snowball's chance in hell. Ideas around free market economics, small government and other conservative economic staples remain relevant, but in a liberated nation where “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” has been repealed, gay marriage has passed in twelve states and the right to contraceptives is on the path to general acceptance, social conservatism does not resonate with the majority of American people. The moderates will control this election and far-right Santorum cannot win their support.