I’m hearing that CNN’s Atlanta debate on March 1st is cancelled. Add that to the cancelled March 5th debate on MSNBC, and we’re left with one debate on Wednesday, Feb. 22 in Mesa, AZ.
That puts 13 states across one debate, and 500+ delegates sit between now and March 6th.
Part of me wonders if Mitt’s pulling the plug to prevent further damage in case Michigan falls. As many of the states on Super Tuesday will almost certainly go Mitt, he has to control the amount of damage the press will do to him in boosting Santorum, and the availability of televised attacks now remain solely with the Super PAC billionaires.
I’m wondering if that means Mitt is seriously considering Michigan a lost cause. If a debate were anything of a help, it’s to help his challengers, solidify Santorum’s lead in the media, and force Newt to attack sooner than he wanted to. I feel bad for Newt, because I’m sure he spent all last week finishing up his master plan.
His entire strategy to bring himself back to Atlanta and his home turf has been eliminated. Mitt’s cancellation hurts Rick Santorum as well, because he gets about 10 minutes of his 15 minutes of fame, a limited and brief moment in one debate, and hardly any paid media coverage to fight the organization of Romney, MA.
Really thinking about it, this was a stroke of genius. Remove the wild card, pack the final debate before Super Tuesday, and run out the clock. For CNN, they have to pack a lot of debate questions into a single session, leaving everyone else scrambling for time to make a profound statement.
Mitt keeps his exposure from a Michigan loss minimal. The Feb. 22 debate is inconsequential, because it occurs before the primaries, and whatever coverage follows will be swallowed up without a future debate for followups or media narratives.
This forces his challengers to attack or remain irrelevant, and a copy of The Art of War is definitely somewhere in the Romney camp. Now the attackers must come to Mitt, and he can simply outlast them by choosing his battlefield.
The question is what will the billionaires do now? The Super PACs have to decide now if they’re going to dump money into a lost cause or a rising star. Newt’s guy Sheldon might be screening his calls as the scenarios point toward a no-good, very bad day. Foster might be calculating for Rick how much 11 states could cost in this horse race.
Lucky Ron Paul gets more time to speak to his base, as he wasn’t as interested in debates anyway.
Will Rick Santorum’s backer pony up extra cash to counter this brilliant and money-free move by Mitt? Michigan might now be the sacrifice in order to own every other state down the road. And Santorum can’t stay relevant in Maryland or Massachusetts with social conservative issues. He’s going to need a lot of money now, and fast.
Mitt Romney just put the other candidates in check. There are very few options left for a challenger without the media backing them, or a strong and sudden conservative shift against Super PACs, money, advertising, and organization.
It’ s not impossible. Michigan’s conservative voters are pretty reasonable compared to other states. And they’re backing Rick, even when he’s being outspent by a lot of cash. Some state conservatives will be fed up with the advertising, the smear campaigns, and the robocalls, and choose who they think is a conservative, not what ads and attacks tell them.
Maybe Rick and Newt can use this against Mitt, a narrative that being rich won’t buy you an election … But sadly, they both took a billionaire’s cash, and are now backed into a corner themselves, while fighting each other for social conservatives and country-fried steak states.
There are ways out of this predicament, but options are really limited. Money has to be raised, and there’s little time to do it. Super PACs can make up most of the media buys, but the candidate himself has to have money to map a 13-state route, and find enough backers in each state to make any national run a reality.
It’s going to be crazy, indeed.