Rhodes Cook: The Republican Field May Not Be Closed

I read an interesting post on Larry Sabato’s blog by Rhodes Cook. He had an intriguing and well researched article showing that the Republican Presidential field could grow from where it is today, even after the New Hampshire primary. Looking back to 1968, he notes:

…[in 1968], Sen. Robert Kennedy of New York was a far more successful late starter. He entered the Democratic race after the New Hampshire primary and proceeded to run off a series of high-profile primary victories, culminating with a winner-take-all triumph in California in early June. Had he not been shot the night of his California victory, Kennedy might have gone on to wrest the nomination from Vice President Hubert Humphrey. As it is, Kennedy’s unfinished campaign is one of American history’s more intriguing “what ifs.”

The heavy concentration of delegates chosen later in the primary season leaves the field more open than many think. Consider that the early primaries, those that are held before April 1, 2012, will be allocating their delegates proportionally. That means that a candidate only gets the proportion of delegates equal to his share of the votes. After April 1, it’s winner-take-all. After that date, it would be almost impossible for an upstart to win. But between February and April, surprise candidates could enter the race. Who? Rhodes speculates:

Robert Kennedy fit the bill in 1968, and there are arguably a few prominent Republicans on the sidelines this time who could mount a competitive, late-starting candidacy in 2012. These could include one of the establishment non-candidates who Republican elites pressured to enter the race earlier this year, such as Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Rep. Paul Ryan (WI), ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush or New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (although Christie has already endorsed Mitt Romney). The entry of any of these Republicans would cause waves, and because of their high profiles they would have little trouble raising money or attracting establishment support. On the other hand, if Romney gets off to a strong start in January’s opening round, then there might be pressure on the right to enlist former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to pick up the anti-establishment baton.

My emphasis on the former Alaska governor. Wouldn’t that be interesting.

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