GOP Nomination: Tragedy of the Conservatives

Why has Romney (so far) gotten a free pass in the GOP nomination race?  Matt Lewis brilliantly explains:

“…the conservative alternatives to Romney aren’t being selfish by overusing a shared resource — they are, instead, selfishly preserving their reputations.

By playing nice, each candidate is acting in his own rational self interest — but it just so happens to be an existential threat to the group, collectively.”

That’s pretty much it in a nutshell.  All the other nominees have (hitherto) stopped competing for the primaries and have instead decided to compete in a sub-primary to face off against Mittens.  But by the time they end up eating each other, it may well be too late.  While the RNC have altered the rules so that the early races are not so crucial, people see momentum and tend to vote for it over a colder and more rational assessment of the candidates the further on the battle progresses.  That makes Mitt tough to beat right now, and easy to bet on.

As last night’s debate showed, the candidates are starting to wake up.  Phillip Klein points out that:

“In this morning’s Republican presidential debate on NBC, Mitt Romney came under fire from multiple corners. Jon Huntsman decried decisive rhetoric while touting his bold tax and entitlement reform ideas that were more conservative than anybody else on stage. And Texas Gov. Rick Perry made an articulate — and at times, forceful — case that he was the consistent conservative outsider in the race. Had this all happened in September, we may be looking at a race where Perry had just won Iowa and was well ahead in South Carolina, while Huntsman was nipping at Romney in New Hampshire. But this isn’t September.”

Indeed not.  This is January, and winter can be a cold and harsh place to catch fire.

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