The Changing Presidential Campaign

Feb. 12, 2016 — The presidential candidates are now exiting the race just as fast as they were entering about a year ago. In early to mid-2015, there were 17 Republican candidates and five Democrats, but after yesterday those numbers are now, respectively, seven and two.

Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) and businesswoman Carly Fiorina joined the cavalcade of Republican candidates abandoning their presidential quest, as both came to the realization through disappointing New Hampshire finishes that neither has a path to victory in the national contest. Since the Iowa Caucus ended, ex-Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-MD), ex-Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Christie, and Fiorina have all left the race.

Breaking 10 percent of the New Hampshire vote was a must for Christie, because that is the minimum vote threshold required in the state’s delegate apportionment formula. Realistically, the New Jersey governor needed a John Kasich-type finish (second place) to jump-start his effort in order to seriously vie for the moderate and establishment sectors’ support. Virtually making New Hampshire a watershed state for his campaign, it was little surprise that Gov. Christie ended his national effort when he failed to achieve his stated Granite State goals.

Continuing with Republicans, all minor candidates with the exception of former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore are no longer running. Despite getting only 12 votes in Iowa and 133 in New Hampshire, Gilmore is continuing his effort and proceeding to South Carolina. Dr. Ben Carson, who for much of last year was a top-tier candidate, continues to slip and it seems only a matter of time before he suspends his presidential effort unless he quickly builds an upward momentum swing. It’s hard to see how he continues past Super Tuesday without a strong showing in South Carolina, Nevada, or several of the March 1 voting states.

Gov. Kasich enunciated his future campaign strategy in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. Though buoyed by a strong finish on Tuesday, he does not have the financial resources to compete heavily on Super Tuesday. Rather, he may attempt to pick off a district in South Carolina’s Winner-Take-All by CD system on Feb. 20 that could earn him three delegate votes. He will then play more heavily in Minnesota, Vermont, and Massachusetts on Super Tuesday, attempting to make headway in these states rather than fighting a war of attrition in every southern state when voting begins on March 1.

March 15 will be possibly the make-or-break day for the Kasich campaign. Ohio’s Winner-Take-All primary is that day, and the home state governor needs a win here that awards 66 delegate votes for placing first. He will also compete in Michigan on March 8, and heavily target Illinois and Missouri also on March 15.
Illinois is one of two states, Pennsylvania being the other, that still uses the old Loophole Primary system. This procedure features delegates being selected through votes on the ballot after identifying who the prospective delegate supports. Missouri, like South Carolina, uses a Winner-Take-All by congressional district model that could yield Kasich some important delegates on a targeted basis.

This strategy is not particularly viable for capturing the nomination through national primary and caucus voting, but it is practical for being competitive in a contested convention. Accumulating delegates and controlling a major state delegation such as Ohio, a must-win on the Republican map for the general election, would put Kasich in a strong bargaining position and could make him a strong contender for vice president, if not the top spot should the convention disintegrate.

After a year of preliminary boxing, the presidential campaign is now finally becoming quite interesting. It is during this time frame that strategic decisions become critical for each viable candidate.

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