This week, CNN released polls of the first four states to hold Republican primaries. Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida and South Carolina all currently show former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney as the front-runner. The media have taken those results and drawn the conclusion that Mr. Romney already has wrapped up the race.
In a typical year, they might be right. The Republican primaries are winner-take-all contests, and winning the first four states would usually ensure enough of a lead that the winner could cruise to the nomination. However, this is not a typical year.
With so many candidates in the race, there will be a lot of votes that are up for grabs once the losers of the first few primaries drop out
Let's say that Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santorum are the first to go. Bachmann and Santorum followers will be looking for a candidate to back, and they are well to the right of Mr. Romney on social and fiscal issues. That makes them unlikely to throw in their hat with Mr. Romney, who is considered the least fiscally conservative of the candidates.
Mr. Romney may well win the first few primaries, but as the field gets whittled down it's unlikely that he'll get a majority of the supporters of any other candidate who drops out, and he is likely to fade near the end.
That means whoever is left standing among Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul will get more and more states as the primary goes along — even thought they will still have to overcome Mr. Romney's early lead.
This suggests that a protracted fight may be in store — and one in which the Maryland GOP vote, for once, might actually matter.
Fred Pasek, Frederick