Tuesday night sees GOP caucus contests in Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota. And it would seem the Romney campaign’s internal polling suggests things aren’t looking too great for the GOP frontrunner in any of them. His team is scrambling to submerge expectations to ocean-floor depths, sending out a memo downplaying the contests’ importance and stressing that the March 6 Super Tuesday states should be the real test of Romney’s momentum.
According to the memo, by Romney political director Rich Beeson, “we expect our opponents to notch a few wins” over the course of the race, but the campaign plans to win with its superior resources over the long haul. It also stressed that the caucuses Tuesday in Minnesota and Colorado don’t immediately award any delegates and the Missouri primary doesn’t award delegates period (Gingrich isn’t on the ballot either). The basic gist of the message: ignore everything that happens in February no matter what.
“It is difficult to see what Governor Romney’s opponents can do to change the dynamics of the race in February,” Beeson wrote. “No delegates will be awarded on February 7 — Colorado and Minnesota hold caucuses with nonbinding preference polls, and the Missouri primary is purely a beauty contest. Except for the Maine and Wyoming nonbinding caucuses running through February, the next contests are on February 28 in states where Governor Romney is strong. Arizona’s 29 delegates will be bound in a winner-take-all contest. Michigan, the state where Governor Romney grew up, binds 30 delegates.”
As for March and beyond, “Romney is the only campaign to be active in all of these states, and we have the resources and organization to maximize delegate totals according to each state’s rules. Speaker Gingrich and Senator Santorum have no plan in the majority of the March states (although the Paul campaign has waged a systematic effort in a number of them).” In addition, Beeson notes that many of the states where Romney is considered weakest — namely Southern contests like Gingrich’s home state of Georgia — award their delegates proportionally, meaning even a big win for one of his rivals doesn’t mean they’ll receive a large net gain for their efforts.
The strategy memo comes amid polls by PPP in Minnesota, Colorado, and Missouri showing Rick Santorum on the rise, threatening to win or place a strong second in every state. Hoping to avoid a new “surge” behind an anti-Romney candidate, the campaign unleashed a wave of attacks against Santorum on Monday, mostly targeting his predilection for earmarks during his time in office.
In a conference call with reporters Monday, Romney campaign chair Tim Pawlenty said that he believed Santorum, Gingrich, and Paul could all potentially do well in his home state of Minnesota.
“I think it will be competitive, but its’s hard to tell who’s going to be the person on top of that pack,” he said.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.