It's not difficult to analyze Campaign 2012. A kindergarten pupil could do it if he followed these simple instructions:
Take a map of the United States and three crayons. Color the states Mitt Romney has won so far in red. Color the states Rick Santorum has won in blue. Color the states Newt Gingrich has won in green. Then look at the results.
You'll see that Romney's states replicate almost exactly the states Barack Obama won four years ago. Almost all of Santorum's states line up with the states John McCain took. Gingrich's two states also went for McCain.
That leads us to these twin conclusions: Romney is weak where the Republicans are strong and strong where the Republicans are weak. Santorum — and Gingrich — show strength in Republican areas and weakness in Democratic areas.
There are few nuances in these results. Romney has lost three states that have voted Republican 11 consecutive times and one state that voted Republican each of the last 12 times except for 1976, when a Southerner, Gov. Jimmy Carter of Georgia, was on the ballot. He lost two states that have voted Republican 10 of the last 12 times. Not every presumptive Republican nominee can claim that.
To take this analysis to the next level: Santorum speaks to the GOP base for the general election in 2012, Romney to areas where Republicans will likely struggle in November.
That's the easy part. The hard part is figuring out whether Romney's profile is a prescription for winning the general election or a road map to disaster.
Let's take the dark side for Romney first. By basically relinquishing the South, the party's modern base — losing six of the eight states of the Old Confederacy that have voted — Romney has displayed a dangerous inability to speak the rhetoric and speak to the issues that made the GOP the party of governance for much of the period 1969 to 2009.
Romney shows special weakness in the states McCain carried in his losing effort four years ago — and not special strength in two of the key Obama states that will be critical in 2012, Ohio and Michigan, where the former Massachusetts governor's margins were very thin. This is a formula for a very challenging Republican general election campaign.
Now let's look at the rosier side for Romney. If all those states were all that loyal to the Republicans for all that time, why should a Republican be fearful of his prospects in 2012? Can anyone plausibly argue that Kansas or Oklahoma, each with perfect Republican results since 1968 and each with a Republican governor and two Republican senators, will vote for Obama this fall after having spurned Romney in the winter?
Indeed, can anyone plausibly argue that any Republican nominee, even if it is Ramona Quimby — even if it is her sister, Beezus — will fail to win Louisiana (which McCain took with nearly 59 percent) or Mississippi (McCain's score: 56 percent), both of which Romney lost?
By this reading, you might even argue that Romney has very cleverly leveraged his time and money to win states he must take in November — Ohio and Michigan, of course, but also Washington, Nevada, Florida and Virginia, all of which were in the Obama column in 2008. Very clever, those Boston boys.
Of the two reckonings, the latter — favoring Romney — may be more nearly correct. But that doesn't mean Romney doesn't have high hurdles, maybe even trouble, ahead. A Gallup poll last month found that only about a third of Republicans said they would enthusiastically back Romney in November. That's a dangerous number; presidential nominees count on enthusiastic backing from their parties, the better to get out the vote and to raise money.
In his campaigning leading up to Tuesday's Wisconsin primary, Santorum made a statement that should send chills through the headquarters of Team Romney in Boston's North End, located poetically across the street from the old Polcari's restaurant, a favorite of Romney's 1994 Senate opponent, Edward M. Kennedy.
"Pick any other Republican in the country — he is the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama," Santorum said in Franksville. "We need someone who can go out and rally the Republican base."
That is true. But the party also needs someone who can win several of the Obama 2008 states, including Virginia and Florida, both of which Romney took. And Romney might take comfort in the 2008 map and seeing that Obama won several states — New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, California and others — that he had lost to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic primaries.
So the topic now changes to what Obama was able to do in 2008 — and what Romney must do four years later.
Campaign staffs always feud, so the frosty relationship between the Romney and Santorum camps can be dismissed as a factor in the general election. It is possible to argue that Clinton's resentment of Obama as an arriviste was stronger than Romney's personal dislike of Santorum. So if Obama and Clinton were able to find common cause in 2008, surely Romney and Santorum can do the same.
The political differences between the 2008 Democrats were arguably less distinct than those between the two leading 2012 Republican contenders, though.
And while the differences between supporters of Obama and Clinton were minimal — reminiscent of those between supporters of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and Sen. Eugene McCarthy in 1968, more emotional than rational — the tensions between Romney and Santorum supporters are significant.
Romney will need Santorum supporters if he wins the GOP nomination in Tampa this August. He'll need them to boost turnout, to provide campaign labor and to infuse his drive to the White House with the passion his campaign has not yet displayed.
A truce between the principals is possible, even likely. A truce among their followers is a different challenge entirely — and indispensable to whatever map the Romney team puts together when it crafts its election strategy this summer.
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David M. Shribman, a North Shore native and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, is executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.