Wimping Out In Florida

The big news out of Florida is that Mitt Romney soundly defeated Newt Gingrich in a contest that, by all accounts, featured lots of “negative advertising.”  I think the more interesting story, however, has to do with Rick Santorum and Ron Paul.

Santorum and Paul got clobbered in Florida.  Santorum ended up with 13 percent of the vote, and Paul got 7 percent.  However, they both have a “talking point” at the ready — they explain that they simply chose not to compete.  They’ve decided that they have better prospects in “caucus” states like Nevada that are coming up on the schedule.

It reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where Jerry, after winning a footrace by a fluke as a kid, avoids later contests by declaring “I choose not to run.”  It’s as if an NFL team like the Cleveland Browns looked at the schedule in advance and decided they won’t show up for that ball-busting away game at New England.

Santorum and Paul likely don’t have a chance to win; this strategy allows them to hold on to their money, play out the string, and get a few more moments on a stage before an adoring crowd.  But doesn’t it say something about how ridiculous our presidential selection process has become that purportedly viable candidates can pick and choose where they fight and simply skip contested elections in large states like Florida that will be crucial in a general election?  Given the experience in Iowa — where some caucus “results” were lost and Republican Party officials couldn’t even say for sure who won — why are caucuses even used to allocate delegates rather than a primary election?

The presidential delegate selection seems to get tweaked after every election.  How about a rule that says declared candidates have to actually compete in every contest where voters will go into a voting booth and pull the lever for the candidate?

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