Slow and steady wins the race

By Emily Felder

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I have stopped seeing the presidential caucuses as this idealistic demonstration of American consciousness and democratic engagement in the voting system.

Alternatively, I picture a dark and smoky room with a faceless group of people huddled around an old, black and white television set, nervously murmuring to one another which horse they have money on. Despite the poor reception, the screen reveals a racetrack, and instead of a professional jockey on their Seabiscuit or other thoroughbred, Newt Gingrich is riding sidesaddle wielding a lasso.

American Republicans are being told by the media and the polls whose numbers are up and whose are down, who is gaining momentum and who is starting to lag behind. It’s one giant Kentucky Derby, except the winner doesn’t simply get a wreath around their neck, but the bid for the next four years of executive power. And I’m calling that this year’s Secretariat is former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Romney has thus far outrun all of the other candidates so to speak. He was fast out of the gate and has securely maintained his pace. Throughout the race other candidates have overtaken him, but as the polls have illustrated over the past couple of months, their numbers peaked, albeit at higher percentages reached by Romney, and then steadily declined. It seems as though each presidential candidate other than Romney is suddenly thrust into the spotlight, garners media and public attention and popularity for several weeks and then simmers down.

The latest candidate to gallop past Romney is former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who just swept the most recent primaries in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado. But before conservatives take a gamble on Santorum, they really should look at the numbers. According to a Real Clear Politics poll which graphs the candidates’ national averages since last February, Romney came into the race approximately one year ago ranking 19.1 percent. Santorum emerged with a meager 1.5 percent. It’s really only been in the last two months that Santorum has gone from a national average of 4 percent to an impressive 33.7 percent this week.

But these figures can appear misleading. When it comes down to it, don’t put all your stakes on Santorum just yet, because this is nothing new for Romney. Governor Rick Perry, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and even Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain had at one point or another surged with enough speed to convince us, at least momentarily, that they were the viable Republican nominee.

Think back if you will to the very initial Republican debates. Perry and Romney were placed front and center with the cameras and the lights on them both, conservative America watching their every gesture. Santorum was placed on the end of the podium, received few questions and didn’t really participate in any rhetoric-ridden rebuttal. His presence on the stage then was laughable, begging the question as to why he is now the apparent poster child for conservative underdogs everywhere.

But look closer at Romney’s numbers. While everyone is getting caught up in who appears to be the conservative of the month, Romney has remained more or less consistent on the charts. His popularity has certainly fluctuated, as is customary in national averages over the course of any campaign and onset of debates and nearly slandering advertisements from other candidates. But the RCP poll shows that the lowest national average Romney has faced was 16.1 percent last April, only 3 percent less than his original average. Even so, he was still in the lead. This week he ranks with 28.3 percent, only 5.4 percentage points below Santorum.

So before you wager that Santorum is the determined winner, consider that maybe this is just another case of American conservatives wearing their own blinkers, focusing too closely on who is leading in the furlong, rather than the full length of the track. Romney started strongly and will persevere to the finish line.

Emily Felder is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]