Get Comfortable. The GOP Race Might Last Till August

Philadelphia Republicans from Sam Katz to Al Schmidt give us their 2012 presidential predictions.

If you haven’t tuned out of the race for a Republican nominee for President—and believe me, I know that it’s tempting—you know that it has been one big mess of up-and-down poll numbers, endless debates, political action committee attacks, and wild speculation. Can Gingrich trump Romney? Is Santorum totally out of the picture? Will the Pennsylvania primary even matter? Is there a chance that the Republican nominee for president won’t even be one of the guys we’re talking about today? Local Republican brains Sam Katz, Al Schmidt, Kevin Kelly and Matt Wolfe gave us some answers.

SAM KATZ (former Republican mayoral candidate)
Number of viable candidates in the field: Right now it’s a two-man race. I don’t think they will nominate Ron Paul, and I think that the Santorum candidacy could burst another tulip, but it’s more likely than not that he’s posturing for something else. Maybe number two. But probably something else.
Whether the Pennsylvania primary will matter: It’s been a long time since there was a primary here, because the last couple of presidential seasons have had a nominee in place long before Pennsylvania, and it looked like that was going to be the case just a week ago. But there’s a good chance that there will be one, and that we’re actually going to have a say in the process.
How long until the choice is clear: I don’t see any clarity yet. But it isn’t inconceivable to me that this goes unresolved to the convention. The strategies Romney has were based on a strategy of wearing everybody down, and if that strategy fails—and by virtue of surviving as long as a Pennsylvania primary, it would have failed—it’s quite possible that Newt’s strategy, a strategy of gumption, it could all stay alive right until the convention.
Where you’d place a bet: We haven’t seen that kind of convention in a long, long time. But it’s possible to me that someone not running for president right now will be the nominee. If I were a long-shot better, I’d be betting on that right now.

KEVIN KELLY (founder of Philadelphia’s Loyal Opposition, Republican State Committeeman, and 22nd Ward leader)
Prediction for Florida: It’s day to day. If you asked me last week, with ABC coming out with their hit piece, I would have said it was over. I was shocked that it wasn’t. People are seeing past the digging-up-the-mud stuff and looking for a serious person with serious ideas. I think Gingrich is going to win Florida. That said, he has a propensity for throwing grenades. Everybody’s watching. Mitt Romney’s not going to say anything to blow anything up. Gingrich could do that, which is why I like him and why I don’t.
Whether Newt Gingrich would actually make a good president: He’s an idea factory. He has a proven track record, with respect to being Speaker. That said, he garners a lot of hatred from the left. I’d prefer that he had a brain-to-mouth cutoff switch sometimes.
Pick a candidate: I like Santorum and Gingrich, but all of the candidates have their warts because they’re human beings. I’ll get behind Romney if he’s the guy. He is sufficiently conservative that there’s going to be a very clear choice for Americans.
Define that choice: As opposed to in the past with Dole or some other next-in-line candidate, there’s going to be a very clear and distinct dichotomy between Obama and his Utopian plans for what America should be that are totally unachievable and the conservatives. Do you want a big government, entitlement society, which is completely unsustainable—look no further than Europe—or a Constitutional republic with a limited government?

AL SCHMIDT (Philadelphia’s new Republican city commissioner)
Whether Philadelphia will go Democrat, just by default: No, different presidents regardless of party can either be people that Philadelphians relate to and support or are repulsed by. When Reagan was reelected in 1984, he did terrifically well in Philadelphia. And Nixon did well everywhere in ’72. And then there have been Democrats who were not so popular.
Whether Romney will pull it off in Florida: I’d probably like to withhold my assessment. But suffice to say that I am disappointed with the range of options.
Person you’d like to see jump in: Given that I am obviously unhappy with the range, there are definitely other people I’d like to have seen jump in, but until they are vetted by the process, that doesn’t mean that you’d actually support them. Someone like Chris Christie could jump in, but during the course of the campaign, you might change your mind. There was a good number of people in the primary originally, but the range, well, no.
How the new job is treating you: We’ve only been at it a couple of weeks here, and budget submission is due right after you come in. Last year, apparently, our agency didn’t even submit a budget. I did not know that was possible. As a former federal GAO performance auditor, it was a surprise. So really, I haven’t been paying all that much attention to the national race due to my job responsibilities. Plus, we have two little kids at home.

MATT WOLFE (27th Ward leader)
Candidate most likely to beat Obama: I was a Huntsman guy. I really thought that he afforded us our strongest candidate. Interestingly enough, many of my Democrat friends agree. But he never caught on. As far as I am concerned, the next strongest candidate is clearly Mitt Romney. No one else was in the same league as Huntsman and Romney as far as an ability to win against Obama, which is a huge factor this year.
Whether this thing will be wrapped up after Florida: I’d be surprised if Romney doesn’t do well, but I’m not on the ground there. Florida is a big state, 10 media markets, a lot of independent voters. It’s a conservative state, but it’s not Iowa. Romney’s target market is more prevalent in Florida than any state we’ve seen so far.
Chances that the nominee won’t be any of these guys: It’s still technically possible, but the opportunity to get on the ballot has passed in too many places. Anybody else who got into the race in a traditional sense would be doomed to embarrassment and failure. There’s of course a possibility that if Romney does not secure the nomination, there could be a convention that does what a convention is supposed to do: Select a nominee. But irregardless of South Carolina, Romney is still a prohibitive favorite and can lock this down within a few weeks.