MESA, AZ - FEBRUARY 22: Republican presidential candidates (L-R) U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney participate in a debate sponsored by CNN and the Republican Party of Arizona at the Mesa Arts Center February 22, 2012 in Mesa, Arizona. The debate is the last one scheduled before voters head to the polls in Michigan and Arizona's primaries on February 28 and Super Tuesday on March 6. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
On Tuesday, GOP nominations are at stake in contests across 10 states – but California is not one of them.
Our political reporter Gene Cubbison spoke to NBC’s Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd about the way California might factor in to Super Tuesday’s competition.
Gene Cubbison: Is it reasonable for states such as California to hope that the GOP nominee won’t be decided until their primaries in late May and early June?
Chuck Todd: If the Obama Campaign had their way, they’d love for this thing to keep going and going! But I think you’re seeing some momentum inside the Republican Party looking for any possible reason to jump on the bandwagon with Mitt Romney. We’re seeing it both in polling and we’re seeing it with leaders. And if Romney has the kind of night he may have tonight, mathematically with the delegates, and also winning more states, then [the Republican Party] is going to say ‘we gotta stop this, because this is not good for the party and it is jeopardizing November.’
GC: If Romney wins, how easy will it be for the party to repair the damage from all this bloodletting in the primary cycle, and how quickly could Romney move credibly toward ‘the middle’?
CT: This is going to be a very tough tight rope for Mitt Romney to walk, because he still doesn’t have conservatives’ enthusiasm behind them. Base conservatives are accepting his candidacy, but they’re not embracing it with enthusiasm. So he’s always gotta be careful every time he moves to the middle, as other traditional non-major party nominees do after appealing to their base – he’s going to have a base that is always trying to rein him in….
He needs to figure out how to repair two things: One, the damage his party has done with Hispanics, and two the damage his party has done with suburban women. I would argue that he can fix the issue with women a lot faster than he can fix the problems the party is facing with Hispanics. But he needs to try to fix – or at least start to fix -- both of them before November.
GC: How likely is it that there could be a 3rd party challenge from a defeated Republican rival?
CT: The middle of the electorate certainly feels that they’re underrepresented right now. You can see how someone from the conservative movement try to use this. You know, you’ve got groups like Americans Elect, which is going have ballot access in California. So it’s going to be a nomination that’s easy to get, because if you get ballot access you can get ambitious politicians to think that this is the way to go. That’s what makes this a little more complicated for Romney – he needs to always mind his right flank. Maybe he handles it with getting someone, maybe his running mate that people can get fired up about, perhaps Paul Ryan or Chris Christie.
This is just one of those years where there’s this pent up anxiety or angst in the American public about the direction of many institutions. Look at the Occupy movement and the Tea Party movement, upset with the status quo: that is the major ingredient for a third party entity to pop up.