Barring a catastrophe, Rick Perry can’t beat Barack Obama. Kevin Drum may be correct that Perry can’t win the nomination, but I agree with Adam Serwer that Drum’s reasons Perry can’t win the nomination are mostly reasons that he could. Drum’s reasons are great arguments against Perry’s viability in a general election, but they’re mostly assets in a Republican primary.
There is, however, a good reason Perry may not be able to win the nomination that Drum missed: the states where Romney should do best are more likely to allocate their delegates by a winner-take-all formula, while the states where Perry would most likely do best are the ones where delegates are allocated proportionally.
In the past, Republican primaries and caucuses allocated most of the delegates through a winner-take-all system. Some states would award all the delegates to the overall statewide winner, others to the winner of each congressional district, and some through a combination of statewide and district-level results.
In 2010 the RNC amended its rules to now require that all states with primaries or caucuses prior to April 1st allocate their delegates proportionally. Many states with later primaries and caucuses will use some system of winner-take-all allocation.
Mitt Romney may flame out by April 1, but if he’s still around and perceived as the mainstream, viable choice with the best chance of beating Obama and the remaining candidates are tea party and nativist favorites like Perry and Michele Bachmann, Perry is at a big disadvantage. Texas and most other states will allocate their delegates proportionally, denying Perry a huge delegate haul. Every Southern state except Arkansas and North Carolina will allocation delegates proportionally. And the winner-take-all states with contests after April 1 include several huge states likely to be more friendly to Romney than Perry: California, New York, Connecticut and Oregon; a few that are harder to predict, like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana; and only a few smaller states, like West Virginia and Kentucky, that would probably be natural bastions of support for Perry if he’s in a fight with Romney.
Much of the GOP primary electorate may prove to be crazy, but if a less-crazy 30-40% sticks with Romney through the early contests and Perry is dividing up the even-more-crazy vote with Bachmann, Paul and the rest of the crowd, Romney will be better positioned to prevail once the race–if it’s still competitive–moves to the winner-take-all states. He could post plurality wins and get most or all of the delegates in the states likely to be most friendly to him.
By the way, if the race goes down to the last contest, Perry’s probably in trouble. The last primary is currently scheduled for June 26th. It’s in Utah.