My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


What Kind Of Match Is This? 

I love golf. It is a mind-numbingly humbling game, that--every once in a while--relents a little and lets a hack like me get a glimpse of real artistry on a beautiful day.

Poetry aside, I also love the competitive aspect of the game. And there is the variable competitions involved: you can play stroke play, where every shot matters, no matter which hole its on, or you can play match play, where each hole is a separate, winner-take-all contest. Each game has its strengths and weaknesses, but each require a slightly different skill set to be great at.

The reason for this brief exposition is this: the Republican primary process is very much like a golf match--the question is, what kind of a match?

If this is match play, after tomorrow there will have been three "holes", each with a different winner. The short-form scoreboard will look like this: 1-1-1-0-0-0. If you look at that scoreoard, it's difficult to conclude that anybody is in really great shape.

If, on the other hand, this is stroke play, you look at the scores after three "holes": Romney 33, Huckabee 23, McCain 12, Thompson 7, Giuliani 3, Paul 3.

You see the issue: after three holes, after only winning one of them, Romney is still in the lead.

But, also, it's still VERY early in the game. There's a few "par 5s" on the horizon, and Giuliani's a big hitter--he could easily "eagle" a couple of those. Suppose Giuliani holds his current polling advantage in Florida on the 29th: suddenly he picks up 30-some delegates and is in third place; suppose he holds his lead in New Jersey: another 25 delegates and he's in second.

All the while, Romney keeps playing those holes decently well--well enough to keep accumulating delegates (a par and birdie) and stay up in the fight.

Now, what everybody has to hope is that neither McCain or Huckabee parlay their early successes into a Tiger Woods-like run of birdies and eagles, themselves.

This is a very different sort of primary process, we've been told. The question is does the paradigm become match-play or stroke-play? They're very different games--with potentially very different results.

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