The GOP Race: The Game of Political Risk

By Daniel Kay

With a new primary calendar this year, which includes contests that are moved up and more condensed, the road to the White House is much more complex. Some have compared the race to a chess match that is taking place across the country. The analogy is poor because in chess there are only two players while the GOP race has 6 active players. The contest is more comparable to Risk than chess. Every player claims territories and countries and each takes turns to choose their battles and form alliances in an attempt to win and gain the reinforcements that follow a victory. Each candidate has their own strategy, some better than the others:

Giuliani: The Hide in Australia (Florida) Strategy
Giuliani realized that he was going to lose in Iowa, Wyoming, New Hampshire, Michigan, Nevada and South Carolina pulled out and moved all his resources to Florida. This is comparable to a strategy I had when a child where I would hide in Australia while the other players wiped each other off the board; I had all my resources stockpiled ready to strike Asia when the others were to weak to stop me. I would then go on to win the game. Of course when you are playing others that are good at the game this never works because the other players don’t forget about you and keep the pressure on to make sure you do not get too strong. This has been the case for Giuliani. He has had to spend all his resources simply to stay tied with Romney and McCain in Florida.

Huckabee/McCain: The Unspoken Alliance of North America (Iowa) and Europe (New Hampshire)
Before Iowa, Romney was the guy with the huge armies that everyone else ganged up on because if they didn’t the game will not last much longer. Huckabee and McCain did a tag team, defeating Romney in Iowa and New Hampshire, respectively. This is like the duo who make an unspoken alliance to secure North America and Europe, respectively. The problem is that strategically they still have to fortify against each other and neither is a strategic launch pad to make a mass invasion. Likewise, they will have to take each other out of the game before they can effectively set themselves up for a strategic position to win Super Tuesday. Currently the game is at the point where McCain and Huckabee have to fight it out in South Carolina (Greenland) to stay in the game. South Carolina is the end of an alliance and the end of the holder of either North America or Europe from the game.

Romney: South America (Michigan) and Most Territories Strategy (Wyoming, Nevada)
I was once bet in a game of Risk by my brother-in-law who was able move around the board in such a way that when his run came around again he still had the most territories and invariably received more reinforcements early in the game. He was later able to conquer more countries and win the game over my strategy which was to go after countries first.
Romney has won Wyoming and Michigan. Wyoming can be seen as winning the territory of North Africa before moving into to take South America (Michigan). Now he has moved his armies back to the West to take Nevada (another chunk of Africa).

Thompson: Take Potshots on Everyone Until You Get a Trade-in Strategy
Thompson is really only a fifth wheel at this stage. He is like my friend Jack who liked to mettle with whoever he could get the most riled-up. That was usually me. While he should be playing the game to help the person he would like to win, it seemed that he just took his anger out on everyone. Thompson is stuck in Asia somewhere where he is able to use his army’s on everyone.

Romney’s Power Play
Romney has the most control over who wins South Carolina. He made a big move in the game by skipping the contest; if Huckabee wins, it will be a decisive strategic victory. Here is why:

If McCain wins in SC, that will make for a close race in Florida and Super Tuesday between Romney, Giuliani, and McCain because Huckabee will be out of the game. If Huckabee is removed from the game they will vote for whoever is competing with Romney, in Florida that will be either McCain or Giuliani. If the frontrunner against Romney is McCain, McCain’s support will come form foreign policy conservatives and the anti-Mormon vote but if that frontrunner should become Giuliani, Giuliani’s support will come from fiscal Conservatives, plus the anti-Mormon vote.

If Huckabee wins, that will be a good thing for Romney. Romney has probably asked like I have, “why not have the anti-Mormon voting bloc tied to the candidate whose base is the anti-Mormon voting bloc: Huckabee?” So in Florida if Huckabee is in play, after slowing the McCain train, the anti-Mormon vote will go with Huckabee regardless of how close he is to the frontrunners in the polls and give Romney a clear advantage in Florida and on Super Tuesday. Effectively, a Huckabee win in SC will tie-up the anti-Mormon vote to a candidate that is not viable nationally.

The person who benefited the most from a Romney pullout in SC was Huckabee; it was probably enough to hand him the gold tomorrow. The Romney ads that will run through tomorrow in SC are nothing more than an attempt to stay ahead of Thompson and ensure that he is forced out of the game. Skipping SC was a power play for Romney, especially if Huckabee wins, and he will be in good position to take Florida and Super Tuesday should this play out.

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