Opinion by Matthew Dowd, ABC News Political Contributor
An interesting race just got even more interesting.
From one native son of Michigan (I was born in Detroit and was one of 11 kids who grew up there and were children of an auto industry father) to another native son, Mitt Romney, congrats on a great comeback.
So with the Michigan Republican primary just over and with Iowa and New Hampshire (and let’s not forget the Wyoming votes) already put to bed, let’s pause and figure out what lessons we have learned thus far.
1. It is much better right now to be the underdog and not the front runner.
In nearly every contest, the perceived frontrunner has lost, and the underdog has won. Voters are rewarding the candidate who is behind and who seems to be fighting to win more.
2. Mitt Romney seems to have recently found his voice, and he won. McCain found his independent voice in New Hampshire, and won. Obama found his voice in Iowa, won. Huckabee found his voice as well in Iowa, won. And Hillary found her voice, as she said herself, in New Hampshire, and she claimed victory. And many of the other second tier candidates just seem to be hearing voices.
Candidates ought to pay attention to the fact that when they are seen as authentic and speaking from their heart, they succeed.
3. Every candidate right now that has faced a must win situation, has won.
Obama needed to win Iowa to show he was for real and damage Clinton’s inevitability. He did. Huckabee had to win Iowa to prove his momentum was true, and he did. Hillary had to win New Hampshire to slow Obama’s momentum, and she did. McCain had to prove he had staying power in New Hampshire and that his comeback was for real, and he did. And Mitt Romney faced a crucial test in Michigan after finishing second twice in a row, and he won.
All the major candidates right now are proving when their back is against the wall, they gather their strength and do what is necessary. A great quality in a presidential candidate.
4. Delegate math, especially in the Republican nomination battle, is becoming increasingly important.
As the field is very divided, with no true frontrunner, the math of number of delegates grows paramount. So not only does it matter who wins a state, but where they finish grows in import. And winner-take-all states will be a priority.
As we approach the Nevada caucuses for both parties, and the South Carolina Republican primary on Saturday, it is terribly difficult to make predictions. Other than this one: so far an unresolved race will continue to be unclear after Saturday’s voting, and no one candidate will run the table any time soon.
Look for inconsistent results and second tier candidates to finally leave the race.