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Romney and Paul, 2008 and 2012

I was wrong in my assumption that states that voted for Mitt Romney in 2008 would be likely to vote for him again this year. At the outset of the primary and caucus season, I had thought that with wins in all states bar South Carolina, the race could finish up even before Super Tuesday on 6 March. However, his positioning in the race relative to the other candidates is different; where in 2008, he was a conservative to the right of perceived moderate frontrunner John McCain, this year he is the one perceived as the moderate frontrunner. So it eventually emerged that Romney had lost very narrowly in Iowa to socially conservative former Senator Rick Santorum, and lost night lost in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado, putting the current score at 4–3–1, to Santorum–Romney–Gingrich.

So between the two candidates who also contested in 2008, here’s how they compared:

State Paul Romney
2008 2012 +/− 2008 2012 +/−
Iowa 9.9% 21.4% +11.5% 25.2% 24.5% −0.7%
New Hampshire 7.8% 22.9% +15.1% 31.6% 39.3% +7.7%
South Carolina 3.6% 13.0% +9.4% 15.3% 27.9% +12.6%
Florida 3.2% 7.0% +3.8% 31.0% 46.4% +15.4%
Nevada 13.7% 18.7% +5% 51.1% 50.0% −1.1%
Colorado 8.4% 11.8% +3.4% 60.1% 34.9% −25.2%
Minnesota 15.7% 27.2% +11.5% 41.4% 16.9% −24.5%
Missouri 4.5% 12.2% +7.7% 29.3% 25.3% −4%

There is at best then quite an imperfect correlation between these candidates’ support between the two years. Perhaps the biggest difference for Romney is the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, modelled in part on the health care plan implemented by Mitt Romney while Governor of Massachusetts.

The victories yesterday did not allocate convention delegates, but were yet an indicator of Mitt Romney’s waning fortune in his position as frontrunner. He’s still most likely to be the nominee, but it will take longer to establish this than I presumed at the start of the year.

Are the victories by Rick Santorum an indication that cultural issues are playing a bigger role in Republican voters’ minds? Some recent events may shift their minds to such issue, between the Ninth Circuit ruling invalidating Proposition 8 in California (which I obviously welcome), and the mandate requiring all employers, including religious organizations, to provide contraceptive services (which I would be less enthusiastic about). While these issues may make Romney feel required to have a clearly conservative running mate, but I can’t see it gaining the party many votes this year.

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