Rick Santorum did better last night than polling expected, winning the primaries in both Alabama and Mississippi. In only one of eight polls on Nate Silver’s blog was Santorum ahead in Alabama. Between them, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich were expected to win these, where a sweep for one candidate or a split between them. Although Gingrich has had a poor campaign, his political base since 1979 has been in nearby Georgia, which he won on Tuesday, 6 March.
In the end, the results were:
Alabama: Santorum 35%, Gingrich 29%, Romney 29%, Paul 5%
Mississippi: Santorum 33%, Gingrich 31%, Romney 30%, Paul 4%
Now the tally between the states stand at 15–9–2 to Romney–Santorum–Gingrich. Romney has neither a convincing enough lead nor the momentum to to force the others out, so will muddle on.
Had Gingrich dropped out two weeks ago, we could have been looking at a 14–10–1 split instead; this assumes that most Gingrich voters would have voted for Santorum in Ohio, which Romney won by less than 1%, and in Georgia.
We’re looking at a similar situation now. The next state up is Illinois, this coming Tuesday, and the latest polling shows Romney 35%, Santorum 31%, Gingrich 12% and Ron Paul 7%. New Gingrich is talking more about stopping Mitt Romney and less about becoming the next president of the United States. But he still intends to carry on to the Republican National Convention Tampa, Florida on 27–30 August.
If Gingrich did pull out, and Illinois Republicans voted for Santorum, Romney would be seriously damaged. Still more likely to be the nominee, but less likely than he is right now. It would be a one-on-one race between Santorum and Romney (with Paul picking up votes that would probably not otherwise go to either in the primaries). But with Gingrich’s sense of self-worth, seeing votes come in for his name as a candidate for president probably means more to Newt than damaging Romney’s chances. As it is, he serves simply as a spoiler for Romney.
First Foreign Policy gave us a Who said it? quiz with statements from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran, and from Rick Santorum, Senator for Pennsylvania, 1994–2006 and second-place candidate in the ongoing Republican presidential primaries, from Foreign Policy. I guessed two of these wrong, it’s tough enough to discern one from the other.
Now Mad Magazine presents us with a similar quiz, with the front-runner in that primary race:
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:
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.
States that support a candidate in one nomination cycle tend to support them again four years later, especially if the candidate is in a stronger position the second time around. On this alone, Mitt Romney should be expected to be more likely than not to win in Michigan (where his father was governor), Nevada, Wyoming, Maine, Massachusetts (his home state), Montana, Utah, Minnesota, Colorado, North Dakota and Alaska. I may have missed a particular reason he won’t win a particular one of these again (while Huntsman would probably win in Utah if it were an early primary, it’s unlikely to factor in at all, scheduled for June).
With this and current polling trends in mind, Mitt Romney should fare quite well in the primary and caucuses before Super Tuesday on 6 March:
- 3 January – Iowa: Romney polling ahead
- 10 January – New Hampshire: Romney polling ahead
- 21 January – South Carolina: Gingrich polling ahead
- 31 January – Florida: Romney marginally ahead in latest poll; predicting him rather than Gingrich, polling second, assuming Gingrich loses steam after poor IA and NH finishes
- 4 February – Nevada: Romney, based on 2008
- 7 February – Colorado: Romney, based on 2008
- 7 February – Minnesota: Romney, based on 2008; even if it is Bachmann’s home state, she’s faring very poorly
- 11 February – Maine: Romney, based on 2008
- 28 February – Michigan: Romney, based on 2008
- 28 February – Arizona: no lead
- 3 March – Washington: no lead
This is unscientific, so if you have better clues on any of these, let me know. And I don’t mean to suggest either that he would lock out any contenders before 6 March, even if he wins all these, as he could win them only marginally, with rivals taking plenty of delegates from these contests too. And there are ten contests on Super Tuesday that could change things a lot. But if he wins both Iowa and New Hampshire, he will be the first Republican since Ronald Reagan in 1980 to do so. Not a bad start at all so.
Edit: But Romney is only marginally ahead in the Iowa polls. If Rick Santorum or Ron Paul win, I’d still see most of the above panning out the same, except with Romney in a weaker position against Gingrich in Florida.
Were I a resident of Iowa, I would caucus tomorrow for Jon Huntsman (and I could do so without having been a long-term registered Republican). I would like to able to have a genuine choice for between the two main party candidates in November’s election, and Huntsman is the only Republican who I can now envisage myself supporting. Even if I were to support President Barack Obama for re-election, I think he would be better served by debating Huntsman than any of the other candidates. Such a debate would be the one most likely to be fought on issues of substance.
Jon Huntsman served as ambassador to Singapore from 1992 to 1993, worked in business till he was appointed Deputy United States Trade Representative in 2001 by President Bush, and in this role helped bring the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the People’s Republic of China into the WTO. He served as governor of Utah from 2005 to 2009, and as Ambassador to China from 2009 to 2011, appointed by President Obama. Through these positions, he has an understanding of international relations, and the role the US plays, already more developed than most presidential candidates, in this season or in past years. He showed patriotism by accepting an ambassadorial position under this current Democratic administration, when it would have been better for his prospects in the Republican primaries to have continued as governor.
Though very much the most moderate of the Republican candidates, he is a fiscal hawk. In 2008, the Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank, ranked Huntsman in fifth place among governors on fiscal policy, on level with Republicans Rick Perry of Texas and Jim Gibbons of Nevada. His economic and taxation policy is focused on reducing corporate welfare and other tax expenditures. Yet in August, he was the only one of the Republican candidates to approve of the deal between the president and the House on the debt ceiling, calling it “a positive step toward cutting our nation’s crippling debt.”
In 1976, Ronald Reagan challenged President Gerald Ford for the Republican Party nomination, winning 23 states to Ford’s 27. Then in 1980, Reagan was the nominee.
In 1980, George H. W. Bush won 6 states, with Ronald Reagan winning the remaining 44. Bush was selected as Reagan’s Vice President, and after Reagan’s two terms was the nominee in 1988.
In 1988, Bob Dole won 5 states and Pat Robertson won 4 states, with Vice President Bush winning the remaining 41 states. Bush was elected president, contesting again in 1992. In 1996, Bob Dole was the nominee.
The pattern doesn’t hold between 1996 and 2000. Bob Dole win 44 states, Bat Buchanan won 4, and Steve Forbes won 2, whereas George W. Bush was the nominee in 2000.
In 2000, John McCain won 7 states to Bush’s 43. Bush was elected president, contesting again in 2004. Then in 2008, McCain was the nominee.
In 2008, Mitt Romney won 11 states, Mike Huckabee won 7, with McCain winning the remaining 31. Now Romney looks the most likely to win this year’s nomination, though it is by no means secure for him.