Category Archives: Election Analysis

Here We Go Again: Santorum Takes Alabama, Mississippi

Mitt Romney’s fundamental weakness as a Republican presidential candidate again came to the forefront in last night’s Alabama and Mississippi primaries: He fares poorly in the south and in rural areas, the heart of the Republican vote base. His third-place finish in both states is a surprise considering several polls suggested he would either win or finish a close second in both places.

Looking at the Alabama map in particular, it again clearly illustrates the problems Romney has in an eventual face-off with President Obama. His only Alabama regional wins came in the state’s three largest urban metro areas: Birmingham, Montgomery, and Mobile. This was exactly the same pattern we saw in Ohio, where his strong performance in the Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati metropolises were enough to propel him to a razor-thin statewide victory. In a general election format, however, the city vote disappears to the Democratic nominee – President Obama – and his weakness within the Republican base regions becomes even more of a factor.

Consistently in the Republican nomination race, it has been Rick Santorum who has far exceeded his polling performance. Claiming first place in Mississippi and Alabama gives the once obscure GOP “also-ran” candidate now nine victories from the 28 states that have held nominating events (Santorum’s strong win in the Missouri primary did not carry any delegates and is omitted from this summation). Romney has won 16 states and territories, Newt Gingrich two, and Rep. Ron Paul one (a tight win in the little-noticed Virgin Islands caucus where only 384 people voted).

Hawaii and American Samoa, in the far western time zones, also held caucuses last night; Romney won both of these Pacific Rim entities.

Turning to the delegate count, we again remind our readers that every projection is a mere estimate. No single accurate accounting actually exists and won’t until the delegates themselves are chosen. Therefore, the most important number to follow is a “guesstimate” of Romney’s delegate total. Even with his two victories last night, it is probable that neither Santorum nor Gingrich can commit the 1,144 delegate votes needed to score a first ballot victory when the Republican National Convention convenes in late August. But Romney is not particularly close to getting there either.

In the four nominating events held last night, by our calculations, Mr. Romney needed to secure 46 delegate votes, and he appears to have come up short. In Alabama, where 16 delegate votes were required to keep pace in order to achieve just the bare minimum majority number, it looks like his total will be closer to seven. Needing 12 delegates from Mississippi, he may have notched 11. He will probably reach or exceed the combined number of 18 for Hawaii and American Samoa, once those votes are fully tabulated.

Still, even with a strong showing in those two places (Hawaii 20 total delegates; American Samoa nine), Mr. Romney will likely fall short of the 46 that would keep him on the trajectory to barely hit the 1,144 necessary votes. He is likely to come closer to 36 total delegates from last night’s voting, rather than the projected 46. Since the delegate forecasts are based upon achieving the absolute minimum number to claim the nomination, the margin for error is non-existent.

In an interview with Fox News last night, Gingrich predicted that Romney would fall short of committing the 1,144 necessary delegate votes once all 56 states and territories have voted. Gingrich went on to say that he would stay in the race all the way to the convention in Tampa, thus remaining alive in an open convention where anything might happen.

The Missouri County Caucuses are next to begin their voting process and will do so tomorrow. The results will likely codify Santorum’s previous primary victory. Missouri delegate selection (52 votes) comes via the caucus procedure. The Puerto Rico primary (23 delegates) is scheduled for Sunday, March 18, followed by the important Illinois primary (69 votes) slated for Tuesday, March 20.

A Polling Mish-Mash

The Alabama and Mississippi primaries are today, along with caucuses in Hawaii and American Samoa, but the latest polls for the two southern states are producing inconclusive results as it relates to the national nomination picture. Such is normal for this presidential campaign, however.

Three different firms – Public Policy Polling, Rasmussen Reports and the American Research Group – conducted five polls during the March 8-11 period. PPP and RR surveyed both Alabama and Mississippi; ARG just polled Mississippi. Four of the five studies showed the leaders, either Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich, to be ahead by no more than two points in either state.

On the other hand, the Rasmussen Mississippi poll (March 8; 750 likely Mississippi GOP primary voters) appears to be an outlier, since the results give Romney an eight-point (35-27-27-6 percent) edge over both Gingrich and Rick Santorum, with Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) trailing badly. Santorum polls inconsistently according to these surveys. He pulls to within one point of the lead once (RR Alabama poll) and two points another time (PPP Alabama poll), but falls as far as eight points behind in the RR Mississippi results, and 12 back in the ARG Mississippi data.

At this point, it matters less who finishes first in proportional primary and caucus events. The key statistic is delegate count and just how far away Romney sits from majority status. In today’s four nominating events, Romney needs to secure at least an aggregate of 46 delegates to keep pace with the minimum majority goal.

Washington’s Inslee to Resign

Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA-1), already a declared 2012 candidate for governor of Washington state, will resign his seat in Congress this week. With gubernatorial election polling continuing to show him either behind or tied with Attorney General Rob McKenna (R), carrying out his responsibilities in the nation’s capital while still trying to campaign in a state that is the farthest away in the continental region from Washington, DC is logistically too difficult.

The timing of his resignation is important, hence the reason that he has waited until now to leave office. Under Washington election law, resigning in March prior to the state’s May 18 candidate filing deadline will allow a special election to be conducted concurrently with the state’s regular primary and general election schedule, Aug. 7 and Nov. 6, respectively.

This is a curious decision because the current 1st District, where a special election would be held, is more highly Democratic than the new 1st District. Though the Obama 2008 percentage in the new 1st is 56 percent, usually regarded as a strong partisan number, Rep. Dave Reichert’s (R) current 8th District has the same percentage, yet he has held even in the worst of Republican years. Therefore, the open battle in the new 1st figures to be much more competitive than one in the current 1st.

While it’s true that any new member would serve just a short time under the current lines if the election were held sometime before November, the short-term incumbency advantages would seemingly put the winner in a stronger position when facing a viable Republican regular election opponent, presumably 2nd District 2010 nominee John Koster who held Rep. Rick Larsen (D) to a 51-49 percent win. Much of the Koster base territory is in the new open 1st.

Expect WA-1 to be competitive in the fall. The concurrent special election will be virtually meaningless, because the winner will serve only the final two months of the current term. If the two elections produce different winners, the special election victor will have only eight weeks in office during the interim transition period.

Santorum Wins Kansas

Despite losing badly in Saturday’s Kansas Caucus, Mitt Romney still kept pace on the delegate count with strong performances in the three territories that also were voting on Saturday: the Northern Marianas Islands, Guam and the Virgin Islands.

Rick Santorum topped the 50 percent mark in the Kansas Caucuses, winning the state with 51.2 percent of the vote. Mr. Romney was a distant second with just 20.9 percent. Newt Gingrich was next with 14.4 percent, and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) brought up the rear at 12.6 percent. For the event, Santorum appears to have been awarded 33 delegates and Romney seven. But it was in the territories where Romney scored big. In Guam, he was surprisingly uncontested; the 207 people who attended the caucus meeting were able to award all nine delegates to him.

In the Northern Marianas Islands, Mr. Romney notched a whopping 87.3 percent of the vote (848 total voting universe) and swept all nine of this entity’s delegates.

Finally, in the Virgin Islands, it was Ron Paul who placed first among the votes cast with 112, followed by Romney’s 101; Santorum recorded 23, and Gingrich finished last tallying just 18 votes. On the delegate count, however, Paul scores just one for sure as four will remain uncommitted, while the three official Republican Party delegates declared for Romney. Therefore, despite placing second, Romney looks to leave the Virgin Islands with four delegates compared to Paul’s one.

According to our estimate of the number of remaining delegates that Romney must secure for a first ballot victory at the Republican National Convention, the former Massachusetts governor needed to commit a minimum aggregate of 29 delegates over Saturday’s four nominating events. With his seven from Kansas, nine each from the Northern Marianas and Guam, and four from the Virgin Islands, he appears to have exactly hit that number. This still leaves his ability to attain the necessary 1,144 delegate commitments in doubt, however, as the estimates only produce the bare minimum victory count.

Turning back to Kansas, the 29,855 voters attending the caucus meetings was a 53 percent increase in turnout over 2008. Four years ago, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee claimed a 59.6 percent victory in the Sunflower State Caucuses, far out-distancing all other contenders. Though Romney failed to even reach 21 percent in Kansas this year, his performance was greatly improved over 2008 when he finished with only 3.3 percent of the vote.

Can Romney Get There?

After mixed results on Super Tuesday, an election night that saw Mitt Romney winning six states – but just barely in the night’s biggest prize of Ohio – Rick Santorum winning three states and Newt Gingrich winning one, the delegate count now becomes the critical factor in determining whether or not the former Massachusetts governor can attain majority support at the Republican National Convention.

At this point, because different rules govern selection processes in the various states, it is very difficult to project an accurate pledged delegate count. In fact most political news bureaus reveal different numbers even when projecting the exact same states, because they are estimating how yet unchosen delegates will eventually vote.

It is fair to say that Mr. Romney is presently in the low-400 committed delegate range, inclusive of the Super Tuesday action. Statements from his campaign yesterday proclaimed that none of their opponents can mathematically reach the 1,144 committed delegate number necessary to clinch the Republican presidential nomination. While this appears to be a true statement, Mr. Romney himself may also fall short.

Thirty-four more entities (states and territories) must vote between this Saturday, March 10, and July 14, when Nebraska ends the entire process with their state convention. Of the total universe of 2,286 Republican delegates, 1,475 remain outstanding. Based upon the best projections, Romney must attract in the area of 740 more delegates to secure victory.

Of the 34 remaining states, 19 could favor Romney and 15 likely would not. Based upon the number of winner-take-all (7), straight proportional (8), caucus (7) and those with other format variations (12), it remains unclear if Romney will gain enough support to become the nominee before the Republicans arrive in their host city of Tampa, Fla.

Should no candidate secure the nomination on the first ballot, the convention could then be opened. States require their delegates to support the pledged nominee either through the first, second, or third ballots. This means that after one vote, a large number of delegate commitments expire, thus turning the floor into a free-for-all. An open convention would allow someone not participating in the primaries to capture the nomination.

Could such a scenario actually happen? We already have seen more bizarre things occur in this election cycle. In the next few days, Kansas, Guam, the Marianas Islands and Virgin Islands will each caucus (Saturday). The following Tuesday, voters in Alabama, Mississippi, Hawaii and American Samoa will head to the polls and they will add to the political drama. It looks like we’re in for a long haul.

Upset City: Schmidt, Kilroy Lose Ohio Primaries

The presidential contest attracted all of the media attention last night, but the Ohio congressional nominating elections proved exciting in their own right. Two upsets in the three most seriously contested Buckeye State battlegrounds were recorded.

First, in the Cincinnati-anchored OH-2, four-term incumbent Rep. Jean Schmidt fell to surgeon Brad Wenstrup 49-43 percent in the GOP primary. Two other candidates accumulated a combined total of 10 percent. In a high turnout that will exceed 85,000 votes, Mr. Wenstrup became the first candidate to score a challenger victory, and that coming in the initial congressional primary contest of the year.

An outside organization, the Campaign for Primary Accountability, which has the goal of defeating long-term incumbents in both parties in order to bring new blood to Congress, was heavily active here. In fact, some predict that the CPA efforts may be equivalent in spending to that of Wenstrup, himself. Through the Feb. 15 pre-primary FEC report, Wenstrup reported raising just under $245,000.

For her part, Ms. Schmidt, who seemed to run a non-existent campaign, may have taken renomination for granted. She was tagged with debt ceiling and certain tax votes, while supporting bank bail-out legislation that led to her husband’s business receiving such funding. She will continue to serve the balance of the remaining term.

We have to remember, though, that Mr. Wenstrup also ran a credible campaign for mayor of Cincinnati in 2009, scoring 46 percent against incumbent Mark Mallory (D). He carried seven of the city’s 26 wards against the mayor in that election, including three that comprise the heart of the 2nd District’s Cincinnati portion. Therefore, Wenstrup had a base in the city and also did well in Schmidt’s rural home turf, thus leading to his rather convincing victory. Mr. Wenstrup is the prohibitive favorite to win the seat in November.

In Columbus, the new 3rd District was drawn to elect a Democratic member in order to relieve electoral pressure from two area Republican lawmakers, and it has already hosted an upset victory. Former Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D), who lost her seat to Rep. Steve Stivers (R) in 2010, failed to win the OH-3 Democratic nomination battle in which she appeared to be favored. Former state House Minority Leader Joyce Beatty, with strong support from the African-American community and Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, knocked out Kilroy, and also defeated Columbus City Councilwoman Priscilla Tyson and state Rep. Ted Celeste. The final percentages were 38-35-15-12 percent, respectively.

Kilroy was never a particularly strong member or candidate. She has now won one close congressional election and lost three, all since 2006. She had a high disapproval rating, which carried over even among her fellow Democrats as more than 60 percent of the low turnout chose someone other than the former incumbent. The heavily Democratic nature of the district will assure that Ms. Beatty will be elected to the House this fall.

In an election whose result wasn’t a particular surprise, though the early returns were surprisingly close, 15-term Rep. Marcy Kaptur crushed fellow Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich in the new 9th District that stretches from Cleveland to Toledo along the Lake Erie shoreline. Kaptur beat Kucinich 56-40 percent, with 4 percent going to businessman Graham Veysey. Kaptur is the prohibitive favorite in November. She will face Samuel Wurzelbacher (R), better known as “Joe the Plumber”, who won an uninspiring GOP 51-49 percent primary victory over auctioneer Steve Kraus last night.

With two upsets already recorded on the first night of the congressional primary season, it is likely that all House incumbents are taking serious note of these results. Once again, 2012 is proving to be a most interesting election year.

Romney Takes Washington; The Precursor to Tuesday?

Mitt Romney scored big in the Washington caucuses over the weekend and even though there were no delegates attached to his beauty contest win, the victory was significant. It could prove to be a springboard into tomorrow’s 10-state Super Tuesday contests.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening was not that Romney placed first, but that Rick Santorum actually dropped behind Ron Paul to finish third. In mid-February, and before the Michigan and Arizona primaries, Public Policy Polling (Feb. 16-19; 400 likely Washington state GOP caucus attenders) pegged Santorum to a 38-27-15-12 percent lead over Romney, Paul, and Newt Gingrich, respectively.

A day after the Michigan and Arizona results, two states that Romney swept, PPP went back into the Evergreen State and detected a momentum shift. According to that study (Feb. 29-31; 447 likely Washington state GOP caucus attenders), Romney had captured the advantage and led 37-32-16-13 percent over Santorum, Paul, and Gingrich, in that order.

The somewhat surprising conclusion in the March 3 Washington vote that produced record high participation featured Romney scoring a 38-25-24-10 percent win over Paul, Santorum, and Gingrich. Therefore, not only did Santorum drop further down but Rep. Paul finished a full ten points above his polling range.

More than 49,000 people attended the Washington caucuses on Saturday, almost four times higher than the 13,475 individuals who voted in 2008. Across the board in the 13 states that have already hosted nominating events, turnout levels have been mixed.

In seven states (Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Colorado, Maine, Michigan, and Washington), turnout was higher this year than in 2008; substantially so in South Carolina and Washington.

In five states (Florida, Nevada, Minnesota, Missouri, and Arizona) turnout was lower; substantially so in Florida and Minnesota. Since the current vote did not carry delegate apportionment, the Missouri primary had little meaning in this election year as opposed to 2008 when it proved to be a deciding factor, thus explaining 2012’s strong Missouri participation downturn. The Arizona ’08 turnout was artificially high because favorite son John McCain was on the ballot. Wyoming did not report vote totals in 2008, only delegate apportionment, so it is impossible to tell if the 2,108 people who attended caucus meetings this year is a larger or smaller group than previous.

Tomorrow, 10 more states will vote representing a cumulative delegate number of 437. So far, not counting Washington or Missouri, since both of those states held beauty contest votes and will assign delegates later in the year at their respective state conventions, 331 delegates have been apportioned. Therefore, the 10 states voting tomorrow will exceed the aggregate number of delegates fought over so far in the 11 earliest voting states.

Romney appears to be a lock in his home state of Massachusetts (41 delegates) and neighboring Vermont (17). He is the prohibitive favorite in Virginia because only he and Rep. Paul qualified for the ballot. Since one of the two candidates will claim a majority of the vote, Virginia transforms into a winner-take-all state meaning the victor, almost assuredly Mr. Romney, will add 49 more delegates to his total.

Polling continues to show Santorum with a slight lead in all-important Ohio (66 delegates), with more substantial margins in Tennessee (58) and Oklahoma (43). Newt Gingrich leads in his home state of Georgia, now featuring the fourth largest Republican contingent of delegates (76) in the country.

The Alaska (27 delegates), Idaho (32), and North Dakota (28) caucuses are difficult to project and could become wild cards. Tomorrow will bring us an exciting and possibly politically transforming night.