Category Archives: Election Analysis

Analyzing the Turnout

There have been several media stories and reports this week discussing the alleged downward voter turnout trend in the Republican presidential primaries. As so often is the case with modern-day political reporting, the supposition doesn’t hold water. While true that turnout was down in Florida, Minnesota and Missouri this past Tuesday night, voter participation has actually increased in several other states.

Turnout was mixed on Tuesday. It was up 17.3 percent in Colorado as compared to the 2008 official results, but down 23.9 percent in Minnesota. Voter participation dropped 57.2 percent in Missouri, but that was expected because the primary had no real meaning. Four years ago, the Missouri primary was an important winner-take-all contest. This year the primary vote was merely a straw poll, and the true turnout will be measured once the county caucus votes are cast on March 17.

Overall, the 2012 Republican presidential primary/caucus turnout has increased in four states (Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Colorado) and dropped in an equal number (Florida, Nevada, Minnesota, and Missouri). The 14.2 percent drop in Florida might be the most surprising voter participation figure since many believed the state would cast the deciding votes to effectively end the entire nomination process. South Carolina, in similar position when voters in that state cast ballots just 10 days before Florida, saw a 35.5 percent gain in turnout as compared to four years ago.

Santorum Sweeps Three; Faces Challenges Ahead

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum swept the voting last night at the Colorado and Minnesota caucuses and in the non-binding Missouri primary. With his victories, the upstart presidential candidate has now won more states (four) than any other candidate, despite spending far less money.

Finally rebounding after his surprising Iowa win but subsequently followed with poor performances in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and Nevada, Santorum topped former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney 40-35 percent in Colorado, and won by a whopping 55-25 percent margin in Missouri. In Minnesota, he defeated Rep. Ron Paul 45-27 percent, as Romney could only manage 17 percent. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich continues to fall. He performed poorly in Colorado (13 percent) and Minnesota (11 percent) last night, and failed to even qualify for the Missouri primary ballot.

The Missouri vote carried no delegate allocation. This will occur in county caucus meetings beginning March 17. In 2008, the state hosted a winner-take-all primary. The process also continues both in Colorado and Minnesota where delegates are formally apportioned at the district and state conventions later this year.

Looking at the unofficial delegate count after the first seven states to allocate (including Colorado and Minnesota), Romney has 99 delegates, Gingrich 41 (thanks to his South Carolina victory where he gathered 23 of 25 available votes), Santorum 39, and Paul 28. A candidate needs 1,144 delegate votes to secure the nomination, so only 9 percent of the total delegate pool has so far been apportioned. With his strong performance in Missouri, Santorum is in the best position to secure the majority of the state’s 52 delegates when the allocation process begins next month.

Are last night’s results an indication that Santorum can seriously challenge Romney for the nomination? It will still be difficult for him to do so, despite being in reach in the early delegate count. He will likely need to top Romney in Arizona on Feb. 28, because the former Michigan resident will likely win that state on the same day, do well on Super Tuesday (March 6), and hope he can score big later in his home state of Pennsylvania (72 delegates at stake) and conservative Texas (155). He will also have to hold his own in the remaining big northeastern states such as New York and New Jersey.

Scoring victories among some of the 10 Super Tuesday states is a necessity. The downside for Santorum on that day is Romney’s home state of Massachusetts, which is among the voting states, as is Gingrich’s Georgia. And remember, Santorum failed to qualify for the Virginia ballot. So, Ohio, with its 66 delegates becomes critically important for the Santorum cause. He will also need to do well in the Alaska, North Dakota and Idaho caucuses, as well as capturing the Oklahoma (43 delegates) and Tennessee (58) primaries.

Romney Takes Nevada; Finishes Short of Majority

As expected, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney swept through the Nevada Caucuses on Saturday, but with less of a margin than expected. In fact, his performance this weekend fell short of four years ago when he captured 51 percent of the vote against certainly stronger competition at commensurate points in the two races. As you’ll remember, John McCain who placed a distant third to Romney and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) in Nevada, would rebound to capture the Republican nomination.

Romney did not score a majority among the caucus attenders. With almost one-third of the votes left to count, the former Massachusetts governor is placing a clear first with 49.6 percent, followed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (21 percent), Rep. Paul (18 percent), and ex-Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (10 percent).

Romney’s total was not the only Nevada figure that was down on Saturday. Voter participation was also much lower when compared to the 2008 total turnout number. With the current votes now finally tabulated, the number of participants is recorded as 30,306. Four years ago, turnout was 44,315.

Nevada has polled consistently as one of Romney’s three strongest states, the other two being New Hampshire and Michigan. Yet, in what is now his third primary or caucus victory, the front-runner has yet to claim a majority of the votes cast. This is surprising with regard to Nevada, since he is opening up his largest national lead of the recent campaign and comes immediately after a big Florida win. Gingrich’s effort is now clearly stalling. Paul has likely hit his support ceiling. Santorum now absorbed his third consecutive disappointingly poor performance.

If anything, though, Nevada cemented Mr. Romney’s overall lead and makes the chances of him winning the nomination even greater than before the vote. While Nevada still reveals his weakness within the Republican voting base, particularly among those considering themselves to be most conservative, the remaining three contenders continue to decline. Despite Gingrich’s proven ability to bounce back into contention – he’s already done so twice just in this campaign – it is unlikely he can recover again to the point of becoming an actual threat to Romney. Paul will never exceed his small base within the party, mostly due to his position on foreign affairs and some social issues, and Santorum has failed to unite and energize conservatives.

The one scenario where Romney wins the Republican nomination appears to be unfolding. His path to victory dictated that no one opponent could gather enough support to isolate him into a virtual one-on-one battle. If that were to happen, polls have consistently shown that the other candidate – almost whomever it was – would defeat him.

Nevada made two points in relation to Romney. First, it makes him the clear, and perhaps prohibitive, favorite to win the nomination. Second, it still shows his inherent weakness within the Republican voting structure. Once again, and most probably, President Barack Obama is the candidate faring best through these five Republican nominating events. Romney has serious work to accomplish in order formulate a united base behind him for what promises to be a heated and divisive general election campaign.

Inside Romney’s Big Victory In Florida, and What’s Next

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney racked up a major victory in the Florida primary last night, scoring close to an outright majority of the Republican vote for the first time in the nomination contest. Romney garnered 46 percent of the vote to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s 32 percent. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum followed with 13 percent. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) registered only 7 percent of the vote.

Romney carried the day largely in South Florida as he topped 61 percent of the vote in Miami-Dade, clearly his best county. He also notched majority percentages in Broward, Palm Beach, Collier, Martin, and Indian River counties, all coastal regions in the central and southern parts of the state.

Gingrich, Santorum, and Paul came nowhere near making this a race. Since none of them met the benchmarks they had each hoped to achieve in Florida, where does the campaign go from here?

Even with the sweep of Florida’s 50 delegates – down 50 percent because of the penalty absorbed for moving its primary before Super Tuesday – Romney only leads the overall delegate count 65-27 over Gingrich, with only approximately 5 percent of the total number of delegates apportioned. With so many more states to vote, where is the next likely place for Gingrich to make a move, assuming that both Santorum and Paul are now too far behind the momentum curve to make a resurgent thrust?

The next states on the calendar favor Romney. The Nevada, Minnesota and Colorado caucuses are next up, followed by the Michigan and Arizona primaries. With the Gingrich campaign so far displaying a lack of organizational ability, the caucus format will again likely favor Romney. Michigan, a state that elected his father governor in the 60s, also has proven to be a strong state for the current front runner. Arizona might be a place for an upset, but the immigration issue, one upon which Gingrich is less conservative, could be a sticking point. If Romney rolls through the aforementioned states, will he clinch the nomination before Super Tuesday? Practically, yes, but it is unlikely the competition will cease.

By all accounts, the Florida result is a big victory for Mitt Romney, and may prove to be close to a knock-out blow.

Why Third-Place Matters

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney appears poised to win a convincing victory tonight in the Florida Republican presidential primary and, barring future delegate certification challenges before the Republican National Convention, will claim all 50 delegates being apportioned in the state in winner-take-all fashion.

Eight different polls, all conducted during a period beginning Jan. 27 or later, give Mr. Romney leads of between 5 and 25 percentage points, and in all but two of those polls he wins by double digits. Each poll has former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in second place and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum either in third or tied for third with Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14).

But it is how Santorum performs that may be the most interesting part of tonight’s result. Since the polls all show him posting between 9 and 12 points, a stronger performance will reveal further conservative dissatisfaction with Romney. Further right-of-center voters fleeing Gingrich – as his roller coaster campaign now begins to slide downward again – and heading toward Santorum looks to be a very real possibility. Should this occur, the Pennsylvanian, who spent little money in Florida, would head to Nevada with some new wind at his back, particularly if Romney again wins with only a plurality of support.

Such a finish would again lend credence to the theory that a uniting of conservatives behind one candidate could still see that candidate overtake Romney. Failure for that scenario to take place likely nominates Romney at least by the time most primaries and caucuses conclude at the end of April, if not sooner.