Category Archives: Election Analysis

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.

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.