Category Archives: Presidential campaign

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.

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.

What Do Mitt’s Tuesday Wins Mean?

Mitt Romney won a close victory in Michigan last night and a landslide victory in Arizona, but his performance still doesn’t knock out Rick Santorum. Because of what appears to be only a three-point victory in the Wolverine State, Romney probably will score only two more delegates from this state than does his chief opponent.

Arizona, on the other hand, is setting itself up as a winner-take-all state (29 delegates due to penalty), but that format is in defiance of Republican National Committee rules. Expect a major challenge here if the race goes all the way to the national convention.

With splits predicted for the upcoming Super Tuesday states, including the Washington caucuses this Saturday, the outcome of the GOP nomination battle will likely not be settled even after those states pass. Much more to come in this presidential race.

Wisconsin Poll: Good for Obama, Bad for Baldwin

The Marquette Law School polled voters on the presidential race and upcoming open US Senate contest in what will be a pivotal 2012 political state. The survey (Feb. 16-19; 716 likely Wisconsin voters) finds President Obama faring well in at least one of several Great Lakes states that could foretell the final national election result.

According to the Marquette survey, Obama would lead former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who does best among the Republican contenders, by a 51-40 percent margin. He enjoys a 53-38 percent edge over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and even larger spreads when paired with ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (56-33 percent) and Rep. Ron Paul (52-36 percent).

Zeroing in on the Republican primary, it is Santorum who has a big lead in a state that will likely matter greatly in the GOP nomination contest (primary: April 3). The Pennsylvanian leads Romney 34-18 percent. Rep. Paul attracts 17 percent support and Gingrich 12 percent. Since the state has same-day voter registration and an open primary, all Wisconsinites will have the opportunity to participate in the Republican selection process. In sampling those who self-identify as Republicans, Santorum’s lead over Romney is even greater. Among this group, support for Santorum more than doubles over that for Romney, 44-20 percent.

Turning to the Senate race, the news is not overly good for Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2), who is the consensus Democratic candidate. Though Baldwin actually leads two of the three announced Republican candidates (she slips past former Rep. Mark Neumann (R-WI-1) 44-40 percent and enjoys a bigger edge, 45-37 percent, over state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald) her level of consistent support in all scenarios suggests a stagnant candidacy. When paired with former four-term Gov. Tommy Thompson, she trails. The former Wisconsin chief executive holds a 48-42 percent lead over Ms. Baldwin.

Notice that in all instances, even against Mr. Fitzgerald who has a low statewide name ID and fares the worst of all GOP candidates on the ballot test, the congresswoman falls within the same 42-45 percent support range. Opposing an extremely well-known Republican, but one with relatively high unfavorable ratings (Thompson), she scores 42 percent. Against an opponent with a hard name ID factor of less than 50 percent (Fitzgerald), she moves only to 45 percent. Paired with a former congressman and statewide candidate (Neumann) who hasn’t been on a general election ballot since 1998, she notches just 44 percent.

Her static performance against a rather diverse group of Republican candidates suggests that she may have an early support ceiling far below what will be necessary to win a general election.

Adding the recall election for Gov. Scott Walker (R) that will occur sometime between April and June, depending upon the resolution of several legal challenges to the presidential and senatorial contests, Wisconsin promises to be the hottest political state in the Union this year. How Wisconsin goes, so could the country.

The Super Tuesday Scorecard

It’s quite possible that Super Tuesday, designed to give one presidential candidate a boost toward the eventual party nomination, may not be particularly definitive in 2012.

Initial polling has been published, or trends are clear, in nine of the 13 states hosting caucuses or primaries on or before Super Tuesday; the preliminary information suggests that the race will move toward the next group of states in close fashion.

Currently, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum holds definitive leads over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in Ohio (66 delegates – 42-24 percent, Rasmussen Reports, Feb. 15), Oklahoma (40 delegates – 39-23 percent, The Sooner Poll, Feb. 8-16) and Washington (53 delegates – 38-27 percent, Public Policy Polling, Feb. 16-19). He also has a close lead in Michigan (30 delegates – 38-34 percent, Rasmussen, Feb. 20). The grand total of delegates apportioned in the aforementioned Santorum states is 189.

Romney has no published polling data for the states where he commands a definitive advantage with the exception of Virginia, but the outcomes are unquestioned. He will win his home state of Massachusetts (41 delegates), along with Vermont (17 delegates) and Virginia (49 delegates). He has a close lead in Arizona (29 delegates – 36-33 percent, PPP, Feb. 17-19).

The Old Dominion is becoming more important than originally projected. Christopher Newport University conducted a poll of Virginia Republican primary voters (Feb. 4-13) and found Romney leading Rep. Ron Paul 53-23 percent. Remember, only Romney and Paul qualified for the Virginia ballot, meaning one of the candidates will win a majority of the vote – almost assuredly Romney. Breaking 50 percent is important because under Virginia delegate apportionment rules, any candidate receiving a majority of the vote receives unanimous support from all 49 delegates. Therefore, the inability of Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to recruit enough petition signatures to participate in the Virginia primary will cost them dearly.

Adding the delegate contingents from the aforementioned Romney states produces an aggregate count of 136.

Georgia is now becoming extremely interesting. With the delegate penalty sanction assessed to Florida for its defiance of Republican National Committee rules, the Peach State now becomes the fourth-largest contingent with 76 delegates. According to a survey from the Atlanta-based Insider Advantage (Feb. 20), Gingrich leads his GOP opponents with 26 percent, but he is followed closely by Romney and Santorum with 24 and 23 percent, respectively. Therefore, it is clear that Georgia is anyone’s game. But, if the vote stays this evenly divided, the candidates will likely split the pool of delegates almost evenly, thereby giving no one a clear upper hand.

There is no available polling for Tennessee (47 delegates), or the caucus states of Alaska (27 delegates), Idaho (32 delegates) and North Dakota (28 delegates). Combined, states total 134 delegates – so far unaccounted for. The aggregate number of delegates contained in the universe of Super Tuesday and Super Tuesday cusp states is 535, or 23.4 percent of the entire Republican National Convention delegate universe.

It is reasonable to expect momentum to shift toward one candidate should either Santorum or Romney sweep the pre-Super Tuesday states of Michigan, Arizona, and Washington. If this happens, then Super Tuesday itself could become definitive after all.