Category Archives: Presidential campaign

Santorum Takes Michigan Lead

Yet another surprise is occurring in the Republican presidential nomination battle, a campaign where astonishing results are basically becoming the norm. A new Public Policy Polling survey (Feb. 10-12; 404 likely Michigan Republican primary voters) gives former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum a 39-24-12-11 percent lead over his chief rival Mitt Romney, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14), and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, respectively. Michigan, the state in which Mr. Romney was reared and where his father served as governor for two terms in the 1960s, has long been a stronghold for the former Massachusetts chief executive. Losing the Wolverine State would clearly deal the Romney campaign a major blow.

In one way, the polling results are not all that surprising. Reviving the manufacturing industry in the Great Lakes states has been a focal point of Mr. Santorum’s campaign. Michigan’s economy has been among the worst in the nation. It is the only state to actually lose population in the last decade, mostly due to a lack of employment opportunities. His manufacturing/economic message largely accounts for Santorum’s 67:23 percent favorability rating. This compares to 49:39 percent for Romney. Both Mr. Gingrich and Rep. Paul are upside down, with their negative ratings greatly surpassing their positive scores. Gingrich registers 38:47 percent favorable to unfavorable, and Paul is in an even worse position at 32:51 percent.

Romney Squeaks by in Maine

Mitt Romney won a close Maine caucus victory over Ron Paul over the weekend, edging the Texas congressman 39-36 percent – a margin of just 196 votes. Rick Santorum, fresh from his sweep of the non-binding Missouri primary and Colorado and Minnesota caucuses, only managed 18 percent. Newt Gingrich was fourth with 6 percent.

Turnout for the Maine caucuses was typically small. Only 5,585 people participated, but that number is actually higher than 2008; four years ago 5,431 people attended the Republican caucuses.

Romney and Paul will likely come away from this latest presidential nominating contest with eight delegates apiece. Santorum appears to have notched four and Gingrich one. Three at-large party delegates remain uncommitted. As in most caucus states, the delegates will be officially apportioned at the district and state party convention, which, for Maine, will be held over the May 5-6 weekend.

The results underscore Santorum’s fundamental campaign problem. Due to a lack of resources that prevent him from organizing in all of the states, the former Pennsylvania senator has been unable to capitalize on his strong performance in Iowa, and then in the three venues last week. This flaw likely costs him the ability to overtake Romney. In fact, the financial and organizational advantages Romney possesses likely will be enough to outlast all others in the field.

The campaigns now move onto the Arizona and Michigan primaries, which are scheduled for Feb. 28.

The GOP Pack Goes to CPAC

The annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) began yesterday at Washington, DC’s Marriot Wardman Park Hotel. The American Conservative Union, while less influential in the conservative movement than it was during its heyday in the 1970’s, still hosts the event, which has become a well-attended, well-covered political and media extravaganza.

The 2012 CPAC conference is likely to occupy the center ring in the Republican presidential nomination circus today. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, ex-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich are all on the CPAC agenda today hoping to prove their conservative bona fides and earn the support of the decidedly right-of-center voters who represent the lion’s share of the GOP’s political base.

For those three and Texas congressman Ron Paul, a solid, conservative red-meat speech could provide a much-needed and long-lasting spark to a relative media lull in the normally tumultuous nomination contest. Conversely, a poor or lackluster performance might convince conservatives and political media types that one candidate just doesn’t have the ability to drive conservative voter base intensity.

The stakes are particularly high for Romney, Gingrich and the newly resurgent Santorum. Santorum speaks this morning and hopes his recent stunning successes in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado coupled with endorsements from heavy-hitting social issues leaders will convince conservatives to view him, rather than Gingrich, as the movement’s alternative to Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor speaks after Santorum and will undoubtedly promote himself as a true conservative who can be trusted. Expect him to throw anti-Obama red meat to the crowd as he tries to convince conference-goers that he has the best chance of beating the President in November. Gingrich, whose numbers have been slipping steadily since a couple of lackluster debate performances in the run-up to the Florida primary will seek to regain his footing by re-connecting with conservative movement leaders he has known and worked with for more than 30 years.

While Rep. Paul certainly has a following among conservatives who are focused on shrinking the government and returning to a commodity-backed currency, his global policy positions and some of his stands on social issues are likely to make him unacceptable to many foreign policy and cultural conservatives.

A CPAC/Washington Times straw vote will be held on Saturday with naturally no delegate votes at stake. The straw vote may not determine who GOP conservatives back nationally, but the outcome will certainly help the winner claim the “true conservative” mantel.

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.