Tag Archives: Super Tuesday

Polls Show an Extremely Tight Florida Race

A series of eight polls, all of which touch either Jan. 22 or 23 as part of their sampling period, again show an extremely close Florida presidential contest. This time the combatants are Republicans Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich and, as in the 2000 general election that saw the Sunshine State deciding the presidential campaign by just 537 votes, next Tuesday’s GOP primary could potentially be just as tight.

Of the eight surveys, four (American Research Group, CNN/Time, Quinnipiac University and We Ask America) show Mr. Romney holding a slight advantage. The ARG survey gives him a seven point edge, while the other three have him up two points apiece. One poll, a survey from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, has the candidates tied at 33 percent. Gingrich has slightly more substantial leads in three polls (Public Policy Polling, Rasmussen Reports, and Insider Advantage). In these studies, he is ahead of Romney by five, nine, and eight points, respectively.

The closing five days of the Florida race could well determine who places first and second on Tuesday, but with early voting already underway in earnest, the political crunch time may not pack such a decisive final blow.

A razor-thin Florida contest will likely change the race very little. The candidates will then head to Nevada, Michigan, and Arizona before Super Tuesday comes on March 6. Failing to see much separation, it is likely we will have to go all the way through April 24, when 70 percent of the delegates are apportioned to best determine the identity of the next Republican presidential nominee.

Florida is Just the Beginning of the Presidential Campaign

Many commentators and analysts have been publicly alluding to a scenario where next Tuesday’s Florida primary perhaps ends the Republican presidential campaign. They believe that enough momentum could come from the Sunshine State vote, the biggest state to claim the electoral spotlight to date, that virtually all of the other candidates fall by the wayside.

Regardless of who wins Florida, it is very unlikely that such will be the case, and it all comes down to simple math. It takes 1,144 adjusted delegate votes to clinch the nomination. After Florida a mere 115 will be, for all intents and purposes, chosen; just 10 percent of the number required to win and only 5 percent of the total delegate universe.

The delegate number is so small during this first part of the election cycle, because many of the early states were penalized delegate slots for moving their nominating event. Florida started the musical chairs by shifting to Jan. 31, in violation of Republican National Committee rules. The action cost them 50% of their delegation. Florida is awarded 99 delegates, but post-penalty, the candidates are vying for only 50.

Because New Hampshire, South Carolina, Michigan and Arizona all moved up, they too, receive 50 percent penalties. Cumulatively, the penalized states lose an aggregate total of 143 delegate slots. Thus, the universe of Republican National Convention delegates is reduced from 2,429 to 2,286.

Through South Carolina, the projected delegate scorecard gives former House Speaker Newt Gingrich the lead with just 27 votes. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is second with 15 delegates, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) is third at 9, and ex-Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is next with 6. Technically, Texas Gov. Rick Perry captured three delegates and former Obama Administration official Jon Huntsman won two, so it is likely these five votes will be released.

But even the status of these few votes is no certainty. As Rep. Paul stated in Monday night’s Florida debate, the Iowa Caucuses are not over. The vote on Jan. 3 was merely a straw poll. The main purpose of the precinct caucuses was to elect delegates to the county conventions. At those meetings, delegates are then sent to the June 16 state convention where the 28 Iowa Republican National Convention representatives finally will be chosen.

South Carolina also is not finished. Because the state apportions most of their delegates through the congressional districts, assignment cannot yet move forward because the new seven-seat congressional redistricting plan has not fully cleared all legal hurdles. When the districts are finalized, it appears that Gingrich will win Districts 2 thru 7. Romney carried CD-1. This means the former Speaker is projected to eventually receive 23 of the 25 available Palmetto State delegates.

Even through Super Tuesday (March 6), only 29 percent of the delegates will be chosen, suggesting that the nomination fight could go on for some time. Eighteen states will vote on or before Super Tuesday, holding a total of 664 delegate votes.

Many of the larger states are holding their elections later in the cycle in order to attract more attention and greater political capital. In fact, just seven states (California, Illinois, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas) hold more cumulative delegate votes (670) than do all the states voting through the Super Tuesday informal benchmark.

It is not until the April 24 primaries when more than 70 percent of the total delegates are selected that a clear nominee will likely be chosen. Therefore, instead of places like Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida determining the Republican nominee, the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Delaware and Connecticut now become the key venues, some three months after Floridians cast their ballots.

Based on the current results, prepare for a much longer contest than originally projected … and miles to go before we sleep.

With Newt Gingrich’s Win in South Carolina, Now What?

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s strong 40-28 percent victory over former Gov. Mitt Romney in Saturday’s South Carolina primary means the Republican presidential nomination fight is far from being decided. The 40 percent total represented the largest winning percentage thus far in the campaign, topping Romney’s showing in the New Hampshire primary (39 percent).

Turnout was a record high for an individual party. The 2008 Democratic primary, featuring then-senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, topped 532,000 ballots cast. That year more than 443,000 also voted on the Republican side. On Saturday, GOP voter participation broke the 600,000 threshold.

The evening proved to be a disappointment for both former Sen. Rick Santorum and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14). Both had hoped to do better. Santorum needed to at least finish a close third to realistically continue performing as a first tier candidate, but tallied only 17 percent of the South Carolina vote. Following Santorum was Rep. Paul with 13 percent. The congressman stated publicly he was hoping for a strong third place finish. Gingrich won 43 of the state’s 46 counties and Romney three, while both Santorum and Paul were shut-out.

Mr. Gingrich again rebounded from what appeared to be a relentless downward spiral based upon his Iowa and New Hampshire finishes. Every other candidate in this race, once they began to fall, never recovered. As we saw in South Carolina over the weekend, Gingrich has now bounced back twice, once from his staffing debacle at the start of his presidential campaign, and now, overcoming the negative ad barrage that damaged him in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Additionally, South Carolina may have given us the first practical test of the theory that a conservative who can isolate Romney in a two-way race beats him, irrespective of who may be that individual. Since the Palmetto State vote is the first instance where the campaign winnowed down into basically a two-candidate race, the theory, at least as exemplified during this past weekend, appears to have legs.

We also have the underpinnings of a nomination fight that could soldier on for a long while, or at least through the end of April when more than two-thirds of the delegates will be apportioned. With Gingrich’s victory in South Carolina, three candidates have now won nominating events: Santorum in the Iowa Caucuses Romney in the New Hampshire primary, and now the former Speaker during this past weekend.

Projecting forward from the progression of events just passed, let’s try to project what comes next in Florida on Jan. 31? As the party leaders had hoped for when they accepted reducing the size of their delegation by half for the right to vote before Super Tuesday (March 6), Florida could determine who wins the nomination. Not only will it be the first big state to host a nominating event, but a victory by either Romney or Gingrich could send the other two candidates, Paul and Santorum, out of the race. Santorum’s departure would have a greater effect because his constituency will almost assuredly go to Gingrich as their second choice.

The Florida vote will answer the following questions: Will Gingrich have generated enough momentum in South Carolina to win a big state primary? Will Romney’s superior financial resources and campaign management team return him to the winner’s circle in what could become the most important of states? Will Paul and Santorum drop out if they again finish poorly? Will an eventual two-way contest between Gingrich and Romney favor the former Speaker despite his carrying substantial personal and political baggage? The answers to these and many other race-defining queries will be uncovered to at least some degree when people from Pensacola to Key West cast their ballots in eight days. Stay tuned.

Winning the “Not Romney Primary”

Now that most of the dust has settled from the first-in-the-nation caucus for the GOP presidential nomination, it may be a good time to provide additional texture to the popular political punditry concerning the current state of the GOP presidential nomination contest. Sorting out the true meaning of an election is rarely done well during the night of the contest itself, and so it is with Iowa in 2012.

The major media and the “political punditariat” always are inclined to follow the horse race aspect of any campaign. As media consultant Mike Murphy humorously said recently on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program, “the pool of national political reporters are like a bit like a Tyrannosaurus – 30 feet tall, sharp teeth, red meat-eating, with small brains, but they can follow movement.”

Watching only the shiny moving objects this past Tuesday would indicate that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney very narrowly won the Iowa Caucus over former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. The real importance of the Iowa Caucuses, however, may not be his eight-vote victory. Rather, the truly significant aspect is the winnowing of the field in the “Not Romney primary.”

In fact, Romney’s difficulty in cracking through an apparent support ceiling among GOP primary voters and caucus participants has led to a virtual parade of aspirants to the “Not Romney” mantle in this year’s nomination contest.

After Iowa, it seems clear that Mr. Santorum has become the true leader of the GOP’s “Not Romney” primary contest.

All of the political air that had filled the Palin-Trump-Bachmann-Perry-Cain-Gingrich bubble had to go somewhere and in Iowa that somewhere was to the campaign of Rick Santorum, the only contestant not to have a turn at being the “Not Mitt Romney” candidate. His timing was fortuitous, message clear and pitch-perfect for Iowa Caucus goers, and he failed to implode as others had done before him.

At this writing it’s becoming increasingly clear that Mr. Romney has a current “floor” of about 18-23 percent of the Republican primary electorate and a hard “ceiling” ranging from 25 (Iowa, South Carolina, Georgia) to 40 percent (New Hampshire, Michigan, Massachusetts), depending upon the state. In a six- or seven-candidate caucus or primary field, that’s almost always enough to finish in the top three, and sometimes first. As the field winnows, however, a hard ceiling of 25-40 percent rarely prevails.

It seems clear that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will now turn his rhetorical fire toward Romney, which seems unlikely to improve his own standing, but will very likely hurt his target, thus making him more vulnerable to a Santorum charge.

Performance in the nomination contests through Super Tuesday will largely be expectation-driven. The punditariat has already begun saying that should Romney score less than 40-45 percent in New Hampshire, he will have insufficient momentum to be successful in South Carolina, Florida and the Super Tuesday states of the South. Santorum has been in the low single digits in New Hampshire (and elsewhere) and his impressive showing in Iowa already is being discounted as a “one-state wonder” in some quarters. If, however, the Pennsylvanian places second in the Granite State and Romney finishes in the 30s rather than the 40s, the fight for the nomination will essentially become a two-man race.

The serial movement of conservatives from one “Not Romney” candidate to another, and the former governor’s lack of growth among self-described conservatives suggests that he has emerged as their least favorite option. This is anything but a catbird seat for someone hoping to win the GOP presidential nomination. Romney does have large amounts of campaign and Super PAC money, but conservative dollars are sitting on the sidelines just waiting to flow to the eventual “Not Romney” primary contest winner.

The days and weeks ahead will put all remaining GOP candidates to the test. Considering all that we’ve seen so far, how this ends is anyone’s guess.

Iowa Winners and Losers

Two clear winners emerged from the Iowa Caucuses last night – former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. Both men earned 25 percent of the vote, give or take a hundredth of a point when all of the votes are officially tabulated, which means they fought to a virtual draw. The latest tally after last night still shows Romney leading by a scant eight votes of the just over 60,000 votes cast between the two of them.

There had always been speculation about whether Mr. Santorum would get the same surge that every other candidate had received at some point during the Iowa election cycle. Attempting to project ahead for the long term, since 49 other states still must cast their votes, it’s difficult to see another candidate besides Romney having the staying power to claim the nomination throughout the grueling 50-state nomination process.

But the candidates who didn’t perform well in Iowa might be the bigger short-term story. After he spent what will likely add up to be more than $500 per vote cast for him when the financial accounting becomes final, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has returned to Austin to consider whether he should continue his campaign. Fellow Texan Ron Paul also under-performed, after many polls and predictions suggested that he would win the Iowa Caucuses. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) just barely cracked 6,000 votes. During the Iowa Straw Poll, which she won back in August, her grand total was 4,823. Such little growth in the months between the Straw Poll and the full Caucus vote suggested that her campaign was doomed. And it ended today when Mrs. Bachmann announced that she was suspending her candidacy.

Does the Santorum performance now allow him to coalesce the more conservative Republican voters, attracting them from Perry, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (whose precipitous drop in the polls translated to a similar performance when actual votes were cast), and Bachmann? Will it propel him into a one-on-one race with Mr. Romney? It has always been the conventional wisdom that if a candidate could isolate Romney, that individual would win.

Santorum is moving on to New Hampshire with the considerable momentum from Iowa behind him. And although Romney enjoys big leads in the Granite State in polling, if Santorum can place a clear second, it might be enough to secure the mantel as Romney’s top challenger. South Carolina would then become hugely important. If Santorum can upend Romney there, his national campaign could quickly become the real deal. Republicans are returning to a more traditional primary and caucus schedule (meaning the majority of the states are voting after Super Tuesday – March 6 this year), which could favor the late breaking candidate and not Romney, who has been in the top tier since the beginning.

If the eight-vote statewide Iowa margin stands, it will of course be the closest primary or caucus victory in presidential campaign history. Romney’s unofficial total of 30,015 votes is eerily similar to the total he received in 2008, when he lost to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. In that year, Mr. Romney accumulated 29,949, only 66 fewer votes than his performance last night.

Turnout also was similar to 2008. That year, 118,696 people participated in the Iowa Caucus meetings. Last night, the total was 122,255.

It was clear that the predictions of many Democrat and Independent voters would come to the Caucuses in order to re-register Republican and vote for Ron Paul did not materialize. Even in the key college counties of Johnson (University of Iowa) and Story (Iowa State University), Paul failed to place first. Mr. Romney carried both places, albeit only by 10 votes in Story, however.

The only candidate other than Santorum, Romney, and Paul to carry any county was Perry. He won in both Taylor and Union Counties, two southern Iowa entities that border each other.

Once again, it has been proved that a candidate who travels the state and works in a grassroots, one-on-one fashion can score big in the Iowa Caucuses. Santorum understood that and adopted this strategy well. Moving to the larger states like Florida and California, where such campaigning is virtually impossible, will prove more daunting.

Santorum is clearly the big story coming out of Iowa. But what is also clear is that this race has a long way to go.