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Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Florida Primary Analysis

With Mitt Romney's massive win last night, the politics of the 2012 Republican Primary have experienced a paradigm shift. As January turns to February and Romney's lead extends (more on this in a bit), Romney's rivals will no longer look to directly compete with and defeat Romney in primaries and caucuses. Instead, from here on out, they'll simply looking to slow Romney down, keep him under 50 percent of possible delegates, and then hope that with the right breaks and momentum shifts, support comes to them by, or at, the Republican National Convention.

Of course, there's some irony here. The fact that all three other candidates are counting on this long-game strategy ensures that all three other candidates continue to split the anti-Romney vote. Both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, for example, remain in the race, hoping to ultimately be the clear NonRom. By doing so, however, the conservative base cannot rally around one of them to actually be it.

Still, the math supports that the candidates are not crazy in their rational. The Republican Primary Delegate Standings vary depending on your source, but they all remind us that the young primary is really, really young. After the Florida results, here's what we have for the GOP Primary Standings across a few media outlets. Each shows their estimations of the Republican delegates for the 2012 Republican Primary.

CNN Standings:
1. Romney--84
2. Gingrich--27
3. Paul--10
4. Santorum--8

MSNBC Standings:
1. Romney--70
2. Gingrich--23
3. Santorum--11
4. Paul--6

Real Clear Politics Standings:
1. Romney--65
2. Gingrich--25
3. Santorum--6
4. Paul--3

While you keep those numbers in mind, here are two more:
Total possible delegates: 2286
Number needed for majority: 1144

Thus, if we take Romney's largest delegate estimation--84--he is a scant 7.3 percent of the way to the 1144 necessary. With numbers like that, can you blame the GOP candidates for remaining in the race, especially with so much uncertainty with Romney?

Here's a quick look at the statuses of the candidacies, in reverse order of their finish last night, after Florida and heading into the February contests.

4. Ron Paul--7% of the Florida vote
Florida analysis: Ron Paul punted Florida weeks ago. Why? It's a winner-take-all state! And Ron Paul has no shot at winning any relevant state (sorry, Maine). His constituency might be a minority so cacophonous that it sounds like a majority, but it certainly is not one. Therefore, it was wise not to use resources in a state where he has no chance at winning any delegates.
Moving forward: Caucus states!

February 4: Nevada (caucus)--28 delegates
February 4–11: Maine (caucus)--24 delegates
February 7: Colorado (caucus)--36, Minnesota (caucus)--40, Missouri (Straw Poll, won't count)

Caucuses are where that loud, organized minority can do well. They're made for Ron Paul, and he knows it. Look for Paul to score delegates in all of these states, especially kooky Maine. (Yes, that was two Maine digs in one section. Apologies to Uncle Ralph and Aunt Sandy.)

3. Rick Santorum--13%
Florida analysis: Like Paul, Santorum put relatively little time into Florida. He left the state early to get a jump on the caucus states (and also to nurse a sick but thankfully improving daughter).
Moving forward: Rick Santorum's speech and tactics have zeroed in on a two-step strategy.



  • Step 1: Go after Gingrich. Romney will continue to truck along around 40 percent--give or take, depending on the geography--and the way to beat him is to consolidate the remaining 60 percent. For Santorum, that means removing Newt Gingrich from the equation.

  • Step 2: Emerge as the final and strongest anti-Romney candidate, there for every Republican who was nervous about a Romney nomination and yet was terrified of a Gingrich candidacy. Santorum even pointed out that Gingrich, after his South Carolina triumph, had his shot, but then he "became the issue," which sank his Florida chances. Republicans wouldn't want that repeated in the general election.
Santorum's speech last night tried to appeal to that base. He chided the Romney/Gingrich mudslinging, saying "Republicans can do better." He wants to be the defender of the Republican Party. And, of course, he continues to stay on message: he has been a true conservative across the board during his entire career, and his rivals can't say the same. I'd argue his strategy here is as much to compete for the nomination as it is to be the clear-cut choice for the VP nod from Romney.

Look for Santorum to focus on Nevada, Colorado, and Missouri over the next month.

2. Newt Gingrich--32%
Florida analysis: After his trounce in South Carolina, the 14-point loss in Florida is a major disappointment. His mojo was stymied, leading many to say that money is more powerful than momentum. Indeed, Romney outspent Gingrich by a wide margin. The commonly relayed 5 to 1 ratio was ultimately archaic; it was reported on January 27. I saw a graphic on CNN last night that showed Romney ultimately outspent Gingrich by an 8 to 1 margin ($5.7 million to $700,000), and if you factor in their Super PACs, Romney's number cranks up to $13.3 million to Gingrich's 2.4. (Santorum and Paul? Zero and zero, respectively.) A Wesleyan University professor called the spending a "one-sided domination." The ads from both sides, of course, were overwhelmingly venemous. It's believed that of all the Florida ads, 92 percent were negative. The Romney SuperPAC "Restore Our Future," ran $10.7 million worth of ads, and $9.9 million of them attacked the former Speaker. Yikes. It's understandable why Gingrich's numbers collapsed down the stretch, much like they did in December when Romney employed the same tactic in Iowa.
Moving forward: Look no further than the Gingrich signs at his speech last night: "46 States to Go."

Gingrich, last night, characterized the primary as, now, a two-person race: the "conservative leader against the Massachusetts Moderate." In other words, give up on Santorum--his lowly 13 percent, after all, was only six points higher than Ron Paul--shows that he's out of it. Don't throw away your vote, Gingrich would have you believe.

Gingrich's plan, clearly, is to be the last man standing with Romney. He wants to lead a conservative coalition majority against the man who can't seem to reach 50 percent support anywhere, despite his outstanding organization across the country, his unparalleled war chest, and the fact that he's been running since 2007.

To get the conservative Republicans across the country salivating, Gingrich ran off a list of specifics--what he would do on his first day in office. These pieces of steak included repealing "Obamacare," abolishing the Presidents czars, repealing the Presidents anti-religious acts, and signing the Keystone Pipeline contract. All of those are wildly unpopular with the conservative ranks, and Gingrich made a direct appeal to the dissatisfied Republican masses. Gingrich prides himself on being the candidate of specifics and ideas. These were it, and they'd contrast deeply to Romney's speech (more on that below).

Moving forward, Gingrich has his eyes on lengthening this process. He feels he can win most southern states--with good reason, too, after his major South Carolina victory and his success in Florida's panhandle last night. If Romney is limited by proportional delegation allocations and Gingrich southern victories, to say nothing of Santorum's conservative crusaded and Ron Paul's fanatical minority each earning delegates, there's a very real chance that Romney does not eclipse 50 percent for a few months. Indeed, he predicts the Republican Primary will probably last six months!

Now, will Gingrich have the money to sustain his desperate strategy? He probably won't. But who will have the money to sustain him? Super PACS! The exact kind of organization repudiated by Gingrich for months. Oh, the irony.

1. Mitt Romney--46%
Florida analysis: Big win. Huge win. Gargantuan win. With one primary, Romney went from on the ropes to, once again, the prohibitive favorite. He did it by excelling at last week's debates, where Gingrich finally floundered.
Moving forward: He's obviously in the driver's seat. He has the delegate lead and a boatload of money. Moreover, the money will come in more than ever now. Gingrich says his numbers are still strong nationally--and they are--but that won't last. People love supporting a winner. Romney's poll numbers will rise across the nation, paralleling his mounting campaign coffer. Things are looking up for the Romney Campaign.

That being said, his speech last night was disappointing, to say the least. I'm in the midst of writing a thesis on the Election of 1948, and Romney's speech last night was eerily reminiscent of Thomas Dewey's failed election. Both were the huge favorite, and both said nothing of any substance that could potentially damage their chances. Romney delivered platitude after platitude ("We want to restore America"?), and only attacked Obama policies, rather than substitute them with his own. ("We believe in the America that challenges each of us to be better and bigger than ourselves." Does that even make sense?). It was the exact opposite of the Gingrich speech. Rather than ever saying what he was going to do (other than build the strongest military in the history of the world, which the US already has and is not relinquishing any time soon), he's telling his party to trust that he will do something. Truly lame, and, for all the Republican attacks on President Obama's "Hope and Change" speeches of four years ago, seriously hypocritical.

More on the upcoming races over the next few days! See you then.

-IC

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Attention, Uncle Ralph! Attention, Uncle Ralph!

IC said...

Nooooo!

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