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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Louisiana Primary Preview: Does it Matter?

Today is the Louisiana Primary, which we expect Rick Santorum to win handily. Yet, in another example of Mitt Romney having a constant advantage in the delegate competition, Santorum's win won't make much of a difference.

While Louisiana sends 46 delegates to the Republican National Convention, the state chooses only 20 today. The rest aren't selected until June 2. Thus, even though Santorum, comfortably on top of the latest Louisiana polls, will win big today, he'll win only 8 to 10 delegates of today's 20. (National Convention Delegates are allocated proportionally to those Presidential candidates receiving 25 percent or more of today's vote.) Romney will win 4 to 6, Gingrich 3 to 5. The projected delegate standings will barely budge.

By the time Louisiana awards the rest of its delegates in June, many expect this primary to be over, and Romney will sweep the month as the GOP coalesces around him.

Clearly, then, the delegate math won't change much. The other possible impact of a Santorum win--momentum--isn't much more heartening for the former Senator. Any semblance of momentum will surely dissipate before the next set of primaries arrive on April 3. Moreover, those contests are Wisconsin, Maryland, and Washington DC, two of which we can expect Romney to win (Santorum isn't even on the DC ballot, which is winner-take-all), and maybe even a third if he carpet bombs the Wisconsin TV market, as per his infamous modus operandi.

Ultimately, we continue to play out the string, waiting for the inevitable Romney nomination. Is it the general yet?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

D'oh! The Etch-A-Sketch Seen 'Round the World

"You could not have found a more perfect illustration of why people distrust Romney than to have his (adviser) say that the Etch A Sketch allows you to erase everything in the general election." - Newt Gingrich, yesterday, Louisiana

Seriously, Romney Campaign? Seriously? I mean, you're going to be the nominee and everything, but can you please get out of your own way? This Etch A Sketch thing... you just can't make it up.

What's the number one criticism of Mitt Romney from the Republican Party's conservative base? That he's not actually a conservative! When he wanted to be a United States Senator from liberal Massachusetts in 1994, he ran as a moderate. It's only when he started running for the Republican nomination for the presidency that he became a conservative. That smell of fish doesn't come from Cape Cod. Something's obviously convenient about the evolution of Mitt Romney's ideology.

Romney, consequently, has basically spent five years assuring the GOP that he's actually a conservative now. ("Honest! I swear! Cross my heart!") Finally, on Tuesday night, he won the Illinois Primary, a contest that basically assured Romney of the inevitability tag for the rest of the nomination process. He did it. He finally pulled it off. Whether he had legitimately moved to the right or he successfully pulled the wool over conservatives' eyes, he was going to be the nominee of the Republican Party. It worked. He won.

And then yesterday happened. Now, I hesitate to say this will have any real impact on his inevitability. It won't. But it still makes for an entertaining development that, at the very least, cost him Louisiana on Saturday. When one of Romney's top advisers, Eric Fehrnstrom, engages in this back and forth with CNN's John Fugelsang, and you consider all that Romney has had to do and say to convince the party of his conservative stripes, you can see why this is pretty darn funny. Here's the video which reveals the dialogue in question:

Fugelsang (CNN): "Is there a concern [that] Santorum and Gingrich's attacks might force the governor so far to the right that it might hurt him with moderate voters in the general election?"

Fehrnstrom (Romney Campaign) responded: "I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It's almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again."

In other words, Romney says what he needs to say in order to win the Republican nomination, but then when it's the general election, he'll say something else--something moderate--which is the number one thing conservative Republicans had been fearing. You can't make this stuff up.

His rivals, both campaigning in Louisiana, quickly pounced. Rick Santorum has actually been levying this kind of criticism for about a week now, especially after Romney seemingly reversed his position on Puerto Rico's English language requirement for state-hood. ("We stood up for the truth in Puerto Rico. Mitt Romney pandered." This development, therefore, was right in his wheelhouse.

First, his campaign posted a Twitter photo of Santorum using the toy, captioning that the candidate was "studying up on (Romney's) policy positions." Santorum later told the Louisiana audience that Romney "will say what he needs to say to win the election before him, and if he has to say something different because it's a different election and a different group of voters, he will say that, too." Then he drove the point home:

"Well, that should be comforting to all of you who are voting in this primary." With that, Romney lost Louisiana.

Newt Gingrich piled on at his own Bayou State rally. "You have to stand for something that lasts longer than this," he said, holding up his own Etch a Sketch. (Here's what I want to know: did the toy's sales see a bump yesterday? They must have, right?)

More Gingrich: "Here's Gov. Romney's staff, they don't even have the decency to wait until they get the nomination to explain to us how they'll sell us out."

And from that link, more Santorum: "Gov. Romney's campaign had a real moment of truth today. . . . It actually revealed what everybody knew or suspected but now know: Gov. Romney is interested in saying whatever is necessary to win the election and when the game changes, he'll change."


Of course, it should be said that it's not at all uncommon for a nominee of either party to move to the center once the general election season begins. It's just that when conservatives constantly struggle with Romney's past views on social issues, this kind of comment really sticks out. And perhaps the biggest impact of this slip-up is not that it will affect the primary, but that if and when Romney does move to the center, conservatives will feel all the more betrayed, and perhaps even desert the candidate on Election Day.

If only the Romney Campaign could erase yesterday and start anew.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Latest Republican Primary Standings, 3/21

(Note: If you came here via a google search, or even if you didn't, these standings are outdated. Click here for the latest standings and coverage.)

Here are the latest republican delegate projections, now factoring in last night's Illinois Primary.

CNN Standings
1. Romney--562 (55%)
2. Santorum-249
3. Gingrich--137
4. Paul--69

Real Clear Politics Standings
1. Romney--554 (55%)
2. Santorum--247

4. Gingrich--141
3. Paul--66

Official (not counting unbound delegates)
1. Romney--497 (59%)
2. Santorum--183
3. Gingrich--135
4. Paul--27

Remaining pledged delegates: 1202
Number of remaining delegates Romney must win according to RCP's delegate projections: 590
Percent of remaining delegates Romney must win according to RCP's delegate projections: 49.1

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Romney Wins Illinois, Holds Serve

In an unsurprising development, Mitt Romney is in the midst of a resounding win in the Illinois Primary. With half over half the state reporting, Romney sits at 48 percent of the vote to Rick Santorum's 35, Ron Paul's 9, and Newt Gingrich's 8. Even if he doesn't clear 50 percent, Romney can expect a majority of today's 54 delegates and more down the road at the state convention to round out the 69.

Thus, Rick Santorum did not get the "break" that he so desperately needs to get this primary to a brokered convention. The first contested convention in modern political history grows increasingly unlikely.

Illinois Primary Preview: Can Santorum "Break"?

Sports metaphors have sprayed the 2012 Republican Primary landscape like Dustin Pedroia sprays line drives across the Fenway outfield. So far, this primary contest has talked about geographical "homefield," where certain states are "slam dunks" for candidates while for others they're "away games." We've talked about Mitt Romney's superior "ground game" and Santorum's attempt at "small ball." We've talked about "momentum changing teams." Candidates hit "home runs" with rousing speeches, but "swing and miss" with embarrassing slip-ups, perhaps even "striking out." Lately, we hear about Romney trying to "run out the clock" since he hasn't been able to land a "knockout punch." (If NASCAR was a sport, I'm sure we could make a Romney joke.) Yet, with all these metaphors across the sports, there's one sport and accompanying metaphor that I haven't yet heard. If we take a holistic look at Romney vs. Santorum, though, they are as fitting as any.

For those that play or follow tennis, you'll understand the term "holding serve." A tennis player is at always at an advantage in games where he or she serves. After hopefully winning that game, the serve goes to their opponent, who then tries to "hold serve" themselves. They go back and forth in this process, but eventually, one player loses a game on their own serve, at which point it is said that the opponent has "broken serve." It's by consistently holding your own serve and winning just enough games on the opponent's serve where a player wins sets and the match. (For those who want to catch me on not using "tiebreakers" in that analogy, I refer you to the possible brokered convention, which would be like the fifth set at a US Open--the mother of all tiebreakers.)

With that far-too-verbose explanation, hopefully one can see how this 2012 Republican Primary has turned into a tennis match. Romney has yet to win a state in the Midwest or the South, where Rick Santorum consistently holds serve. Santorum, meanwhile, has yet to win a game in the West or Northeast, where it's Romney that holds serve. Both candidates, it can be said, exchange service games without breaking the other. The reason Romney is clearly in the lead is because--in a metaphor that can't extend to tennis--his games seem to be worth more than Santorum's. (He also seems to out-bribe the line judges at about a 10 to 1 ratio over Santorum.)

In essence, for Santorum to win, he's going to need to break Romney's serve, and he needs to do it soon enough for it to make a difference. In tennis terms, he does not have the stamina to come back from a two sets to love deficit. Can tonight's Illinois Primary be the break he needs?

It doesn't look like it. Romney will win Illinois and its 69 proportionally allocated delegates. If we look at the latest Illinois polls, we see not only that Romney is up to a 15-point lead, but we also see that of the last four polls taken over the last two weeks, Romney's lead has ballooned from 4 to 6 to 9 to 15. He's steadily pulling away in yet another service game, his booming serve of negative ad blitzes too much for Santorum to return.

Of course, if Santorum pulls off the break, we have yet another shift in narrative as we head to Louisiana on Saturday. The governor will yet again face serious questions. If, however, he continues to hold serve, we're not far from game, set, and match for Mr. Romney.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Republican Primary Calendar

Updated 2012 GOP Primary schedule. Back tomorrow with a look at the Illinois Primary.

January 3: Iowa (caucus) -- SANTORUM
January 10: New Hampshire (primary) -- ROMNEY
January 21: South Carolina (primary) -- GINGRICH
January 31: Florida (primary) -- ROMNEY
February 4: Nevada (caucus) -- ROMNEY
February 11: Maine (caucus) --ROMNEY
February 7: Colorado (caucus), Minnesota (caucus), Missouri (primary) -- SANTORUM SWEEP
February 28: Arizona (primary), Michigan (primary), Wyoming Caucus--ROMNEY SWEEP
March 3: Washington(caucus)--ROMNEY
March 6: (Super Tuesday)
Alaska (caucus)--ROMNEY
Georgia (primary)--GINGRICH
Idaho (caucus)--ROMNEY
Massachusetts (primary)--ROMNEY
North Dakota (caucus)--SANTORUM
Ohio (primary)--ROMNEY
Oklahoma (primary)--SANTORUM
Tennessee (primary)--SANTORUM
Vermont (primary)--ROMNEY
Virginia (primary)--ROMNEY
March 10:
Kansas (caucus)--SANTORUM
Guam (caucus)--ROMNEY
Northern Mariana Islands (caucus)--ROMNEY
US Virgin Islands (caucus)--ROMNEY
March 13:
Alabama (primary)--SANTORUM
Mississippi (primary)--SANTORUM
American Samoa (caucus)--ROMNEY
Hawaii (caucus)--ROMNEY
March 18: Puerto Rico (Caucus)--ROMNEY
March 20: Illinois (primary)--69 (The beginning of the end?)
March 24: Louisiana (primary)--46 (proportional, southern)
April 3:
Wisconsin (primary)--42 (Winner Take All (kind of))
Maryland (primary)--37 (Winner Take All (kind of))
Washington DC (primary)--19 (Winner Take All (truly))
=98 on April 3
April 21: Missouri (caucus)--52 (actually counts this time)
April 24:
New York (primary)--95 (proportional)
Pennsylvania (primary)--72 (proportional)
Connecticut (primary)--28 (typically awkward)
Rhode Island (primary)--19 (proportional)
Delaware (primary)--17 (Winner Take All)
=231 delegates
May 8: North Carolina, Indiana, West Virginia (132 southern-like delegates)
May 15: Nebraska, Oregon (63 delegates)
May 22: Kentucky, Arkansas (91 delegates--southern)
May 29: Texas (proportional primary--155 delegates, southern)
June 5: California (172… the biggest prize), New Jersey, South Dakota, Montana, New Mexico (279 June 5 delegates—single largest day remaining, and you have to like Romney in the two biggest)
June 26: Utah (40 delegates)

Total remaining (non-super) delegates: 1,256

Updated GOP Primary Standings, March 19

(Note: If you came here via a google search, or even if you didn't, these standings are outdated. Click here for the latest standings and coverage.)

Here are the latest republican delegate projections, now factoring in the Puerto Rico caucuses.

CNN Standings
1. Romney--518
2. Santorum-239
3. Gingrich--139
4. Paul--69

Real Clear Politics Standings
1. Romney--516
2. Santorum--236

4. Gingrich--142
3. Paul--67

Official (not counting unbound delegates)
1. Romney--454
2. Santorum--173
3. Gingrich--137
4. Paul--27

I'll be back tomorrow with a look at the important Illinois Primary.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Romney Wins Puerto Rico

As expected, Mitt Romney has won the Puerto Rico caucuses. Since he'll easily crack 50 percent of the vote--with one-quarter of precincts reporting, he's won 83 percent of the vote--he'll capture all 20 bound delegates. It looks like Rick Santorum will have to wait another two days to pull off the surprise wins he needs to truly shift the momentum of the 2012 Republican Primary.

I'll have updated primary standings tomorrow, and a look forward on Tuesday, including a preview of Tuesday's Illinois Primary, which ranks with Michigan and Ohio as one of the most important contests we've seen since January.
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