Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Santorum Sweep

Rick Santorum wins Minnesota and Colorado, and tosses in the Missouri beauty contest to boot. Yikes!


I'm with everyone else: I didn't see this coming. In the last couple of days, sure -- the polling didn't capture it all, but it strongly hinted. But, well, I've been consistently wrong about Santorum. I didn't see his Iowa surge coming in advance (although I did pick up on it very early, for whatever that's worth). And then I overestimated his chances in New Hampshire, in South Carolina, and in Florida. After which I figured he'd drop out, or get clobbered in a couple more states and then drop out...oops! I will give myself credit for saying throughout, including after South Carolina and after Florida, that Santorum still had a better shot at the nomination than Newt Gingrich, so that’s something. I never saw this coming, though.

That said: we’ll have to see whether party actors are any more eager to jump on Santorum’s tiny little bandwagon this time than they were after Iowa; at that point, they had virtually no interest. We’ll have to see, too, whether Romney continues picking up endorsements at a steady, if not spectacular, rate. We also don’t really know anything about how Santorum’s three caucus state wins will translate into delegates. We don’t know whether he’s able to win a (real, delegate-selection) primary, with the much higher turnout that entails. What’s more, after Maine announces its results, with a possible Ron Paul win (but also a possible Romney victory), we move to a couple of states where Romney again should hold the advantage: Michigan and Arizona. And then Romney’s money advantage should help him plenty in the multi-state Super Tuesday events. In other words, it’s a long, long, way from a very good night to actually becoming a plausible nominee. Much less the actual nominee.

More to come in the morning.

11 comments:

  1. Compilation of analysis & reaction to Rick Santorum's wins in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri.

    bit.ly/zwCEGK

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  2. Are you ready to revisit the "Not Romney" theory that you've previously disputed? It seems that the last few weeks have lent support to the notion that a strong contingent of GOP voters are highly resistant to Romney. Every one of Romney's victories so far, while impressive, has come with asterisks: He very nearly won Iowa, but only with 24% of the vote, and while he had several rivals to cancel each other out who are no longer in the race; he won Florida handily, but did poorly in the Panhandle and among evangelicals and among voters who describe themselves as very conservative. He did great in Nevada, but in no small part due to a high turnout from Mormons, perhaps the only demographic group who seem excited about his candidacy.

    So far, Romney has done well in states with high proportions of moderates, libertarians, and Mormons, and--this is the important point--his current front-runner status is based entirely on victories in such places. He still has not sealed the deal with evangelicals or the most conservative members of his party. And the attacks by Gingrich, while unsuccessful in giving Newt a victory in Florida, have almost certainly called greater attention to Romney's vulnerabilities among these voters.

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  3. I agree with Kylopod, indeed the opening statement that you've been consistently wrong about Santorum might better be expressed that you've been consistently wrong about Romney.

    I'm much less knowledgeable about the intricacies of caucuses than most in this forum, but the magnitude of Santorum's victories seems shocking for the Romney Inevitability Theory. Santorum's combined vote share in the three states was 140%; Romney 75%. The pro-Romney argument is that caucuses aren't representative; is that an accurate interpretation?

    To put it in terms I understand, last night would be the equivalent of a late August Sunday afternoon where the 5th-place Giants were playing the 4th-place Rocks, and PacBell sold out with SRO overflow. Meanwhile, down the coast, the division-leading Dodgers hosted the division-leading Phillies in a half-empty Dodger Stadium.

    Would we conclude in that case that the Dodgers are obviously more popular than the Giants? Only if we were nuts! Similarly, with Romney riding the (alleged) wave of inevitability, blowing out a marginal candidate like Santorum in an arbitrary event like a caucus should be a trivial task.

    That Romney himself got blown out, not once but three times, is probably the best signal one can find about how much the party, far and wide, hates the guy. How much clearer could it possibly be?

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  4. One other thing: the core of the "Iowa/NH matter" argument is that no matter how popular a candidate may seem 12 months out from the general, a bad loss in those states makes said candidate a "loser", which is awfully difficult to overcome.

    How does one retain that view without also recognizing that Romney got Giulianied last night?

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  5. Remember when Evangelical leaders met in Texas to settle on one candidate to back? They chose Santorum, and last night we saw the first results of that.

    I don't think Santorum can win the nomination, anymore than Huckabee could, but I think we're about to watch a test of the strength of the religious right in the GOP.

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  6. The low turnout in these early races has been noted. At first blush, it's mystifying. Aren't Republicans supposed to be super-energized at the thought of booting Obama from the White House?

    I wonder if there are simply fewer activist Republicans than there were in 2008. In caucus states, in particular (I live in one, Minnesota), these events are up close and personal---you get together in a school cafeteria or some such with people from your immediate area. Relatively few organized individuals can "take over" and dominate, electing delegates to district and state conventions that reflect their persuasion and freezing out everyone else. As the GOP has gotten more conservative, the moderates who used to reign supreme in the Minnesota GOP have found themselves sidelined by Ron Paul people and Michele Bachmann people. The rightward shift has accelerated significantly since 2008. I wonder whether many former Republicans have simply given up on the party's current incarnation and are staying home from caucuses or even abandoning the GOP altogether.

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  7. We do seem to be continuing the pattern of oscillating between Romney and some not-Romney (with two specific not-Romneys, Gingrich and Santorum, now each repeating their turn, apparently since we have run out of fresh not-Romneys). I gather most informed people are still betting this pattern will eventually end and Romney will finally emerge the clear victor, but I am really beginning to wonder about that assumption. And I also wonder where in the cycle between Romney and not-Romney we will be on Super Tuesday . . . a scary possibility for Romney is that Michigan and Arizona will exhaust the next Romney turn, just in time for another "shocking" evening like this on Super Tuesday.

    And if this doesn't end, or not until late--it is actually now conceivable to me that no one will enter the convention with a majority of delegates in hand. I'm not saying that is likely, but to me it is more conceivable now than immediately after Florida.

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    1. >I gather most informed people are still betting this pattern will eventually end and Romney will finally emerge the clear victor

      I'm almost certain of it, but that's not what's most important right now. Santorum's victories last night could turn out to be just as ephemeral as Iowa, but I think the chances just increased significantly that he will be Romney's running mate in the fall. (We can all agree that will never happen with Newt in a million years.)

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  8. I suspect some of the polling is not showing up because of deep, dark fears about Mormons...

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  9. I'm actually quite surprised with last night's results. Colorado, in particular, I thought was definitely Romney's to lose.

    Well, he lost it.

    There's *something* about this cycle. I don't know what that is. But, it really does seem to be behaving differently than past cycles.

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    1. Yes, there is something different about this cycle. It seems like many Republicans don't want to repeat 2008, but they don't have a different option. You can't vote for a negative (a not-Romney/not-Paul), you have to vote for a person who will inevitably have faults and baggage.

      I think another group of Republicans aren't enthusiastic about anyone, but they want "not-crazy." They'll stay home if there doesn't seem to be a threat. When they perceive the threat of crazy, they'll go out and vote for Mitt. Life corrects crazy tendencies, so Mitt will win.

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