Saturday, February 11, 2012

Maine, CPAC Straw Votes

Mitt Romney picks up two narrow wins today: the Maine caucus and CPAC straw votes.

Of course, CPAC isn't a delegate contest at all...but it can't hurt Romney to remind people that not all conservatives hate him. Or, to be more precise, this is yet another (small) piece of evidence that conservative elites aren't really rallying around Santorum.

As far as Maine is concerned...apparently, the relationship between the straw vote and the eventual delegate procedure is even less clear there than it is in some of the other caucus states. And there's a bit more anecdotal evidence that the Paul people were far more organized that the Romney folks. So we'll have to see how many delegates Paul winds up winning. Of course, it certainly doesn't look as if there will be many Santorum delegates (he got 18% of the straw vote) or Newt delegates (6%), given that those candidates were presumably even less organized than Romney in Maine.

A bunch of people have been writing about Santorum as a viable candidate now, thanks to his wins earlier in the week and subsequent polling surge. I'll probably write about this later, but what today's votes show is probably the effect of resources. Romney is going to compete in every state; Santorum hasn't so far, and probably won't going forward. That means that in order to win, he has to win just about everywhere he tries -- or, he has to show the ability to gather the resources needed to compete nationally. I think that would have been very difficult, but perhaps not impossible, had Santorum surged nationally after Iowa; it's just that much harder to do now.

Bottom line: today's results obviously don't prove anything, but they hint at plenty.

1. Mitt Romney is unlikely to just collapse and go away.

2. Resources (money, organization, elite support) matter, usually enough to trump the (very real, apparently) lack of enthusiasm for the candidate.

3. Conservative elites are, for whatever reason, simply not rallying around Santorum.

And now we hit the doldrums, with the next two events in Romney-friendly Arizona and Michigan on February 28.


  1. I think it is very significant that conservative talkers are saying that they are ok with a negotiated end to a deadlocked convention. It signals that they don't like any of the candidates enough to see one of them lose out that way. That's a reflection of the views of a lot of GOP voters, I think.

  2. CPAC seems like a logical win for Romney given a lot of it establishment. I also heard Romney bused in a lot of kids to help his vote. I don't doubt the kerfuffle over birth control scared a few people off Santorum. I can't imagine many who aren't Catholic actually wanting to see birth control outlawed as it's clear the Catholic Church has said it would like given they see it as evil and Santorum has said he'd not have a problem if states voted to ban its sale. At that point a brokered convention or Romney look like their best bet.

  3. Hostility to birth control is of a piece with other moves by a Party which, with Osama dead, the wars winding down, Communism a memory, and an economy on the uptick, is reduced to running on things like slut-shaming.

    A ban would have lots of non-Catholic supporters on the theocratic Right if it were embraced as, say, part of the Party platform.

    In addition, Griswold, the SC case striking down state bans on the sale of contraceptives, was used as a hook by the Court upon which to hang Roe -- and the Party really, really hates Roe.

    I don't think it would play well at all in the country at large, but I don't think the present actors are thinking beyond, say, Memorial Day.

  4. Mitt Romney is unlikely to just collapse and go away.

    This is certainly correct, and it puts in mind that what looks like Republican paralysis from the outside, really might be, that we might be living through what will eventually be revealed to be the greatest GOP crisis since we took the south back from you Dems in 1964.

    Romney knows he owns the west, and he further knows that he's an easier sale than Santorum in the purple midwest. Gingrich knows he owns the south. Santorum owns nothing, but he might be plausible enough in case Gingrich and Romney destroy each other.

    The other day Gingrich floated the possibility of the 3rd-party run, and Nader put on his Gore-destroying hat and said "Go for it Newt!" and the media mostly reported the Nader angle. Perhaps the more interesting angle was that Newt's announcement was designed to communicate to the party movers that he's willing to leverage his southern power for all its worth. They surely know already that Romney plans to do the same among their critical non-southern constituencies.

    And, in summary, they know they're royally screwed with very few easy ways out.

    1. At this point, we would probably all be better off if the GOP just imploded and reconstituted itself in a more reality-based mode.

  5. So the latest Pro-Romney portion of the cycle begins and likely will continue though Michigan and Arizona, just in time for the Anti-Romney portion of the cycle to take over on Super Tuesday.

    It may be a long way between now and when the Republican elites finally nominate Romney over the howling protests of red-state conservatives.

  6. Michigan? Not so Romney-friendly, after all.

    Here's a question. What happens if Santorum surges to victory in MI (and/or AZ)? If the heretofore-silent party actors really support Romney, then at that point, do they speak up and state their hidden true preference? Or do they let the process run its course and risk a Santorum nomination?

    Here's what I think: the silent party actors are like honey badgers - they don't give a shit. Both Romney and Santorum have severe flaws as candidates. But, neither is so flawed (like Paul or Newt) as to be unacceptable as a nominee. So, they intend to let the primary process sort out who is better able to withstand attacks and survive. They are not secretly pro-Romney.

    1. Andrew: I've been harping about this for a while (though without a soapbox to do it from) to friends: what is this supposed Romney advantage in MI everyone keeps assuming?

      I think that Romney's auto bailout comments plus him being in a very different position in 2012 than 2008 makes it a very different ballgame. CO was very different (and that surprised the heck of out me...apparently, I overestimated the # of Mormons in Colorado by a good bit). MI can be, too.

    2. I initially assumed the Romney name would be enough to give him an advantage in MI.

      Turns out, if you are on record advocating for the abject destruction of the state's economy, it doesn't matter that your father was governor!

    3. Maybe Matt will be correct, maybe he won't...we're still two weeks away, and my guess is still that Santorum's bounce dissipates, partially by itself and partially when he gets outspent 5-1 or whatever.


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