Thursday, January 26, 2012

Race to 1144: South Carolina Primary

A few thoughts on the South Carolina results:

[For a view of the state of the overall race for the Republican nomination after the South Carolina Republican primary, see our earlier post.]

1. The streak is over. [See link above for why.] South Carolina Republican primary voters have enjoyed a three decades long streak of picking the ultimate nominee. [NOTE: That streak is only five cycles long: 1980, 1988, 1996, 2000 and 2008.] With an anti-establishment winner, South Carolina voters shed the formerly pragmatic streak they once collectively held. Of course, John McCain cut it quite close four years ago in South Carolina; winning by only an approximately three percentage point margin. Of course, Mitt Romney outperformed his 2008 total in the Palmetto state, but underperformed McCain's (establishment) total as well.

Looking at South Carolina long term in the presidential primary process, I don't know that this result is enough of an indictment on the state than, say, what happened in the Iowa Republican caucuses. Neither is going anywhere. However, as I heard on the radio and TV reports surrounding the primary in a state just thirty miles away, this is it for South Carolina. The general election will not bring the presidential candidates back to the state. And that is what separates the Palmetto state from the other three "carve out" states. Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada can claim to be or have recently and fairly consistently been competitive general election states. That is a good argument to take to the national parties: organizing for the primary/caucus equals early organizing for the general election. South Carolina cannot make that argument, but on the flip side of the coin, it has been able to make the argument of being the conservative firewall that typically sends the frontrunner -- and presumptive nominee -- off to other states heading in the right direction. The state also, given its first in the South moniker, also gives voice to southern voters, a valuable constituency within the party. Finally, while the presidential nominees won't return to South Carolina in the fall, the early organizing -- it could be argued -- would help in down ballot races there. could be argued.

2. Romney effect. FHQ has not seen this theory postulated anywhere else -- forgive me if it has been written or said elsewhere -- but I'm wondering if it is possible that something akin to the Bradley effect is going on with Mitt Romney. Before I explain let me say that what we saw last Saturday in South Carolina could have been nothing more or less than undecideds breaking for Newt Gingrich on election day. After all, Romney's support in the state didn't shrink so much as flatline as the election grew near. That said, Public Policy Polling consistently found in South Carolina that while there was some discomfort with the idea of a Mormon president, there was a three-fifths to two-thirds majority of respondents who were not bothered by that notion in the least. But in a race in which "anti-religious bigotry" has made an appearance in the rhetoric, I'm curious if there may have been at least some social desirability bias involved here; that respondents who might otherwise answer in the negative to that question might feel pressured, in the interest of not seeming intolerant, to say the Mormon issue is not bothersome. [Yes, PPP utilizes telephone robocalls to administer their surveys, so that removes that particular layer from this equation.]

It is too true that this -- the Mormon comfort question -- is a step removed from the response on the candidate choice question, but still, the thought has crossed my mind. A couple of other points on this issue: A) This is harder to examine in a multi-candidate primary setting than it would if we had just two candidates left. B) This potentially dovetails nicely with FHQ's "southern question" as this phenomenon, I would suspect, would be more pronounced in the South than elsewhere in the country. [I'm open to counterpoints on that hypothesis, though. Thought exercise.]


Contest Delegates (via contest results)
Automatic Delegates (Democratic Convention Watch)

[NOTE: There is still no allocation of delegates in Iowa. FHQ is looking at you, uh, most major news outlets. Iowa's delegates will be allocated in June at the state convention and will go to Tampa unbound.]

The race for delegates has also tightened up post-South Carolina.

  • Gingrich and Romney both added one automatic delegate each in the lead up to or immediate aftermath of the South Carolina primary.
  • The primary netted Gingrich 23 delegates -- by virtue of having won the statewide vote and the congressional district vote in six of South Carolina's seven districts. Mitt Romney seemingly won the first district and its two delegates. 
  • NOTE: Please note that there is nothing official being reported by the South Carolina State Elections Commission in terms of the congressional district by congressional district vote. In large part that is due to the fact that the current (newly redrawn) districts are being challenged in court and may [MAY] change. Depending on the outcome of that case and any subsequent redrawing of the lines, the allocation may also change. [The new lines were precleared by the Obama administration's Department of Justice.] As of now, FHQ will treat the allocation as if the new boundaries will hold. We shall see. 

See previous results here:
New Hampshire
Iowa (certified)

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