Showing posts with label Rick Santorum. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rick Santorum. Show all posts

Monday, April 30, 2012

Question Time: What Happens to Santorum's Delegates?

Via the comments:
Will you start classifying Santorum's delegates as uncommitted?
The classification of Santorum's delegates in FHQ's Race to 1144 posts is a bit of a tricky issue. The easiest answer is to say that we will do exactly what we did with the Huntsman delegates in New Hampshire. First of all, know that the decision on the Huntsman delegates was, well, ad hoc. Though the process had yet to play out on the state level, the RNC almost immediately shifted those delegates to the "uncommitted" column in its delegate count. I suspect if the RNC had not already shifted to general election mode and was still regularly updating its in-house delegate count, the Communications folks there would similarly shift some or all of the Santorum delegates into the "uncommitted" category as well.

Yet there is a difference between a candidate with two delegates and another with more than 200 delegates. FHQ is much more inclined -- perhaps, contradictorily so -- to take the slow approach with the Santorum delegates as opposed to the Huntsman delegates. Think of primary season as a spool of thread. It is much easier to wrap an unraveled inch of thread back around the spool in an orderly way than it is to attempt re-spin 20% of the total thread unraveled to this point.

One other issue worth raising is that one of those two New Hampshire delegates for Huntsman later came out in support of Mitt Romney.1 None of Santorum's delegates have yet to do anything like this.

Moving forward, then, the most appropriate way to deal with this issue to pull those delegates back from Santorum's total when and if state party rules or state law forces a change in their categorization. For instance, Michigan state law, not state party rules as has been reported, releases a candidate's delegates upon
...the withdrawal of that presidential candidate from contention for that party's nomination or by written release of that presidential candidate to the chairperson of the national convention, whichever is earliest. -- Act 116-1954-XXV, Section 168.619
But if you look closely at that AP account of Santorum's Michigan delegates, you will note that the actual delegates have not been selected yet. The Santorum campaign withdrew a challenge in order to safeguard the proportional selection of Santorum supporters to delegate slots by the party. [Paul campaign supporters may have something to say about that at upcoming county conventions, congressional district caucuses and the state convention.] But it doesn't really work that way. There are no safeguards.

What that means, though, is that the Santorum campaign has or hopes he has 14 theoretical delegates "bound" to him in Michigan. Once those delegates are selected, however, they will not be bound to him and chances are good that the chosen delegates will not necessarily prefer him as a candidate; opting instead for Romney or Paul.

Of course, this is just one state. The rules regarding the commitments/binding of delegates differs from state to state and the changes in the delegate count need to reflect that reality. In most instances, delegates have not been selected, but rather slots set aside for one candidate or another (via rules- or law-based binding mechanisms), and in most cases, those commitments are in place until the candidate releases them.2 Those delegates will remain in Santorum's column until he releases those delegates or the actual delegates chosen come forward with publicly stated preferences indicating support for another candidate. That is similar to the treatment of the Huntsman delegates.

NOTE: The case is fairly solid in terms of moving the 14 Santorum delegates in Michigan to uncommitted in the FHQ count. That change will be made in the next update after the Indiana, North Carolina and West Virginia primaries on May 8.

1 Truth be told, one of those two New Hampshire delegates is still a Huntsman delegate. It just did not make sense, however, to continue setting aside a column in the spreadsheet or bar in the bar chart for just two delegates. That one contest delegate in the unbound/unpledged section is still a Huntsman delegate. [Note to self: Add a footnote to that effect in the next update.]

2 The withdrawal from contention clause in the Michigan law is a necessary but not sufficient condition in most other states. It is not either/or in other words. Rather, a withdrawal and release is necessary to unbind delegates.

Recent Posts:
Massachusetts Republican Caucuses: Sigh and Questions that Need to Be Asked/Answered

Question Time: Big [Early] States & Future Primary Calendars

Question Time

Are you following FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook? Click on the links to join in.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Santorum Suspends: A Nomination Race in Context

Well, FHQ will add its two cents. And not surprisingly, we'll look at Rick Santorum's decision to suspend his presidential campaign through the lens of the delegate count.

All too often delegate counts don't matter in the grand scheme of things in most presidential nomination races. To the extent that they do, it is fleeting. Counting up delegates is only consequential and/or necessary in a couple of instances:
  1. After the race has progressed far enough that one candidate has effectively taken all/most of the momentum -- or continued riding it from the invisible primary portion of the campaign -- and thus stretched out to a large enough lead to make a comeback unlikely if not impossible.
  2. If the race has progressed to a point where two or more candidates are trading primary and caucus wins and staying within range of each other in terms of the delegate count. 
These are the extremes and throughout much of the post-reform era the process has moved ever closer to the former rather than the latter. A constantly frontloading calendar gave, for much of that period, frontrunning candidates a greater and better opportunity to effectively wrap up the nomination early if they had established themselves as the clear frontrunner heading into the contest portion of the race. The nomination races in both parties in 2000 and for the Democrats in 2004 are good examples. But if 2008 demonstrated anything it was that if the invisible primary (fundraising, poll position and endorsement) has proven inconclusive, then true delegate counting may ensue. Certainly, this was more the case on the Democratic side in 2008 than among the Republican candidates.

One easy way of describing the 2012 Republican nomination race is to say that despite all the rules changes and all the calendar movement, it still played out pretty much like 2008. Super Tuesday came and went with one candidate well ahead of the others in the delegate count and a month later it was over. Of course, John McCain was way out in front of his rivals in 2008 after the February 5 Super Tuesday series of contests, but a month later -- after wins in Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont -- the Arizona senator wrapped up the nomination. And that's just as it was in 2012. Romney emerged from Super Tuesday on March 6 with a sizable enough delegate lead and eliminated his final viable opponent a month later after wins in Maryland, Washington, DC and Wisconsin.

Now, the explanation is more complex than that. After all McCain surpassed the 1191 delegate mark to officially clinch the nomination a month after Super Tuesday, whereas Romney will continue to march toward 1144 in a semi-contested to uncontested way for the rest of the calendar. The point here is not to minimize that distinction. Rather, the intent is to point out that while delegate counting is fun -- more so for some of us than others -- often these contests for a party's nomination are more a process of elimination. Presumptive nominees don't often have to concern themselves with the sorts of gain-deficit ratios and other delegate calculations Barbara Norrander (2000) so eloquently describes in discussing the end game of nomination contests. No, more often than not, it is simply a matter of a frontrunner eliminating his or her final viable opponent (Norrander 1996).

We counted delegates for a while in 2012, but this one ended like so many other presidential nomination races of the post-reform era ended: with the runner-up withdrawing. In this case, Mitt Romney had established enough of a delegate lead that a Santorum comeback was unlikely if not impossible.

Recent Posts:
Cart Before the Horse: Pennsylvania/Colorado Edition

Maine Legislature Exploring Presidential Primary Option for 2016

More on Santorum Delegate Math and Some Thoughts on Texas as Winner-Take-All

Are you following FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook? Click on the links to join in.

Monday, April 9, 2012

More on Santorum Delegate Math and Some Thoughts on Texas as Winner-Take-All

FHQ won't belabor the point on the Santorum delegate math. We're late to this anyway, as the Santorum campaign put out their memo, "The Media's Delegate Math is Wrong" last Thursday. There are degrees to delegate counting. As much as the AP projection is rosy for Romney (It is actually not that bad for Santorum, while we're on the subject.), the Santorum count is equally -- well, way more so in truth -- Santorum-friendly.

The truth lies somewhere in between; closer to the AP projection, but in the between nonetheless. At least with the AP's math, we know that there is a proportional projection of the delegates across most of the group of non-binding caucus states. That can be accounted for, and in fact, FHQ attempts to do just that by backing out those delegates until they are actually allocated at congressional district and/or state conventions. Those delegates are unbound. To take one example, the AP initially -- based on the March 6 caucus straw poll results -- awarded Rick Santorum 11 delegates in North Dakota, Ron Paul eight, Mitt Romney seven and Newt Gingrich two delegates. [Yes, that proportionally allocates the three automatic delegates also.] The reality following the late March state convention in the Peace Garden state was that the slate of delegates selected favored Romney. Once the dust settled the AP was able to report that of that elected slate of delegates, 12 supported Romney, eight Santorum, two Paul and one delegate came out for Gingrich.1 Two others remained uncommitted and that rounded out the 25 non-automatic delegates. Of those three automatic delegates, one, the national committeewoman Sandy Boehler endorsed Romney while the other two stayed on the sidelines.

Is the media's count wrong?

Yes, their projection was. Reality versus projection shows an eight seven delegate swing in Romney's direction.

The advantage to that is that we have the ability to pinpoint mistakes; or at least perceived mistakes. Such a benefit is not afforded us in the Santorum count. This is what prompted me to say -- via tweet -- that it was put up or shut up time for the Santorum campaign. Either demonstrate -- state-by-state -- what the count is or stop pretending.2 FHQ is absolutely fine with the Arizona or Florida argument. It is wrong to reallocate those delegates strictly proportionally, but that is an area I'm willing to play along with the Santorum folks. But if they want anyone to believe that the campaign is having any success in this, well, Paul-like caucus strategy, then it is time to show who the delegates are and it would help to share a line of endorsement from those delegates as well. The Santorum campaign needs fewer North Dakotas and much fewer "You'll just have to trust us, but we have almost 200 more delegates than anyone is giving us credit for" press releases. The proof is in the pudding and I don't think the Santorum folks have gotten us to that point in the meal yet. [Heck, I don't think we're seated at the table yet.]

The question is simple: If you have more delegates when are you going to share with everyone from where those delegates are?

The far more interesting piece of information from the Santorum delegate memo was that Texas would be moving to a winner-take-all allocation of its delegates. FHQ has a few comments on this:
  1. This has come up several times since it became apparent that Texas would not be able to hold a March 6 presidential primary. The Republican Party of Texas voted in September 2011 to shift to a proportional method of allocation to comply with RNC rules. But then, due to the dispute of congressional district lines, the March primary became unfeasible. 
  2. This had RPT arguing that the [proportionality] rules were set in stone prior to October 1 (the deadline for states to have rules in place according to the RNC rules) and that was that. But that had FHQ asking in December why it was not possible to argue before the RNC that circumstances out of the control of RPT forced the switch to proportionality in the first place and that with an after-April 1 primary Texas could transition back to its former delegate allocation method.
  3. Of course, arguing that RPT would have an argument before the RNC is not anything that has any basis in reality in the Republican rules. There is -- as RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer pointed out -- no waiver process. That is only something that occurs on the Democratic side. The RNC delegate selection process is, as FHQ has attempted to point out, much more decentralized. Traditionally, states have had the latitude to decide how they will allocate their apportioned delegates. In 2012, that leeway was only afforded to states with contests after April 1. But just as there is no waiver process on the Republican side, there is nothing in the RNC delegate selection rules to prevent a post-October 1 change on the state level to state-level delegate rules. There is no direct penalty for such a move. Would there be a challenge to such a change at the convention (if it mattered)? Sure, but it would still be possible. Several states finalized plans after October 1, 2011. Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina all moved the dates of their contests after that point. Any penalties incurred were due to the earliness of those contests and not because they had shifted the dates of their primaries or caucuses after October 1. Who else changed dates after October 1? Texas did; twice. 
  4. Can RPT change to a winner-take-all method of allocation? Yes, but there apparently is not enough willingness to do so where it counts in the Lone Star state. Back at the end of February, when the state party had to finalize plans to deal with the new court-arbitrated May 29 primary date, the [State Republican Executive Committee of the] Republican Party of Texas voted down at least three resolutions to change the proportional allocation method to something else. 
  5. Now there is a movement within at least some factions of the party to revert to the rules as they were before: winner-take-all. Of course, just as many thought that all the pre-April 1 states would have strictly proportional allocation, many are of the opinion that Texas will be strictly winner-take-all. To return to the rules as they were in 2008 in Texas, though, the party would be returning to a conditional system of allocation. A majority winner, either statewide or on the congressional district level, would receive all of the at-large or the three delegates per congressional district, respectively. Otherwise, everything is proportional. This is not a statewide winner-take-all delegate system like what was witnessed in Washington, DC last week (or Florida or Arizona for that matter). What that means is that Santorum would not necessarily receive all of the delegates from Texas. 
  6. ...and even if Santorum did win all of the Texas delegates would it keep Romney from 1144? It would reduce his cushion some.
1 From the AP's Dale Wetzel:
"The state GOP initially said delegates would be awarded in proportion to the caucus results, though the delegates would remain free to vote their conscience. If delegates were awarded proportionally, Santorum would get 11, Paul would get eight, Romney would get seven and Gingrich would get two. 
But at the state convention, Romney supporters successfully elected the most delegates — even though the former Massachusetts governor finished third in the caucuses. In interviews with the AP, 12 delegates said they backed Romney, eight supported Santorum, two favored Paul and one preferred Gingrich. Two delegates said they had no favorite. 
Rounding out North Dakota's 28 delegates are three members of the Republican National Committee who will automatically attend the convention. Among them, Sandy Boehler supports Romney while Curly Haugland and Stan Stein, the state GOP chairman, are uncommitted. 
The delegates said they plan to meet prior to the national convention to decide how they will vote with the idea that they would divvy up votes to reflect the results of the caucuses."
2 This prompted Jon Bernstein to respond that it was the campaign's job to pretend. And I totally agree. It is the Santorum campaign's right to pretend. However (and this is where so many conversations between political scientists end up), I would argue that there are degrees of pretending and the Santorum folks do themselves no favors by not presenting even one shred of evidence that they have any more delegates than the press gives them credit for. [I genuinely hope that Jon comes back at this with a reference to the Seinfeld episode where Elaine and the Eastern European author are arguing in an elevator about whether there are "just coincidences" or if there are degrees of coincidences.] If Santorum campaign wants to push back against the AP projection, it isn't had to do, but do it by producing at least one, say, Missouri congressional district delegate who is supporting Santorum or at least one more than the AP is attributing to Santorum.

Recent Posts:
Race to 1144: MD, DC & WI Primaries

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: Maryland

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: Washington, DC

Are you following FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook? Click on the links to join in.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

These things are over sooner rather than later.

The history of the presidential primary process -- the trajectory of it throughout the post-reform era anyway -- has shown that some candidate clinches the nomination sooner rather than later. The logic of this has been thrown on its head to some extent over the last two cycles with... 1) Democratic voters in 2008 having an either/or proposition in the choice between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton while remaining with some exceptions high on both options and 2) 2012 Republican voters being torn between yielding to a plurality candidate who doesn't necessarily have the backing of the full party or opting to vote (for the best, viable candidate) in protest.

It is on that latter scenario that I would like to focus, though. We know where later is on the sooner--later spectrum: the convention. But we are in the process of determining where sooner is. The 2012 Republican presidential nomination race is at a point where Mitt Romney is in control and his nomination is a when not if proposition. But that is not necessarily readily apparent. least not where it counts: with the main opposition campaign (Santorum).

If the Romney nomination is a when not if proposition, then the race is in a position of negotiating Santorum's withdrawal. Now, FHQ doesn't mean that as either the RNC and/or Romney campaign incentivizing in some way Santorum's exit.1 Against the backdrop of a likely steady stream of endorsements for, not to mention primary victories by, Romney throughout April will be a decision-making calculus within Santorum campaign as to the utility of continuing in the race.

...of the campaign coming to the realization that either Santorum cannot become the nominee (at the convention2) or he cannot keep Romney from reaching the 1144 delegates necessary to wrap up the nomination. Another angle to consider is that the Santorum camp comes to the realization that continuing on is in no way helpful to their/the party's cause. For the Santorum campaign, they have to concern themselves with the optics of persisting in a cause that will be hard to keep together during April (see above). The longer they keep at it, the worse the outlook is for getting a VP or cabinet nod from a presumptive Romney-as-nominee. And no, that may not be the goal here. Alternatively, it also hurts Santorum's efforts with the very people that would help him in any future run at the nomination: the establishment of the party. If the perception is -- among that group -- that Santorum has, is or does hurt(ing) Romney in terms of the former Massachusetts governor's chances against Obama in the fall. If that is the conventional wisdom, then the party establishment is much less likely to rally around Santorum in the future. That is an iffy proposition anyway. That assumes that there is not a "better" candidate out there four or eight years from now that occupies a similar ideological space among the field of candidates. [After all, the 2012 field is viewed as relatively weak.] If that is the conclusion that is reached within the Santorum campaign -- that there are no incentives forthcoming from the Romney camp and/or the future outlook is bleak -- then they have nothing to lose by continuing in the race. least until the money dries up and the sort of retrenchment witnessed in the Gingrich campaign this week hits the Santorum camp.

That is the self-interested side of this. But there are also party-centered, altruistic notions at play here. We can call those "taking one for the team" notions; that stepping aside is for the good of the party's fortunes in the general election campaign. Even this comes back to the self-interested angle above. If the feeling is that they/the campaign has nothing to lose by continuing on, then this is likely to play out in a rather slow, but obvious manner. In that scenario, if we follow history in the post-reform era as a guide, the Santorum campaign will likely die a slow death during primary season. But that has yet to play out., we know where later is, but we're still trying to determine where, or more appropriately when, sooner is.

1 This is a dynamic process, but the RNC and Romney campaigns, independent of each other, seem to be taking more of a hands-off instead of hands-on approach to this. If an argument can be made for either one intervening, it would be for the RNC ( measured by the steady stream of endorsements coming in for Romney). And even that argument is tenuous at best. It is more a matter of a collective will -- independent of national party coordination -- that folks like Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush or George HW Bush are coming out in favor of Mitt Romney or endorsing the idea that the process should come to a close.

2 I think that, barring a significant shake up to the current dynamics of this race as they currently exist, we can all agree that Santorum cannot get to 1144 or surpass Romney in the delegate count during primary season. It is his campaigns only play to keep Romney under 1144 heading into the convention and rolling the dice there.

Recent Posts:
South Carolina House Moves to Safeguard Future Presidential Primary Calendar Position
Santorum Super PAC Doubles Down on Ludicrous Delegate Count Claim

There's a reason the Santorum campaign didn't mention West Virginia in its delegate conference call last week

Are you following FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook? Click on the links to join in.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Santorum Super PAC Doubles Down on Ludicrous Delegate Count Claim


FHQ doesn't know where to start on this one. The Red White & Blue Fund -- the super PAC supporting Rick Santorum -- today again pushed its needlessly long plan to reallocate delegates across many of the states to have finalized the binding of delegates.1 That RWB is claiming this based on the rules only reinforces the growing notion that they have no idea what the rules are. Let's look at a few examples.

Romney: 50

Florida (RWB interpretation):
Romney: 23
Gingrich: 16
Santorum: 7
Paul: 4

Romney 29

Arizona (RWB interpretation):
Romney: 14
Santorum: 8
Gingrich: 5
Paul: 2

FHQ notes: Look, both RWB and the Santorum campaign have a leg to stand on in this argument. That Florida and Arizona not only held non-compliant primaries in terms of timing, but also held winner-take-all violations is a clear [double] violation of the RNC delegate selection rules. However, as I have tried to point out -- and this is where RWB and the Santorum campaign begins to show their lack of knowledge about the rules -- they are assuming a directly proportional allocation at the convention. That may happen in a challenge situation, but strict proportionality is not the only way a state can be "proportional" under the rules created in 2010. The delegate allocation can be divided into winner-take-all by congressional district (for the congressional district delegates) and proportional statewide (for the at-large delegates). Under that sort of allocation -- again, that is perfectly proportional under the rules -- Santorum would gain some delegates on Romney, but not nearly to the extent laid out above. The point is that this issue is anything but settled and both RWB and the Santorum campaign are only providing the polar opposite of the current allocation; a polar opposite with several options in between it and a winner-take-all allocation.

Additional note: It is poor form to cherrypick certain bits of rule 15 without considering the whole rule (see below for more of this).

Romney: 32

Idaho (RWB interpretation):
Romney: 20
Santorum: 6
Gingrich: 6

Puerto Rico:
Romney: 20

Puerto Rico (RWB interpretation):
Romney: 18
Santorum: 2

FHQ notes: These are just painful to read. It is an absolutely laughable proposition to claim that either Idaho or Puerto Rico are not abiding by the rules. Did both end up being winner-take-all in their final allocations? Yes, but that is because -- in a manner compliant with the RNC definition of proportionality -- Mitt Romney won over 50% of the vote in each. Again, that is the minimum conditional threshold by which a state with a primary or caucus before April 1 can allocate delegates winner-take-all if it chooses. If a candidate is over a majority of the vote that candidate receives all of that state's delegates. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote then the allocation is proportional. This is A-OK with RNC rules. There is no "valid and viable challenge" that Santorum can bring on this. None. Idaho and Puerto Rico are compliant. Ridiculous.

Romney: 16
Santorum: 14

Michigan (RWB interpretation):
Romney: 15
Santorum: 15

FHQ notes: I've dealt with this one already, but the bottom line is that at least those two at-large delegates should be looked at in Michigan. The original plan called for the full -- unpenalized -- allotment of at-large delegates be proportionally allocated to candidates over the 15% threshold. The Michigan Republican Party did a bad job of rolling out the altered plan to allocate its delegates and a winner-take-all allocation of the at-large delegates is a violation of the RNC rules on the same grounds as Florida and Arizona.

Of course, if this whole thing comes down to one delegate...

I don't know that I have the heart to address the Red, White and Blue Fund's position on the delegate allocation in the islands. Here is that rationale via Jon Ward at HuffPo:

Torchinsky said the estimates that Santorum can pick up delegates in the territories were "educated guesses based on rough numbers," rather than being based on any real political intelligence. 
"Seems that of 18 people, convincing 4 that Rick is the right guy is reasonable," Torchinsky told HuffPost.

FHQ notes: Really!?!

Look, as FHQ mentioned last week in response to the Santorum campaign delegate count conference call -- a count that differs from the RWB's tortured math -- I take them at their word on their efforts in the non-binding caucus states. Can Santorum overperform in the delegate allocation relative to the vote share in those non-binding straw polls? Sure. Will they? That remains to be seen and it is certainly true that they are not the only campaign attempting to pull off such a feat. The Santorum folks are not operating in a vacuum in that regard. Bernstein argues -- and I agree -- that it is those with enthusiasm and organization who will be well-positioned to do well with unbound delegates in the non-binding caucus states.

Even if we give Santorum all of the unbound delegates (336) -- right now and not when they will actually be allocated -- the former Pennsylvania senator only just edges ahead of Romney by 27 delegates in FHQ's count. That's all. And that's before any of the April contests that favor Romney anyway. [Note also that that 336 unbound delegates includes automatic delegates from states that have held contests thus far. Of the automatic delegates who have endorsed a candidate to this point in the race, Romney has gotten the nod from 86% of them. There are only about 85 total automatic delegates left to endorse.]

Yeah, but wouldn't that hurt Romney's efforts to get to 1144? It would, but the jury is still out on exactly how close that would cut it for the former Massachusetts governor.

...stay tuned on that front.

1 I suppose a couple of tweets on the matter weren't enough from FHQ. Truth be told, I was going to come back to this anyway, but thought this memo might have disappeared. Apparently not.
RWB Delegate Analysis 3-22-2012

Recent Posts:
There's a reason the Santorum campaign didn't mention West Virginia in its delegate conference call last week

Race to 1144: Louisiana Primary

The Myth of Proportionality's Impact is Dead

Are you following FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook? Click on the links to join in.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Divining the Meaning of Illinois


Count FHQ among the chorus of voices out there that was not overly moved by Mitt Romney's victory in the Illinois primary Tuesday night. Was it a foregone conclusion? Not necessarily. Did Rick Santorum have a chance? Sure, I suppose so. But more importantly, was it a surprise? No. No, it was not.

And for a race that badly needs a surprise -- if you are one of the many out there hoping for a continually chaotic march to 1144 -- Illinois did not stray too terribly far from the demographic voting pattern that has emerged in this race. Santorum wins evangelical, rural and working class voters while Romney takes well-educated, upper income and moderate voters. Illinois was a Romney state in the same way that Louisiana is shaping up to be a Santorum state this coming weekend.

Yet, that has not prevented some from stating that Illinois feels like a turning point. From the psychological standpoint that may be true. Illinois was billed as another last best chance for Santorum to crack the hold Romney has had on the midwest/Rust Belt states to have held contests thus far. By that metric, Santorum failed once again. Is Illinois different than Michigan or Ohio? FHQ won't hazard a guess.

However, there is an easy way to test this "Illinois as turning point" theory. The problem is that we won't be able to use until May. I am in complete agreement with Ryan Lizza's take (linked above) that we can in a rudimentary way chart how well candidates will do in upcoming states.1 By that measure, Romney is in for a good month in April. But will that performance be impacted by Illinois? Perhaps, but that impact will more than likely be very well masked by the demographics of those states carrying Romney to victory.2 That is the reason that the Santorum campaign conference call earlier in the week was light on the details of an April strategy and comparatively heavy on the role May states play in the former Pennsylvania senator's efforts to keep Romney under 1144 during primary season.

If in May, then, we begin to notice Romney either winning or noticeably closing the gap on Santorum in projected Santorum states -- Arkansas, North Carolina, Kentucky and Texas -- then we may look back to Illinois as a turning point. But it could be that we look back to even earlier contests -- to Florida or South Carolina -- as those turning points as well. Any protracted delegate battle can traced back to opportunities rival (and underdog) campaigns squandered in their efforts to stunt the growth an emerging delegate margin for the frontrunner. Florida and South Carolina were those opportunities for Gingrich/Santorum. Gingrich did lead in the contest delegate count -- never mind those pesky automatic delegates -- between South Carolina and Florida.

...but that was for a mere ten days.

For Illinois, though, it was just another in a long line of opportunities missed for the not Romneys.

1 And this may or may not help Mr. Lizza, but I have been working on the next step of his process -- the delegate count through that demographic -- myself. The problem is that allocating delegates in future states is a tricky, messy business that is made all the more problematic by redistricting. The data may be out there to construct Obama/McCain vote shares in new districts or to ascertain the correlation between that incomplete dataset and say the most recent PVI numbers from the Cook Political Report to potentially fill in the blanks. One could even use the 2008 Republican primary data as a means of mapping this onto the current race. The problem there of course is that one would have to reconstruct the data from the precinct level up to the new congressional districts. Those are hard enough options to come by, but finding numbers on evangelicals in the new districts is tougher still. Believe me, I'm trying.

2 Yes this assumes that Romney does well. But recall that if Illinois is to tell us anything about the future contests it would have to tell us a Romney story (Romney won there.). Disruptions/surprises in the other direction are not a part of that calculus, but may (but likely won't) occur and throw this theory on its head.

Recent Posts:
Santorum Has Rule #40 Problems, Too

Race to 1144: Illinois Primary

Why Santorum's Delegate Math Isn't So Bad But the Explanation Is

Are you following FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook? Click on the links to join in.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Santorum Has Rule #40 Problems, Too

The folks at NBC News have dug down into the 2008 Rules of the Republican Party -- the rules governing the 2012 presidential nomination process -- and have found that Rule #40 may stand in the way of Newt Gingrich having his named placed into nomination at the convention in Tampa this summer.

Here's the pertinent text of Rule 40.b:
Each candidate for nomination for President of the United States and Vice President of the United States shall demonstrate the support of a plurality of the delegates from each of five (5) or more states, severally, prior to the presentation of the name of that candidate for nomination.
Read that closely. That isn't -- as the NBC piece emphasizes -- five wins. The rule states that a candidate is required to control pluralities of the delegates in at least five states. By that metric, as of now, Rick Santorum is not really out of the woods yet either. The former Pennsylvania senator has won nine contests -- ten if you count the non-binding Missouri primary -- but only half of those states have actually allocated delegates as of March 21, 2012. Further, Santorum only has clear delegate pluralities in three of those states: Alabama, Kansas and Tennessee. In Mississippi and Oklahoma, both Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are within a couple of automatic delegate endorsements of controlling a plurality of the delegation.

Now, more than likely one of a couple of scenarios is likely to play out. Either:
  1. Santorum ends up winning the plurality of delegates in Iowa, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri and North Dakota, controls those delegations and has no problems being nominated -- if it comes to that.
  2. The delegate math will have become so impossible and the pressure from within the party will have grown so high that Santorum will exit the race and delegates in those non-binding/unbound caucus states will end up supporting the inevitable nominee (Romney) anyway, seeing that there will not be a contested convention. 
Rules, rules, rules...

Recent Posts:
Race to 1144: Illinois Primary
Why Santorum's Delegate Math Isn't So Bad But the Explanation Is

On the Binding of Missouri Republican Delegates

Are you following FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook? Click on the links to join in.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Why Santorum's Delegate Math Isn't So Bad But the Explanation Is

The Santorum campaign held a twisting and turning conference call on the delegate math as the campaign sees it today. FHQ does not mean twisting and turning as in "twisting the math" so much as I mean seemingly making a rather easy argument more difficult than it needs to be. Here is the Santorum campaign delegate estimation:
Romney: 435
Santorum: 311
Gingrich: 158
Paul: 91
Forgive me Gingrich and Paul supporters, but FHQ will focus on how the Romney and Santorum numbers got to where they are in the Santorum estimation. Let's assume the baseline for the Romney number is his current allocation according to the FHQ (454 delegates1). To get to 435, then, we would have to subtract the delegates that would be lost if Florida and Arizona were reallocated under proportional rules (-42 delegates -- -27 in Florida and -15 in Arizona) plus the Santorum campaign estimation of the how many delegates Romney has won in the congressional district conventions held thus far (+23 delegates, approximately) in non-binding/unbound caucus states.

The Santorum number is trickier and for similar reasons. We don't know the baseline number of delegates from which they are starting. FHQ has that number pegged at 172 (170 bound delegates plus 2 automatic delegates). That means that we have to find 139 additional delegates somewhere. 15 come from the reallocation of delegates from Florida and Arizona. That leaves us with a surplus of 124 delegates.

Now, the Santorum math is predicated on overperforming in the steps of the caucus/convention process beyond the precinct phase in the non-binding/unbound caucus states. In those states -- Iowa, Colorado, Minnesota, Maine, Washington and North Dakota -- there are 230 delegates at stake.2 One way of thinking about this is that Santorum would need to receive about 54% of those delegates for 124.

That may not be that far-fetched. If we take the AP delegate projections in these states -- a projection that is proportionally based with the exception of Minnesota -- then Santorum is already starting out with 85 delegates in those states. That would mean that to get to that magic 124 number, Santorum would either have to win 39 of the 49 delegates in Missouri or scale down that Missouri number and add in numbers that overperform Santorum's showings in the various precinct caucus straw polls. Again, it isn't all that far-fetched.

Of course, none of this comes problem-free. And what I mean by that is that this is all based on the perspective of the Santorum campaign. If they are adding in delegates as they come in from congressional district caucuses, then the above analysis can be thrown out the window. Their count, in that instance, would be a count and not a projection (outside of the whole Florida/Arizona thing). That implies that they have some room to grow -- to gain on Romney. If, however, they are using a combination of projection and counting as they go along, then the Santorum campaign has a lot less wiggle room. They are in essence already accounting for the discrepancy in the various delegate projections and the RNC delegate count. And that was a discrepancy driven by how various outlets ar dealing with the unbound caucus state delegates.

FHQ has pushed those delegates to the side in our models for the most part. Our estimates of future delegate allocation based on our 50% model get Romney over 1144 without those delegates.

...but with very few delegates to spare.

Basically, all of this delegate talk from the Santorum campaign amounts to nothing. Their plan may help them to gain a little on Romney, but doesn't really affect the bottom line that Romney is likely to get to 1144. Certainly, if Romney does not get to that majority threshold, then if things go according to the Santorum plan, the former Pennsylvania senator heads into a contested convention with a very slightly larger delegation (but one that would still need assistance from either or both of the Gingrich and Paul campaigns).

1 That is 423 bound delegates and 31 pledged delegates. The alternative is to take the curious RNC view that the 12 automatic delegates from the territories (not counting Puerto Rico) are bound, which would in the Santorum calculation move the Romney number to 435, thus making the remaining 19 automatic delegates free agents that the Santorum campaign can attempt to woo. I think I just convinced myself that the latter is the Santorum view.

2 That total does not include the three automatic delegates from each state.

Recent Posts:
On the Binding of Missouri Republican Delegates

Disputed Wyoming County Delegate Awarded to Romney

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: Illinois

Are you following FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook? Click on the links to join in.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

On the State of the Republican Nomination Race, Post-AL/MS

A few lingering thoughts from the aftermath of Tuesday night's/Wednesday morning's contests in Alabama, American Samoa, Hawaii and Mississippi:
  1. Any day Santorum doesn't cut into Romney's delegate lead is an opportunity lost. 
  2. Any day Romney doesn't grow his delegate lead is an opportunity lost.
  3. Momentum is dead. ...until it isn't.
  4. In-or-out Newt?
The story on Wednesday was the same story as the Wednesday following Super Tuesday. Delegates were on the line and no one cut into Mitt Romney's delegate advantage, but Romney also failed to break through once again in the South. FHQ has not pulled any punches in saying that Santorum has no mathematical shot at 1144 if the current dynamic in this race is extended through the rest of the race. None. But as I have also pointed out, that fact alone does not mean that Romney is a shoo in to get to a delegate majority himself.

I won't belabor the point in #1 above anymore as it is fairly obvious, but #2 deserves some attention.  Any series of contests that passes where Mitt Romney does not significantly increase his delegate lead -- inching closer to 1144 -- removes from the former Massachusetts governor another passel of delegates that a larger portion of which would serve as cushion for a solid frontrunner. Put another way, any time Romney is not hitting that seemingly magic number of 48% of the delegates, his campaign's job of getting him to the requisite number of delegates necessary to clinch the nomination gets slightly more difficult.

So, on Tuesday, Romney gained but he didn't gain. He added to his lead in the delegate count but did not necessarily help his chances of getting to the goal of 1144.

What we all witnessed Tuesday night was not momentum. There is no momentum in this race. Deep South voters did not exactly reject the notion of a Gingrich candidacy and they didn't exactly fully embrace Santorum (or Romney for that matter) either. The two candidates who would be expected to do well in the South did so well in the South. The presidential primary process in 2012 has progressed far enough now that we have a fair amount of data at our disposal. This is oversimplifying matters, but Mitt Romney is likely to do well in the west and in the northeast, Santorum has carved out a stronghold in the prairie states and stretching into the South and Newt Gingrich has been reduced to a niche southern candidate who is trying to play delegate spoiler.

No, Romney has still not answered the "Southern question" and he isn't likely to (at least not until maybe North Carolina at the earliest1). But the take home here is that this is all rather predictable based on the regional alignment described above. We can kind of eyeball it and say that Santorum is likely to do well in Missouri and Louisiana later in March and that Maryland, DC, Delaware, New York, Rhode Island and Connecticut are states where Mitt Romney would be expected to do well. And that is the way the race has been. The volatile "swings" have not been all that volatile. Heck, they haven't really been swings so much as the establishment of a pattern in this race. There will only be momentum in this race when and if someone wins, and probably wins consistently thereafter, on another candidate's turf.

If you read closely enough, you will have already noted that FHQ made no mention of either the Rust Belt or the midwest. That is because that is the only area where the predictable is not all that predictable. Santorum has come close twice now to beating Romney on Romney turf, but failed to break through in either Michigan or Ohio. Illinois (March 20), Wisconsin (April 3) and Pennsylvania (April 24) offer Santorum an opportunity to change that.2

What potentially shakes all of this up is the presence or absence of Newt Gingrich in the race. If Gingrich is not in the game in Michigan or Ohio, it is not a stretch to see the overall balance shifting toward Santorum in those states. [I know. The Santorum campaign has been making this claim for weeks.] And that could be an issue again in Illinois or Wisconsin, where something like a second conservative candidate not being on the ballot could benefit the other conservative candidate if that candidate (Santorum) is close again against Romney in the popular vote.

The Gingrich impact is more black and white in states that look to be close, but outside of the Rust Belt, the former speaker's influence is more nuanced. Does that help/hurt Romney or Santorum? Well, that all depends on what the delegate selection rules are on the state level. To the extent that Gingrich is able to clear the necessary threshold in the popular vote to qualify for delegates, he is likely to hurt Romney/help Santorum (by hurting Romney) by peeling off delegates in proportional states. But in the few remaining (strictly) winner-take-all states and the winner-take-all by congressional district states, Gingrich's presence is likely to help Romney/hurt Santorum. Coming in third over and over again does nothing for Gingrich in those states. It nets him no delegates. But coming in third siphons off votes and potentially delegates from Santorum, helping Romney to gain delegates at a healthier clip.

...if Romney is presumably the one in the lead in that three candidate scenario.

Now, if Gingrich is out of the race, it does not necessarily reverse those trends above, but may in some cases. If Gingrich is out then the proportional state delegates are allocated among just two candidates. That is a plus for Romney and Santorum. It gets Romney closer to 1144 and Santorum closer to Romney if he is the beneficiary of a consolidation of the conservative vote and thus the delegate winner. You can see this more in a state like North Carolina than in a state like Rhode Island though; both of which are strictly proportional. In the winner-take-all by congressional district states, Santorum is again potentially able to take advantage of that consolidation to win some or more districts in states like Maryland or Wisconsin, but while still facing the possibility of losing the statewide vote and the at-large delegates in the process. [The bonus there is that quite a few of these winner-take-all by congressional district states are fairly blue and thus have a limited number of at-large delegates. Losing them, then, is not a killer if you are Rick Santorum.]

The bottom line is that this race is clearer now. We know where the candidates' strengths are now and where the true battlegrounds lie. We know that to settle this even further is going to take candidates winning on the others' turf. [This is more necessary for Santorum/Gingrich than for Romney.] We know that, right now, the only strategy Santorum and Gingrich have -- absent the sort of "winning on the other guy's turf" shake up described above -- is to keep Romney under 1144, sending this to the convention. We know that "keep Romney under 1144" is a suitable strategy when the candidate promoting it is winning, but is bound to be much less effective if they are not (and by extension someone is moving toward 1144). We know that Missouri and Louisiana are good targets for Santorum. We know that much of April shapes up well for Mitt Romney. We know that absent any shake up Romney is on track to get not only the most delegates but to get at or around the 1144 mark.

What we don't know is if Santorum can break through on Romney's turf. Illinois would be a good place to start. Otherwise time is -- and delegates are -- running out.

1 North Carolina represents the last best hope more than likely for Romney to break through and avoid being the only potential Republican nominee to have been swept in the South during the primaries.

2 Yes, the homestate advantage Santorum has in Pennsylvania might offset -- or more than offset -- what might be a slight Romney advantage in a state like the Keystone state.

Recent Posts:
2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: Puerto Rico

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: Hawaii

About that Santorum Campaign Delegate Strategy Memo

Are you following FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook? Click on the links to join in.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

About that Santorum Campaign Delegate Strategy Memo

FHQ got several requests yesterday to comment on the memo outlining the delegate strategy that Politico posted yesterday from the Santorum campaign. Most of those discussions were via phone, but I did exchange emails with Pema Levy at TPM (see her story here) on the matter and here is the long form version of my back of the napkin response:
There is both fact and fiction in the Santorum memo. 
First of all, even when I was generous to Santorum and assumed that he got 50% of the vote the rest of the way (both statewide and in the congressional districts) and gave him all of the unbound delegates, he just barely got over 1144 (see here).1 And that particular dynamic just isn't going to happen. I get their point about winning unbound caucus state delegates at the state conventions, but they are likely overstating just how many delegates Santorum will be able to claim. 
Secondly, they are just plain wrong about the April 3 contests. DC is winner-take-all (and Santorum is not on the ballot there), but Maryland and Wisconsin are both winner-take-all by congressional district. As we saw in a similar case in South Carolina, even a sweeping victory like Gingrich's there did not net him all of the delegates in the Palmetto state. Romney won a congressional district. Theoretically, a candidate could win all of the delegates from those states, but it would take a win that Santorum is unlikely to get.2 [What's funny is that California should later be considered winner-take-all as well according to the Santorum campaign definition. It is also winner-take-all by congressional district.] 
This whole strategy is predicated on the race going to the convention. But it is going to be tough for Santorum and Gingrich to only argue that Romney shouldn't get to 1144 (to their supporters and donors) as Romney is likely to keep growing his delegate advantage and inch closer and closer to 1144. That is an easy argument to make when you have possible wins ahead of you in Mississippi or Alabama, but doesn't hold water when your candidate is losing throughout April. 
This memo is very casual with the discussion of delegates being elected at state conventions. Their claim is more valid in caucus states where the delegates will not be bound, but they fail to adequately -- in my eyes at least -- mention that the delegates elected at conventions in primary states (and some caucus states) are bound according to the results of the primary. 
Finally, the memo is big on telling everyone that Santorum will do well in particular states without telling us very much about how they will ultimately make that happen. The contention that Romney will not necessarily do well in the northeastern states on April 24 because of past precedent is particularly puzzling. Connecticut, Delaware, New York and Rhode Island were all Super Tuesday states in February 2008 and McCain won them all.
The fact that they seemingly don't fully understand the rules (see Maryland/Wisconsin claim above), are organizing on the fly and aren't (fully) on the ballot in some additional states gives me pause about the effectiveness of this particular strategy. 
They are absolutely correct to question the Romney team's ability to get their candidate to 1144, but Santorum's argument is only going to work as long as he is winning and cutting into Romney's lead. If Romney does well in April, then the task becomes all but impossible for Santorum. Romney winning and approaching 1144 is not a good environment in which to make a "keep Romney from 1144" argument. That may serve as the tipping point in this race.
Now, I completely understand the Santorum campaign argument that the former Pennsylvania senator is the passion candidate in this race and that they are trying to portray Romney as the moderate, monied candidate. This is the classic heart versus mind discussion that has been going on within the Republican Party since late one early November night in 2008. But to attempt to substitute that particular narrative for the Romney delegate math storyline in this race is very reminiscent of the Clinton campaign effort to push back against the Obama inevitability narrative as well (see here). The bottom line is that it all comes back to the math and the Santorum campaign is up against it on that one.

1 The Gingrich delegate angle is one I hadn't considered, but I wouldn't safely count on those delegates if I were in the Santorum camp.

2 And to be fair, Romney is not necessarily likely to have that sort of victory in either of those states either.

Recent Posts:
2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: Mississippi

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: Alabama

Race to 1144: Super Tuesday, Kansas/Territories

Are you following FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook? Click on the links to join in.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The (Delegate) Keys to Super Tuesday

FHQ had the honor of giving a brief talk on the 2012 presidential primary process at the Microsoft campus in Charlotte this afternoon. Even though I didn't really follow my notes -- yielding to the more fun Q&A session -- I thought I would share.1

Here are the things FHQ will be looking for tomorrow night:
  1. Ohio, meh. After talking up the importance of the Ohio primary in the wake of Michigan last week, it has become apparent to me that Ohio is no longer the "new hotness". FHQ can't get all that jazzed up about a non-fight. Look, Romney can't lose. If he wins the statewide race, Romney wins the most delegates. Unless Romney gets blown out there -- something the polls are not showing -- he will likely win or fairly evenly split the delegates. Again, meh. I know, I know. If he loses the statewide vote it looks bad. Eh, big deal. The Romney campaign will point toward the fact that it is a delegate race and that they have more delegates. As they said in their Saturday conference call chiding -- fairly or not -- the Santorum campaign for not being organized enough to fully get on the ballot, they -- the Romney campaign -- are more organized.  
  2. Delegate margins. I know Ohio is a unique contest tomorrow; the only state without regional company or contest-type camaraderie, but it just will not offer much in the way of a delegate margin for any of the candidates. You know which states will? Virginia and maybe Idaho. Virginia is a no-brainer. That Gingrich and Santorum on the ballot there means that Romney will be able to emerge from the Old Dominion with, as I've said previously, a delegate margin that likely offsets the likely losses in the South. And if -- big IF -- Romney is able to get over 50% in the madhouse that is the new Idaho caucuses (more on that later today), then Idaho is likely going to provide the former Massachusetts governor with even more relief. So the next time Newt Gingrich says that Georgia is the biggest delegate prize on Super Tuesday, shout back that delegate margins are more important and Virginia and again, maybe, Idaho are much bigger on that score than a diluted Georgia primary that will likely allocate delegates to three candidates tomorrow. 
  3. Tennessee, now there's the new hotness. Way back after the South Carolina primary (I know. Doesn't that seem like a hundred years ago?), I said that the fundamental question that had emerged was "Can Romney win in the South?" FHQ said then that Romney's ability to answer the "Southern question"would go a long way toward determining how long this fight for the Republican nomination would be. More importantly, I emphasized that it would determine how able Gingrich was to stay in the race. Well, Romney has not had another chance to revisit his loss in South Carolina -- or at least return to similar ground to quell any doubts. Tomorrow is the first chance and Tennessee looks to be Romney's best bet of answering the "Southern question". Romney will get delegates out of Tennessee but a symbolic win in the South would be a backbreaker in a lot of respects for the Gingrich and Santorum causes.
  4. Thresholds, thresholds, thresholds. These 15% and 20% thresholds for receiving delegates in many of the states tomorrow is a big deal. Let me repeat that: It is a big deal. No, I don't think it affects anything other than at the margins, but if we are moving into the delegate counting terrain -- even if for a short period of time -- then the ways in which the delegate leader can use those rules to his advantage are noteworthy. The greater the number of candidates over that threshold, the smaller the delegate margins/piece of the delegate pie will be. If, for example, Romney is first or second but no worse, but it is only him and another candidate over 15% or 20% then Romney is only padding his delegate total. And while the margins may not increase greatly, it pushes the former Massachusetts governor closer to 1144.
  5. Will it end tomorrow? No. But we are likely to surpass a significant hurdle tomorrow night and into Wednesday. FHQ will have more on that later. 
Ooh, cliffhanger.

1 Yeah, I know. These primers are a dime a dozen the day before any primary day.

Recent Posts:
Race to 1144: Washington Caucuses

Fantasy Delegates

Texas Primary Set for May 29

Are you following FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook? Click on the links to join in.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Of Course Rick Santorum Won Iowa...

...but Mitt Romney did, too.

Both were able to beat the medium term expectations that had developed around their campaigns relative to the Iowa caucuses.1 Part of the story coming out of the Hawkeye state was the closeness of the top two, and while that is a fun footnote -- or will be in the history books -- to the caucuses, the main stories from FHQ's perspective were that Santorum was able to become the top not-Romney in the state and that Romney, despite the underlying demographics of caucusgoers, was able to finish in the top tier. Santorum exceeded expectations and Romney -- even in the worst case scenario -- either met, by being in the top tier, or exceeded expectations.

Whether the two flip flop their positions in the Iowa GOP-certified results this week will do little to change the dynamic that has developed in this race: Romney is the frontrunner and Santorum's name is on more lips and in more minds post-Iowa than they would have been if he had finished behind Newt Gingrich or Rick Perry on the night of January 3. Going back and trying to rewrite the story based on the shifting of less than 100 votes or so in the margin will have very little effect on what's going on now. Rick Santorum would still face the same sort of questions Mike Huckabee faced four years ago (Specifically, can insta-organization compete with the well-oiled machine of a well-financed frontrunner?), and Mitt Romney would still have -- at the very worst -- met expectations in the first two states while his rivals, with the exceptions of Paul in both Iowa and New Hampshire and Santorum in Iowa, underperformed.

This would have been a fun question -- the type Public Policy Polling likes to throw into their surveys from time to time -- to include in a South Carolina or Florida poll. My strong hunch is that it would make very little difference in vote choice in either the Palmetto or Sunshine state.2 The only time that this might have mattered was in the early morning hours of January 4. Good luck constructing that counterfactual. If anyone is able to, please let me know. I want to check out your time machine.

"Stop the inevitability narrative in its tracks"? Eh, probably not. It may be a speed bump, but more like one of those varmints Mitt Romney once hunted than an elk or moose in the headlights.

1 By medium term I mean something akin to a rolling average of expectations over time; something that is not susceptible to an outlier survey's snapshot of the race.

2 Granted, I think it would be difficult to determine whether that was actually part of a voter's decision-making calculus anyway. ...but that's a whole different can of worms from the political science/public opinion literature.

Are you following FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook? Click on the links to join in.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Rick Santorum for President? ...and Romney in Iowa

How many social conservative presidential candidates does it take to hand Mitt Romney the 2012 Republican presidential nomination?




The 2012 primary calendar, if it remains similar to 2008, sets up nicely for Romney. Stay in the top three in Iowa, win New Hampshire, win Nevada, keep it close in South Carolina and win in Florida before Super Tuesday and that is likely good enough to put Romney over the top. That's a classic frontrunner's path to the nomination.

Now, none of the above three folks have thrown their hats in the 2012 ring, but let's assume for a minute that all three and Mitt Romney are in. You never know what Sarah Palin is going to do, Huckabee, I think, will opt for another go of it unless he continues to struggle with the financial end of the campaign, and Rick Santorum is off to Iowa for some speaking commitments this fall. I don't know, but if those three announce that they intend to seek the Republican presidential nomination, Romney may be able to win the Iowa caucuses and not look back.

I've mentioned the idea that Palin and Huckabee could split the social conservative vote in Iowa and help Romney win, but if Santorum is in, it seems a social conservative split and Romney win could become a more likely scenario. Huckabee's already a proven commodity in the Hawkeye state after having won the caucuses in 2008, and Palin is a known quantity, but what about Santorum? Doesn't he have also-ran written all over him after losing his reelection bid to his Pennsylvania Senate seat in 2006? Well, yeah. The former senator doesn't even register on this Palin-less version of the 2012 Candidate Tracker:

[Click to Enlarge]

However, Santorum strikes me as someone who is outspoken enough on issues important to social conservatives (abortion and gay marriage especially) to pull in a fervent following in the Hawkeye state. He'd be more Ron Paul than Duncan Hunter in 2008 for instance. This is, after all, someone Glenn Beck called a "Winston Churchill type" in a February 2008 interview with NPR. There is something there, but it remains to be seen whether a Santorum candidacy is one that would be able to catch on.

Regardless of whether Santorum announces his candidacy and/or draws some interest in such a capacity, let's take a closer look at Iowa in 2012. Romney received a quarter of the vote in Iowa in 2008 and was polling around that mark ahead of the caucuses as well. It is unlikely that Romney keeps all of those voters in 2012, but if he comes in as the frontrunner, caucusgoers may be more willing to give him a look. Plus, McCain's share of the vote from 2008 (13%) will be up for grabs as well and those voters will be more likely to move toward Romney than any of the two or three social conservatives. Let's assume that Romney retains 90% of his 2008 vote but that is offset by a "frontrunner bonus." On top of that let's make the modest assumption that Romney pulls in three-quarters of the McCain/Giuliani share of the 2008 Iowa vote. That would net the former Massachusetts governor an additional 12%. That puts Romney at 37%, leaving just 63% for the social conservative candidates to split. Add in Pawlenty and the other candidates likely to enter the race and the math becomes difficult to overcome. If the field is crowded -- and it likely will be -- then 35% will likely be more than enough to win the caucuses.

One thing we've yet to mention, though, is turnout. If Republicans are motivated, then turnout is likely to exceed the levels from 2008. And of course that throws a wrench into the calculations above. No matter what turnout looks like, however, if there is a crowded social conservative field, the product is going to be watered down and the likelihood of Romney slipping in the back door and winning increases.

I think Santorum's reception in Iowa is worth keeping tabs on.

Recent Posts:
Democratic Change Commission Set to Reconvene in St. Louis on August 29

The 2012 Presidential Candidates on Twitter (July 2009)

FHQ is back...