Monday, June 4, 2012

2012 03 05 March Super Tuesday

Welcome to Super Tuesday Eve!  The Big Day ain’t quite what it used to be – roughly half the size of 2008 – and it’s ability to close the deal has been further diminished by the change from “winner-take-all” to more proportional methods of delegate allocation.  All of this exacerbates the GOP’s problem in finding one candidate to ride, with no sign of that changing anytime soon.
Let’s catch up.  Mitt Romney won Arizona handily and managed to pull out a 3-point squeaker in Michigan, thereby avoiding the ignominy of losing in his boyhood home.  More importantly, with those wins he managed to quell the growing whispers that the GOP would seek a stronger candidate outside the current field.  And then last Saturday night, Romney won the Washington (state) caucus by a good margin over Ron Paul and Rick Santorum.
This all continues to prove that there is NO SUCH THING as “momentum” in 2012.  Iowa begat the Santorum surprise, who showed no Mo into New Hampshire, which begat Romney, who’s Mo disintegrated in South Carolina, which begat Newt, who squandered his Mo in Florida to, uh, re-beget Mitt, who promptly showed no Mo in losing Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado and re-beget Santorum, who in turn wasted no time in losing the last three, thereby (wait for it!) re-re-begetting Mitt!
Santorum has had a bad stretch recently.  Apart from losing three straight and widening his personal gender gap, he injected the word “vomit” into the national dialogue, about JFK, no less, and also managed to turn one part of the American Dream on its head, calling Obama a “snob” for wishing for a college education for all.  Essentially, Santorum has notably regressed in the hot glare of the frontrunner’s spotlight.  Big surprise, hah!
Romney fared better, but continued his dazzling string of elite gaffes.  A clumsy attempt to court the NASCAR crowd resulted in this doozy:  “I have some great friends who are NASCAR team owners!”  The gift that keeps on gaffing, part 27!
As Charles points out, no one is loving this more than Messieurs Axelrod, Plouffe and Obama.  What a tightrope the GOP has walked to yield the worst possible outcome!  A few more votes one way (say, in Iowa and Colorado) and Romney is coronated, free to tack to the middle and attack Obama daily.  A few votes the other way (say, in Maine and Michigan) and Romney is toast, opening the door for a stronger “establishment” candidate to emerge that would likely pose a stronger challenge to Obama.  But now, the War of Attrition (a.k.a. the Hunt for Incremental Delegates) has officially begun, with Super Tuesday merely a healthy appetizer, no longer the main course.
Before we look at Super Tuesday, some business from last time.  First off, congrats to Steve for a stunningly accurate prediction for Michigan….note his forecast first, followed by the actual:  Romney (38/41), Santorum (38/38), Paul (12/16) and Gingrich (7/7).  Well done, bro.  I came back to win Arizona, with Romney (44/47), Santorum (28/27), Gingrich (15/16) and Paul (12/8)….not bad.  Tom Cox trailed us both times, mainly because he insists on forecasting huge write-ins for local favorites (Sheriff Joe in Arizona, after Tim Tebow in Colorado….).
And then the response to the Schrier/Gardner Breakfast Club question…let’s say Obama loses….who would you most want to see as the new Republican Prez?  Your answers are a perfect reflection of the GOP hard times….still no consensus:  two votes for Chris Christie, two for Jeb Bush, one each for Romney, Mitch Daniels and Mike Bloomberg (the latter technically not a Republican).
Super Tuesday
It's a good time to reflect on the national polls.  The Santorum Surge is over.  He climbed to the top of the polls and stayed there from roughly Feb 8 (post Trifecta) to Feb 22 (very weak debate).  Mitt has re-emerged and now is back up to a 15-point lead over Santorum, about 38-23.  Santorum is actually falling back toward Gingrich (16) and Paul (11). 
Super Tuesday consists of ten states, none of them “winner-take-all,” totaling 437 delegates, more than have been awarded thus far.  Let’s take them in turn:

  • The Ohio primary is the main one to watch.  Romney and Santorum have been running neck and neck for the past week in the polls, and this is one of those bellwether states that is important in the general election, too.  This is the one that will go well into the night!
  • Georgia’s primary might have been another interesting one.  Gingrich is making his last stand here…even he has said that a win is "central to the future" of his campaign, strongly implying that he would drop out of the race if he did not win.  But he is way ahead here, and his lead has actually climbed to over 20 points in the last week.  So…the one opportunity to narrow the field on Super Tuesday will likely not come to pass. 
  • Oklahoma and Tennessee, both primaries, are key southern states, and should be good ones for Santorum.  He maintains a 10+ point lead in Oklahoma but a much smaller lead in Tennessee.  Romney wins in either would be huge – any win in a southern state would help him immensely in the “true national candidate” department.  So keep an eye on Tennessee in particular.                                                                                                                                             
  • Romney will clean up in the Massachusetts and Virginia primaries and probably Vermont’s, too, though there has been little polling there.  He’s a solid favorite in another of his home states, Massachusetts, and Virginia will be a win more or less by default, since neither Santorum nor Gingrich qualified for the ballot, leaving it to Romney and Paul.                           
  • Alaska, Idaho and North Dakota are all caucuses and there has been no polling whatsoever in any of them.  Various factors in play here may favor one candidate or another…the neighbor/Mormon influence in Idaho should help Romney (and if he gets 50% of the vote or more, he takes all 32 delegates)...but caucuses tend to be good formats for Santorum and Paul, though no one spent much time in any of these states.  Absent any polling it's hard to tell.
Nate Silver has done the math and projects Romney to secure over 200 delegates and Santorum over 100 in these contests, with Gingrich about 60 (mostly from Georgia) and Paul about 25, leaving 25 others uncommitted.  Thus, if it’s all about math, it should be a good night for Mitt, extending his delegate lead over Santorum to about 200, as we head to the intensive delegate-counting phase of the campaign.  Because of the proportional nature of the allocations, it is unlikely the outcomes will stray terribly far from Nate’s prediction. 
But the headlines will be vastly different if Santorum wins Ohio and Oklahoma, holds on to Tennessee, and takes two or three of the Western states.  The anti-Romney drumbeat will beat loudly again in that circumstance no matter the delegate count.  That would mean all Mitt can muster are wins in home state Massachusetts, neighbor Vermont, and essentially a no-contest in Virginia.  Nothing super about that kind of Tuesday for Mitt!
So, comments welcome and predictions for the races as well.  For those of you so inclined, let’s do it two ways:
1)       Pick the winner in each state
2)       For Ohio, Oklahoma and Tennessee, forecast the percentages
Super Tuesday is worth it’s own song, and “Ruby Tuesday” by the Stones is the obvious choice for inspiration….
Used to be, by this time, it was done
But yesterday don’t matter, ‘cause no one’s won
No more delegate hauls
From primary winner-take-alls
And now we know…
No one gets Mo
Goodbye Super Tuesday
Not the closer we once knew
When its June and it’s still in play
We’re sure gonna miss you
We can lose, but win, I’ve heard Mitt say
Delegates will still trickle our way
Massachusetts’ gold
Virginia’s in the fold
But we can’t close…
No knockout blows
Goodbye Super Tuesday
Not the closer we once knew
When its June and it’s still in play
We’re sure gonna miss you
There’s no time to lose, I’ve heard Rick say
Win Ohio and Mitt will rue this day
Take Georgia and toot
That we’ve ejected Newt
Wind at our back
From Shelley’s PAC
Goodbye Super Tuesday
Not the closer we once knew
When its June and it’s still in play
We’re sure gonna miss you

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