Patterico's Pontifications

2/8/2012

Mitt Clinton, Rick Obama?

Filed under: 2012 Election — Karl @ 5:00 pm

[Posted by Karl]

My general impulse is throw cold water on momentary buzz, so this bit of hype from Camp Santorum reported by Byron York after sweeping Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado caught my attention:

After the returns came in, I asked Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley what he thought about Rich Beeson’s message.  Sure, Santorum did well on Tuesday, but doesn’t Romney have the money and infrastructure to outdistance Santorum, and everyone else, in the long run?

“What an inspiring message,” Gidley said sarcastically.  “That is really inspiring.  I can’t wait to put a bumper sticker on my truck that says MONEY-INFRASTRUCTURE 2012.”

“No one had more money and infrastructure than Hillary Clinton, and hope and change wiped her off the map,” Gidley continued.  “We’ll have money, and we’ll have infrastructure, but our nominee has to have a message that people can get behind and inspires people.”

In fact, Obama raised more money than Clinton headed into the Iowa caucuses.  Obama’s endorsements in early states were competitive with hers.  And Obama out-organized Hillary.  It’s too bad for Rick Santorum that his staff apparently does not know this, as there’s an important lesson for them in it.

Obama was able to wage a long campaign against Clinton in 2008 because he followed (and improved on) McGovern’s 1972 strategy of picking up cheap delegates in caucus states, particularly “red states,” which his rivals ignored.  Santorum’s wins in bluish-purple caucuses — Iowa, Minnesota and Colorado – and his plans to target Washington state’s caucus in the upcoming rounds suggest a general awareness of Obama’s strategy.  The RNC, having noticed that the Dems’ long 2008 campaign drove registration and organization in more states, helped open the door to an insurgent campaign by dictating proportional allocation of delegates for primaries and caucuses held before April, although some of these early non-binding contests awarding delegates later complicate these calculations.  The RNC’s plan did not anticipate this cycle’s unexciting and inept field of candidates.  In any event, it also ultimately works against a NotRomney like Santorum.

In March, with its treasure trove of delegates, there are plenty of places a NotRomney could do well, including caucuses.  Many of these states lean conservative and evangelical.  But proportional allocation of delegates insures Romney will get a share of delegates in most of these contests.  Moreover, if Newt Gingrich remains in on Super Tuesday, he may do well in Georgia (one of the biggest delegate counts that day) and other southern states, splitting the NotRomney vote.  Indeed, Newt has already headed to Ohio, another state where Romney would benefit from a split vote on Super Tuesday (Ohio moved the GOP primary from June back to March.  Given the likely Santorumentum from last night’s sweep, I wonder whether the Mitt-backed superPAC will dial back its attacks on Newt in Ohio.)  Moreover, Ron Paul is openly pursuing the McGovern/Obama cheap delegate strategy in caucus states, which complicates efforts by other NotRomneys hoping to do the same.  Furthermore, the strategy has its limits: only 486 delegates will be awarded in caucus states.

Once winner-take-all contests become prevalent in April, the calendar becomes heavily weighted to northeastern states — Pennsylvania and Wisconsin being Santorum’s best opportunities.  May would be a more Santorum-friendly month.  June will be dominated by California, New Jersey and Utah, all presumably Romney-friendly states.

Contra Santorum’s flack, the fact that the eventual nominee will have money and organization does not help Santorum become the nominee today.  Despite the big wallet of Foster Friess, Santorum needs money and organization now.  And he needs Newt to be out of the race by Super Tuesday.  At the moment, that scenario seems unlikely.

–Karl

Romney, conservatives and conservatives

Filed under: 2012 Election — Karl @ 6:48 am

[Posted by Karl]

Jay Cost did a little mythbusting Monday regarding conservative support for Mitt Romney:

The conventional wisdom is that conservatives are dissatisfied with Romney, whose electoral coalition is comprised mostly of moderates and even liberal voters. That might be true of conservative media elites, but the broader electorate of conservatives have been much more amenable to Romney.

***

No doubt, Romney is dominating among moderates and liberals, but his haul is just as strong among “somewhat conservative” voters. It is only among the “very conservative” that Gingrich has a lead – although even this is much less than what one might have thought based on the way the media has been covering the story.

RTWT, as Jay has plenty of insights about how Romney’s voter base has changed from 2008 and the potential strength of his coalition.  It’s also a detailed example of one of Jay’s enduring truths of elections: strong partisans do not dominate the political process.  I would almost be tempted to end the summary here, as people who are sufficiently absorbed with politics to be reading (not to mention writing) are likely those most in need of a reminder that we are not all that representative a sample, even of Repbulicans or conservatives.  That message might be even more important the day after Rick Santorum sweeps Romney in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado (an impressive feat, but one involving low turnout caucuses where Romney did not camapign much).

However, as useful as Jay’s analysis is as a tonic, I doubt he would claim it tells the entire story of the GOP primary campaign.  Notably, Jay wrote earlier this month about the growing regional divide among conservatives:

Those in the North and Midwest are more sympathetic to Romney, viewing him perhaps as one of their own. But when we turn Southward, the links between Romney and the right seems to be much more tenuous. What is so fascinating about this is that we’re talking about people in different states who answer the ideological question similarly.  This is geography, not ideology.

I’m not sure that last bit (emphasis in original) is entirely true, depending on what Jay means by it.  It seems entirely possible to me that Northerners who self-identify as conservative do not always mean the same thing as Southerners do when self-identifying as conservative.  And the same is possibly true of other regions.  Indeed, based on last night’s results in Minnesota and Missouri, it’s not clear that the Midwest is as sympathetic to Romney as Jay may think.  Minnesota ends up looking more like Iowa than Iowa, let alone New Hampshire, Florida or Nevada (where, as Jay notes, Mitt won 57% of the somewhat conservative voters and 48% of the very conservative voters).

The easy explanation of some of these regional differences would be religion, but in examining that issue, Sean Trende adds the following caveat: “religion could be a stand-in for ideology, and that, regardless of self-identification, a self-described conservative evangelical Republican is significantly to the right of a self-described conservative who is non-evangelical.”

In sum, while I basically agree with Jay that political junkies tend to overstate the case that Romney does not appeal to conservatives, I also think we should be careful when we throw around the conservative label.  To take a more obvious example, many look at polls showing twice as many identify as conservative than identify as liberal without considering that: (a) some still self-identify as conservative Democrats and are likely more liberal than moderate or liberal Republicans; and (b) many self-identifying moderates are functionally liberal, but have fled the label.  Relying on self-identification may be a necessary evil in political polling.  However, in a nation as diverse and sprawling as the US, we need to always keep in mind the limitations of self-identification and the necessity of any candidate appealing to more than one type of conservative.

–Karl


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