Republican primaries in rapidly shriveling interest
Tuesday, March 6, 2012–‘Super Tuesday’ GOP primaries and caucuses are here, along with a lot of media coverage. Most of the remaining Republicans running for the White House are trying mightily to switch the conversation from birth control and vaginal probes to bombing Iran. As usual, the single honorable exception is Ron Paul. Paul’s comments on our nuclear age, on the Cold War of the 20th century, and on diplomacy today rank as the most sane in almost his entire party, at least among candidates for office.
In more local focus, eleven states have delegates at stake on Tuesday. From a political perspective, they fall loosely into a few categories.
- Georgia is the stand-out with 76 delegates, although not winner-take-all. Good thing for Mitt Romney, since Georgia is also the only state where the most current polls show Newt Gingrich out ahead of everybody else by double digits. Rasmussen, done last night, gives Gingrich 10 points over Romney. Rasmussen is a GOP-oriented poll, protective of the establishment front-runner; other recent polls put Gingrich farther ahead. It will be interesting to see whether Rasmussen is confirmed. Georgia, of course, is considered Gingrich’s home state, and Gingrich has spoken frankly about needing to win there. It is also the most fertile ground in the Union, aside from South Carolina, for winning by out-uglying everybody else.
- Tennessee is another of the three states in which Gingrich has placed some stock, i.e. attempting to woo it like Georgia with a shades-of-Nixon southern strategy. Santorum leads in Tennessee, as the Nashville paper reports, but the race is tight. If Romney’s well-funded attack ads against Santorum have an impact, between their direct effect and the boomerang effect Gingrich could be extruded upward up into a statistical tie in the outcome.
- Virginia should have been a natural for Gingrich to make a big play. But alas, what with one thing and another—fraud, presumptuousness and disorganization—Gingrich did not make it onto the ballot in the Old Dominion, where he was leading in opinion polls before the ballot debacle, and where he has lived for years in the DC suburbs of northern Virginia. The Commonwealth has 46 delegates, but not statewide winner-take-all. So Ron Paul’s people might hold Romney to less than the total.
Those are the three southern-strategy states.
Then there are the caucus states—Alaska, Idaho and North Dakota. They have a combined 87 delegates but also combine geographic remoteness and distance from the radar screen of the national political press. The main question is how many of the delegates Paul receives, after extensive organizing with emphasis on caucus states.
Massachusetts and Vermont, the two New England states, are both considered Romney’s. They have 41 and 17 delegates respectively, offer little toehold for other candidates to reach a percentage threshold that would allocate any share of the total to anyone but Romney, and have no swing-state appeal to draw media attention. Thus even if Romney wins all the delegates, the win is liable to be regarded as just another nail in the coffin for reasoned interest in the GOP primaries.
Oklahoma is something of a stand-out for Rick Santorum. Santorum leads by a hefty margin in the most updated polls, and furthermore, Gingrich comes in second. Romney is a distant third, in spite of winning the endorsement of Sen. Tom Coburn. Thus Oklahoma is sui generis, unless you lump it with Ohio.
Ohio, of course, has received the most media emphasis. The big news, horse-race-wise, is that Santorum led in the polls and may still lead, but Romney has been moving up. With 66 delegates at stake and Santorum planning to watch the election returns from there, the standard media line is mostly about Ohio being to Santorum what Georgia is to Gingrich.
more to come