Target demographics in 2012–How the GOP primary race has been shaped
Reluctant as I am to post on a beautiful Saturday morning in March Madness (the wearing o’ the green worked its magic a day early this year)–still, a new Gallup poll out yesterday reinforces the previous post.
So, following up–
Recapping, the argument for pushing Newt Gingrich out of the GOP primary race has been that eliminating Gingrich would set up a one-on-one, disregarding Ron Paul, between a ‘moderate’ and a ‘genuine conservative’. Some who voice this think that Rick Santorum would then beat Mitt Romney.
The first part of that rationale—that anyone could seriously represent Romney as moderate–is the more fundamental problem. Romney, Gingrich and Santorum all represent trickle-down. Some slight variation on social issues, if any, affects only their ability to represent their counter-constructive rich-get-richer economic/monetary policy. It does not affect the policy itself.
But this post continues to address the second part—the idea that Santorum would beat Romney one-on-one. As previously written, with or without Gingrich, the GOP contest would still be a contest of greater population density versus less population density, for the most part. The GOP primaries have established that the dividing line for the Romney-Santorum-Gingrich-Paul foursome is rural appeal versus metropolitan/suburban appeal. Santorum has taken more of the less populated counties, and he has taken states where rural and small-town counties and congressional districts outweigh metropolitan areas and suburbs, the most prominent example being Alabama and Mississippi.
Thus in this metric it is Santorum, not Romney, who has been contending against a divided field. Romney, Gingrich and Paul have been dividing the more populated areas.
Sure enough—and I consider my view vindicated, here—a new Gallup poll of Gingrich voters released Friday shows that Santorum would not get a majority of them. If the poll is accurate, he would not get even a plurality. The poll, reported here and here and here and here among other places, is pretty definitive. In fact, most of the reporting thus far softens the result a bit. If Gingrich left the race, according to this snapshot, a hefty majority of his supporters would not go to Santorum: Santorum 39 percent, anyone else or no opinion 61 percent. Among named candidates, Romney would get according to the same poll 40 percent. In other words, Santorum would get a minority of Gingrich voters.
Why would anyone be surprised at this?
Back to the primary campaign
As previously written, there are more people in areas of greater population density than in areas of less population density. The race is not equal, and not only because of Romney’s vast financing and organization.
Here is my previous thumbnail of the remaining contests, re-posted, with top finisher using the metric of population, and delegate allocation:
- Missouri March 17 Santorum, 52 delegates
- Puerto Rico March 18 Romney, 23 delegates Winner-take-all statewide
- Illinois March 20 Romney, 69 delegates
- Louisiana March 24 Close three-way race, one of Santorum’s better hopes, 46 delegates Proportional
- DC April 3 Romney, 19 delegates Winner-take-all statewide
- Maryland April 3 Romney, 37 delegates Winner-take-all combined
- Wisconsin April 3 Maybe Santorum, 42 delegates Winner-take-all combined
- Connecticut April 24 Romney, 28 delegates Winner-take-all at 50%+
- Delaware April 24 Romney, 17 delegates Winner-take-all statewide
- New York April 24 Romney, 95 delegates Winner-take-all at 50%+
- Pennsylvania April 24 Romney, 72 delegates
- Rhode Island April 24 Romney, 19 delegates Proportional
- Indiana May 8 Santorum, 46 delegates Winner-take-all combined
- North Carolina May 8 Close three-way, something for Santorum, 55 delegates Proportional
- West Virginia May 8 Santorum, 31 delegates Proportional
- Nebraska May 15 Santorum, 35 delegates
- Oregon May 15 Maybe Santorum, 28 delegates Proportional
- Arkansas May 22 Santorum, 36 delegates Proportional/mixed
- Kentucky May 22 Santorum, 45 delegates Proportional
- Texas May 29 Romney/Gingrich, 155 delegates Proportional
- California June 5 Romney, 172 delegates Winner-take-all combined
- Montana June 5 Maybe Santorum, 26 delegates
- New Jersey June 5 Romney, 50 delegates Winner-take-all statewide
- New Mexico June 5 Romney, 23 delegates Proportional
- South Dakota June 5 Maybe Santorum, 28 delegates Proportional
- Utah June 26 Romney, 40 delegates Winner-take-all statewide
In my view, Santorum’s best shot for the rest of the season comes in today’s Missouri caucuses. Much of Missouri is his kind of population, and Santorum won the non-binding primary there. It remains to be seen whether the organization of the caucuses will produce an outcome different from that of the primary, and if so by how much. His next best shot comes in Louisiana March 24. He is not doing well in Puerto Rico, where he traveled but immediately made English-first comments. The comments may set him up well for a good lobbying/circuit-speaking job after the campaign, in the K Street sector that sees a business opportunity in English-only resentments.
Santorum also has a chance, by the metric above, in other states including Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky and maybe Wisconsin. But those states come later, the pattern dividing the GOP voting population will be more than apparent to the Romney campaign, and there is always some chance that the Romney people could adapt to it. They could try to reach the most scattered and isolated areas more effectively—Santorum’s policies would be at least as devastating to small towns, farms and rural areas as Romney’s, and his lobbying clients have not served those populations. Or they could more effectively turn out people who were going to vote for Romney/Gingrich anyway.
However, barring the unforeseen, at this point it still looks impossible for any candidate to win a majority of Republican delegates—1144—before the GOP national convention, even by effectively adapting to demographics. With proportional representation, all the candidates can pick up more delegates.
The foregoing aims only to assess outcomes, partially, by metrics. It should not be construed as supporting the aim of getting people to vote against their own interest, the basic drive of the GOP ticket in a national election. I oppose policies that harm this country and the world.
That said, I’m only human. It is impossible not to gawk at primaries devolving into a contest between man-on-dog and dog-on-van.