Math wins, numbers of voters still count in elections–open convention coming?
Another cluster of primaries, a new current argument about the GOP primary season. Now the question hovering over the political reporting is whether Newt Gingrich can be pummeled into getting out of the race. His sister suggests not. Candace Gingrich-Jones, in an excellent performance of The Accidental Activist, by Rebecca Gingrich-Jones, suggested that Gingrich is likely to stay in as long as he likes, which would be until Tampa. Q&A following the play did nothing to dispel the suggestion. Gingrich himself repeated yesterday, following the Mississippi and Alabama primaries, that he will stay in until the convention—“trying to make sure we have an open convention.” Gingrich Super PAC advisor Rick Tyler, reprising an appearance on MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, backed him up. “We’ll just have it out at the convention.”
Nonetheless, at the moment pushing Newt out of the race seems to be a first objective among the chattering classes, and they make no bones about overt displays of intent. The rationale remains oddly vague. The clearest version of an argument yet presented for muscling Gingrich out by commentary—or by ignoring him, which isn’t happening yet–seems to be that eliminating Gingrich would set up a one-on-one race (Ron Paul disregarded) between a more ‘moderate’ candidate and a ‘genuine conservative’. This line of thought is voiced explicitly by some arch-rightwing strategists on air and in print—who seem to think it follows as the night the day that Santorum will then beat Romney.
There is something nasty about bullying and gang-ridiculing (even) Newt Gingrich, because he came in a close second in two southern states. The same gut response sets up when the same nominally intelligent people ridicule Mitt Romney for coming in a close third after trying out the local food and the local dialect in the South. Ridicule should be used against tyranny, against the powerful—not at the moment when you think you have the upper hand. Furthermore, you should ridicule as an individual, exercising skepticism as part of independent judgment. Lemmings don’t ridicule effectively. Neither do weathervanes. Furthermore again, ridicule should be used as a weapon on behalf of the defenseless. Ridicule candidates when they go along with torture and talk tough about bombing campaigns, not for superficialities.
Speaking of talking tough, does anyone ever ask Santorum about his military service?
But back to that Gingrich question, i.e. whether he can be pushed out of the primary contest by collective pressure from on-air and print commentators and political strategists—
And back to that rationale—
First, anyone who calls Romney a moderate, now, must be ignoring everything the candidate has said in the entire 2012 election cycle.* A contest between Romney and Santorum would not be a contest of moderate versus conservative.
With or without Gingrich, the GOP contest would still be a contest of greater population density versus less population density, for the most part. Vermont was an exception, and Utah is likely to be another; this is not an all-or-nothing picture. But the GOP primaries have established that the dividing line for the Romney-Santorum-Gingrich-Paul foursome is rural appeal versus metropolitan/suburban appeal.
As previously written, Santorum has had the less populated counties almost to himself, in most states, while the other candidates have been battling it out for more populated areas. Again, if the pattern holds, then Santorum should have an edge in states where sparsely populated congressional districts outweigh metropolitan districts.
That doesn’t mean an equal race. The number of votes is key in elections, even in these cynical times. Population is key, and—follow me closely here—population is greater in areas of greater population density than in areas of less population density. Let me repeat that, for the benefit of commentators and others (including Santorum) currently ridiculing the word “math”: there are more people in areas of greater population density than in areas of less population density. That comparison knocks out Texas, California and New York for Santorum, while possibly leaving in Missouri, Indiana and Nebraska. Doesn’t seem like an equal race.
Why on earth doesn’t the Romney campaign just run a television ad with that clip of Santorum inveighing against birth control? Voice-over: “You really think this guy can beat President Obama?”
But back to the remaining 2012 primary season. Admittedly, the comparison of more populous regions to less is softened by proportional representation—which was intended partly to give rural counties and districts more of a say, as in the senate side of our bicameral legislature. In a number of the remaining contests, delegates are awarded according to proportions drawn up by the states. But several of the remaining states where Romney can be expected to win are winner-take-all, including California, New Mexico and New Jersey. Almost all of the states where Santorum can realistically hope to finish ahead are proportional-representation, Indiana being an exception and Wisconsin possibly. Even the New York primary is only modified proportional, though it is hard to see how any anti-birth-control candidate could do well there.
Here again is a run-down of the remaining contests, picking the top finisher using the metric of population, with their delegate allocation defined where feasible:
- 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
A lucid and simple statement: “It is virtually impossible for a candidate to win a majority of the Republican delegates before June 2012.”
Once again: Santorum has shown an advantage in rural areas, Romney/Gingrich in metro areas. Anyone who hypothesizes that Santorum could pick up another 800 to 900 delegates in the remaining states, with Gingrich out, is welcome to demonstrate how.
Sometimes it is difficult to understand how any analyst more concerned with ‘narrative’ than with accuracy got on television in the first place. On the other hand, maybe that’s how.
But even on their own terms, the narrative guys are being more than a tad inconsistent. There could be few more compelling stories in the GOP primary season than an open convention coming in Tampa—and that’s the one they choose to omit? By ridiculing ‘math’ and ‘delegate count’? What’s next—ridiculing spelling and grammar?
Former GOP Chairman Michael Steele, by the way, is now talking openly about a “contested convention.”
* These are the same people who also assert that Romney will ‘tack to the middle’ in a general election campaign, if he gets the nomination, and that the American people will not listen until then anyway, and that he might well get away with it if he does, etc. They have a vested interest in a ‘close’ election, however contrary to the best interests of the public another close election would be. They tend to have the same vested interest every election. That’s why, throughout the eighties and nineties, we seldom got substantive issues raised in presidential election campaigns—and when they did get raised, the discussion typically conduced to an outcome at variance with the public interest.