The 2012 primaries have finally defined Santorum territory and Romney territory

The 2012 southern primaries yesterday marked a clear dividing line–finally

Santorum

If the GOP primaries have established a consistent pattern, it is that the dividing line for the Romney-Santorum-Gingrich threesome is rural appeal versus metropolitan/suburban appeal. Santorum has the less populated counties almost all to himself, in most states; Romney and Gingrich battle it out for the more populated areas. This pattern has been partly defined on the helpful late-election-night maps projected on CNN’s wall: in state after state, wide swaths of rural counties have gone to Santorum, often ultimately outnumbered by Romney’s pull in the suburbs of big cities. Mississippi and Alabama went Santorum’s way last night, less because they are ultra-conservative—after all, South Carolina and Georgia are the same–than because they lack the large populous areas that offset the less densely populated districts.

 

Gingrich

If the pattern holds for the upcoming primaries, then Santorum should have an edge in those states where the sparsely populated congressional districts outweigh metropolitan areas.

That knocks out Texas, California and New York.

 

Missouri countryside

But let’s try a quick run-down to guess the remaining 2012 primary season.

  • Missouri March 17. Next comes Missouri, where miles of beautiful green fields line the highways that get you through the state, the cities are not megalopoli, and caucuses take place Saturday. Missouri is Santorum terrain even aside from the fact that Santorum won the non-binding ‘beauty contest’ primary there. (52 delegates)
  • Puerto Rico March 18. The Puerto Rico primary involves large, bustling urban areas. Santorum announced that he is going there, but it still looks Romney. (23 delegates)
  • Illinois March 20. The state has its rural regions, but Chicago is huge, has expansive suburbs, and is not the only sizable city in the state. Illinois, using this thumb-nail look exclusively, should be for Romney. (69 delegates)
  • Louisiana March 24. The state has New Orleans, Shreveport, Bossier City and Baton Rouge, with three out of those four going to Romney or Gingrich, with some for Ron Paul. Bossier City is working hard to revitalize, partly through gaming revenues from casinos on the Red River; Shreveport is Santorum-type territory. Louisiana, another close three-way race, is one of Santorum’s better hopes. (46 delegates)
  • DC, Maryland, Wisconsin April 3. DC (19), Maryland (37), Wisconsin (42). The first two for Romney; the third a good shot for Santorum, but tight, since Wisconsin does have large cities and suburbs. (56 for the mid-Atlantic, 42 possible for Santorum)
  • Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island April 24. A total 231 delegates—another Super Tuesday, except that traditionally they don’t use that term about April primaries—and the only state that looks conceivable for Santorum is Pennsylvania, where he served as a senator until booted out. Nor does it look likely that Gingrich will tie Romney in any of these.
  • Indiana, North Carolina, West Virginia May 8. Total delegates 132, with a shot for Santorum in Indiana and West Virginia (using the rural-versus-urban metric), and a tight three-way race in North Carolina.
  • Nebraska, Oregon primaries May 15. Both conceivable for Santorum, with their wide swaths of radio-listening counties. (63 delegates)
  • Arkansas, Kentucky May 22. Ditto, and you can add impoverished school systems and some lack of newspapers. (81 delegates)
  • Texas May 29. The Sunbelt cities of Texas are overpowering. If Gingrich and Romney make any good effort there at all, Santorum should be a very poor third at best. Dallas is the exceptional big city that might be Santorum-friendly, but the counties of East Texas are dwindling relative to the metropolitan part of the state. (155)
  • California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota June 5. With a whopping 299 delegates, yet another Super Tuesday. They’re going to have to start using Roman numerals for these supers. Of the five, Santorum has a theoretical chance in two—Montana and South Dakota—though his chances might be undercut by his continuing insistence on talking about people’s private lives. The other three states add up to 268 delegates.
  • Utah June 26. Maybe Santorum can get some of Utah’s 40 delegates, but the state tends to be as well organized, politically speaking, as one big suburb.

 

To clarify: The foregoing run-down is done on one basis and one only—the preponderance state by state of rural areas versus metro areas. Santorum has an advantage in rural areas, Romney or Gingrich in metro areas. This rural-metro division is deeper, more consistent and more fundamental (in these primaries) than divisions by region, income, or education—with which it substantially overlaps.

The national political press’s obsession with “The South” and with the ‘narrative’ of the weakened front-runner, etc., apparently prevents its taking these demographics into account.

Setting the horse race aside, the more important point about the 2012 GOP primary contest of Romney, Gingrich and Santorum is that it was never moderate versus conservative. The characterization is false. Romney is not a moderate. On grounds of conscience, a moderate would not be able to bring himself to run as what is now being called ‘conservative’:

—opposed to abortion even in cases of rape, incest and mortality for the mother

–opposed to any regulation whatsoever of the giant financial sector, even after the mortgage-derivatives meltdown, and even to prevent fraud

–opposed to any progressive taxation whatever of Big Oil, even just removing the gratuitous tax subsidies, or of large corporations, even of multinationals.

 

As to what this pattern entails, more later

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