Three States Down, 47 To Go

The basic dynamics of the 2012 GOP nomination battle remain unchanged: the bulk of the GOP electorate doesn’t want Mitt Romney, but isn’t really sold on an alternative. Iowa’s voters broke late to Rick Santorum as the conservative alternative; South Carolina’s broke late, and much more decisively, to Newt Gingrich. It remains up to Newt now to prove he can hold together the conservatives going forward, as Santorum was not equipped or financed well enough to do.
It’s worth noting here the raw numbers. While the categories don’t perfectly describe the candidates or their supporters, it has been generally true that Romney and Jon Huntsman have appealed to the more moderate Republican primary voters; Gingrich, Santorum, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann to the more conservative voters; and Ron Paul to the libertarian voters. What we see in the first three states is that in South Carolina, as in Iowa, the conservative vote was a majority:
Iowa: Conservatives 53%, Moderates 26%, Libertarians 21%
New Hampshire: Moderates 56%, Libertarians 23%, Conservatives 19%
South Carolina: Conservatives 57%, Moderates 28%, Libertarians 17%
There will be other states – possibly including delegate-rich California and New York – that will more nearly resemble New Hampshire’s profile; there will be states where Newt is not on the ballot (Virginia), where Romney has a home-field advantage (Michigan, Massachusetts, Utah), or where the confluence of caucuses and a large Mormon population favors Romney (Nevada). But at the end of the day, regardless of desperate efforts to prop up Santorum, it is hard to see any of those structural/organizational factors overcoming the core question: either Newt will unite the conservative vote, or Romney will have to earn a share of it away from him. Which has always been how we needed to pick a nominee. However you describe the GOP “Establishment,” our nominee can and should only be one whom the primary voters – however reluctantly – have decided after reflection and stress-testing to nominate.
Florida won’t be the last test of this, given Romney’s money and organization advantages there, but it will be the first serious one. In Churchill’s phrase, South Carolina was not the end, or the beginning of the end; it marked the end of the beginning.
More links:
Ben Domenech on Why Newt (I’m the unnamed “email from a non-South Carolinian” quoted)
Sean Trende on why SC was so bad for Romney
Erick on:
The base and South Carolina
The narrowness of Romney’s demographic appeal
-Efforts to prop up Santorum to help Romney, here and here

7 thoughts on “Three States Down, 47 To Go”

  1. I prefer Newt to Obama, but Mitt to Newt. That being said:
    Newt wins SC on strength of conservatives. But Romney will win Utah on strength of Mormon vote.
    This article: – says Romney’s Mornmonism hurt him in evangelical SC.
    Possible rephrasing: Romney will have to win over some of the evangelical conservative vote to defeat Mitt.
    I dunno, maybe it’s just late and I’m reading things.

  2. I’m not familiar with the rules of the GOP convention — what would need to happen for none of these guys to win the nomination and the GOP to go to a brokered convention? I can see several reasons why that wouldn’t be desirable — not much time available for general election campaigning is one (well, that’s not desirable from the candidate’s point of view anyway) — but with the dynamics of the race so far I wonder if it’s something we should think about.

  3. I can’t wait for the Stupid Party to nominate Christine O’Gingrich. Newt Angle is going to be totally incredible nominee for the party. Always best to nominate someone who is despised by a almost everyone who isn’t a die-hard conservative (and a good percentage of them too). With an extra-special bonus that, in the 1% chance that Gingrich actually beats Obama, we get someone with no executive experience but whose prior history as Speaker indicates would be a TERRIBLE President. Wahoo! I love my party SOOOOO much.

  4. I am tired of people claiming people don’t support Mitt because he is a Morman. I think our country is way past this. We don’t support him because he is not a Conservative.

  5. @MadIrishMen – I think generally that’s true. But with two imperfect candidates, Mitt v Newt, it could be a factor among certain sub-groups. Unless of course human nature fundamentally changed last week.
    Of course when Newt gets crushed in Utah for the same reason, feel free to say Romney’s Mormonism helped, cause that’s totally different.

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