The people who vote in presidential primaries might be more partisan than the median voter, but that says nothing about their overall knowledge of the political process, or the candidates in particular. For the most part, presidential primaries are low-information elections: Few voters know anything about the candidates outside of what they learn from media, and the circumstances of presidential primaries—a relatively short window for campaigning, multiple candidates, and the fact that everyone belongs to the same party—make it difficult for voters to form strong opinions. Go to almost any primary event in any state, and you’ll meet a large number of attendees who are there with an open mind—they just want to see what the candidate "is all about.”
If current polls are right, Mitt Romney could wrap up the GOP nomination tonight. He's set to sweep the Northeast; faces no competition in delegate-rich Virginia, where Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich aren't even on the ballot; and his standing is rising in the southern states where he once looked vulnerable. He's edged ahead of Santorum in recent polls of Ohio, where the former Massachusetts governor has been gaining steam in the past few days. Tennessee—a state in which evangelicals dominate—looks like it will end up a three-way tie between Santorum, Romney, and Gingrich.
Liberals weren't too excited about their 2012 electoral chances a few months ago. Even if Barack Obama managed to hold onto the White House, simple math made it tough to imagine Democrats keeping their current majority in the Senate. Democrats will need to defend 23 seats this November, thanks to their success in the 2006-midterm elections, while Republicans only have 10 seats up for grabs. If Republicans manage to flip four seats in November, Mitch McConnell would start off 2013 as the Senate Majority Leader.
Despite the horse-race media coverage before tomorrow's Super Tuesday elections, Mitt Romney remains the odds-on favorite to take the GOP nomination. He has nearly double his leading opponent's delegates, dwarfs Rick Santorum's meager cash stockpile, and has a campaign organization that will go unmatched this late in the race.
As much as some Republicans would like to believe otherwise, the fact is that this primary is dragging down the party. Unlike the 2008 Democratic primary—in which two formidable candidates fought hard, debated substance, and energized voters around the country—this year’s GOP primary has been defined by clownish vanity candidates, divisive bickering, and an unlikable front-runner who—so far—has “won” by not losing.
The first post-Michigan poll of Ohio Republicans is out, and Mitt Romney has closed the gap. According to Quinnipiac University, Rick Santorum has 35 percent of likely primary voters to Romney, who takes 31 percent. Because of the poll’s margin of error, ±4.3 percentage points, Quinnipiac presents this as too close to call. But the survey shows native advantages for Santorum that could propel him to victory, as long as he avoids another weekend of national controversy.
For a brief moment yesterday it looked as though some GOP senators were ready to step back from the ledge, and reject their party's assault on women's rights. A handful of Republican senators were hesitant to endorse the controversial Blunt amendment, which would allow any employer—both secular and religious—to reject covering individual aspects of health insurance they find morally questionable, not just contraception. Even Mitt Romney expressed opposition to the bill when an Ohio reporter explained the implications before his campaign quickly realized they had defied party doctrine, and issued a clarification, which reversed Romney's earlier statement.
This week, Michigan was the “must win” state for Mitt Romney. Next week—according to the world of punditry—it’s Ohio, where Romney has to win over a similar electorate—downscale, blue-collar workers—without the help of name recognition or family ties. There, his tendency to remind voters of his massive wealth (in the worst way possible), could prove fatal.
Rick Santorum came up short in Michigan on Tuesday night, but it was of no matter. After months of turmoil he'd achieved a primary goal of his presidential campaign: his Google problem. That's right. When normal, God-loving Americans direct their web browsers to Google and type in the former Pennsylvania senator's last name they are no longer greeted by spreadingsantorum.com as the first result.
Senate Democrats think they have Republicans backed into a corner. In response to the hullabaloo around the Obama administration's decision on covering contraception in health-care plans, Missouri Senator Roy Blunt has offered an amendment to allow any employer—not just religiously affiliated organizations—to refuse to cover any health-care service—not just contraception—based on "religious beliefs or moral convictions." The battle over reproductive rights has already allowed Democrats to paint Republicans as antagonistic to women and, needless to say, Senate Dems are gleefully forcing a vote on the measure tomorrow to get their opponents' extremist take on the record.
The implications of Mitt Romney's Michigan win are still being parsed, but the calendar leaves little time for the campaigns to rest. Super Tuesday is in less than a week, and a total of 437 delegates in 10 states is at stake. The media have coalesced around the idea that Ohio is the only race that matters. The candidates have followed their lead—this morning Romney was campaigning in Toledo, and Rick Santorum called in to a Dayton radio station.
According to the most recent survey by Middle Tennessee State University, Rick Santorum is leading the pack among Republican voters in the Volunteer State. 40 percent of voters say that they favor the former Pennsylvania senator, compared to the 19 percent who prefer Romney. Another 13 percent back former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, while Ron Paul takes 11 percent. Because Tennessee’s 58 delegates are handed out proportionally, however, Santorum will have to win big in order to close his 80-delegate gap with Romney.
The Nate Silvering of election analysis—the endless and addictive parsing of exit polls and demographics and historical precedents and outliers and predictive models and Intrade odds—has made campaigns increasingly look, to politicos at least, more like science than art. But there is one “predictive model” that matters more than any other—and it’s entirely the province of unmeasurable, flesh-and-blood, gloriously subjective intangibles. It’s also refreshingly simple: In general elections, the best campaigner wins.
Greg Sargent outlines one “nightmare” scenario should Republicans win the White House and take the Senate:
If Republicans regain the Senate, will they seek to reform the filibuster, sweeping away an obstacle that bedeviled Dems and making it far easier for them to enact their own agenda with a simple Senate majority? […]
For all the Sturm und Drang of the last few weeks, Mitt Romney will begin March in the same way that he began February—as the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. Rick Santorum is at his heels as the latest avatar of the conservative movement, Ron Paul is the libertarian gadfly of the race, and Newt Gingrich has receded to the background as a virtual non-factor. Except that he isn’t.