Elections

The Future Is Far from Certain

(The White House/Flickr)
For Democrats, the last month has been filled with Schadenfreude and glee. Beginning with their opposition to the administration’s contraception mandate—which bled into a general opposition to contraceptives—Republicans have done everything they could to alienate women voters, from dismissing birth control as an integral part of women’s health care, to standing on the sidelines as key conservative activists unleashed vitriolic rhetoric against contraception advocates—and women who use birth control in general—attacking them as “sluts” who need to keep their legs together. If it sticks in the public consciousness—and if they refuse to back down from their anti-contraception stance—this incident promises to be a disaster for Republicans in the fall. On the gleeful side, Democrats are clearly excited about President Obama’s improved standing with the American public. Job growth has exceeded 200,000 for the last three months, and Obama’s approval rating has been on the upswing , reaching...

Romney's Southern Problem Might Not Matter Tuesday

Mitt Romney at a town hall in Dayton Ohio (Flickr/NewsHour)
Tomorrow night's primaries could end up being anticlimactic after Republicans have spent the past few week fretting about Mitt Romney's inability to win Southern states. So far, the Bible Belt has been his weakest territory to date. While Romney could lose every state in the Deep South and still gain the required number of delegates, conservatives have been worried about the fractured nature of a party where the likely nominee fails to win the most reliably Republican region of the country. Mississippi and Alabama might just buck the anti-Romney trend. Public Policy Polling looked at both states over the weekend and found Romney in a statistical dead heat with his social conservative opponents. Romney had the slight lead in Alabama with 31 percent to 30 for Gingrich and 29 percent for Santorum. That tracks along the same lines as a Rasmussen poll from the end of last week that also had the three candidates separated by one-point margins. It's more of a two-man race in Mississippi—...

Gingrich and Santorum's Pipe Dream

(Photo: Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
The basics of simple math are seeping into the 2012 race as the media challenges Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich to reconcile with the fact that reaching the required 1,144 delegates has become a near statistical impossibility. The candidates themselves might not cop to these facts, but it's clear they've shifted gears, turning the focus from winning a majority themselves to blocking Mitt Romney from gaining enough delegates to win on the first ballot in Tampa. "Romney needs about 50 percent of the delegates," Santorum said on Meet the Press yesterday. "On the current track that we're on right now the fact is Governor Romney doesn't get to that number." Gingrich pushed the same idea on his Sunday stop by Fox News. "He's not a very strong front-runner. Almost all conservatives are opposed, which is the base of the party," the former speaker said. "And I think we are likely to see after the last primary in June, we're likely to see a 60-day conversation about what's going to happen as...

Santorum for President Round 2

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Earlier this week, I postulated that Rick Santorum needs to firmly position himself as Romney's runner-up to put himself in line to be the party's pick in 2016. Salon 's Alex Pareene followed the similar logic but took it a step further, declaring , "Now Rick Santorum is the 2016 GOP nomination front-runner." But political scientist Jonathan Bernstein isn't so convinced by the myth that Republicans turn to the runner-up in the previous presidential cycle to select a new nominee. Bernstein writes : One could argue that the Huck, not Romney, was really the runner-up in 2008, which certainly doesn't say anything promising for Santorum. Overall, I wouldn't entirely rule out Santorum for 2016 (assuming no Romney presidency), but I wouldn't put him among the top three contenders, either. My take: Should the Republican nominee lose this fall, Santorum will initially be viewed as the front-runner for 2016, but he'll quickly fizzle out once the race gets under way. Santorum has had the great...

Rick Santorum Can't Win

Rick Santorum speaking to supporters at a rally in Phoenix, Arizona. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Frontloading HQ’s Josh Putnam crunches the numbers and finds that under the most optimistic scenario, Rick Santorum is limited to a delegate haul of 1,075, which falls somewhat short of the 1,144 needed to win the nomination. Putnam notes that you could goose that even further and assume big wins for Santorum in the remaining primaries. Even still, the most he could win is 1,152 delegates. By contrast, Mitt Romney’s minimum 1,162 delegates while his maximum extends to 1,341 delegates. In other words—at this point—it’s mathematically impossible for Santorum to win the nomination through delegate accumulation. Of course, there’s always the question of a brokered convention. But as Putnam points out, of the people to win the nomination through negotiation, Santorum is at the bottom of the list: The bottom line here is that Romney has enough of a delegate advantage right now and especially coming out of today’s contests that it is very unlikely that anyone will catch him, much less catch...

Gaming Out The Next Two Months

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Rick Santorum's chances to overcome Mitt Romney's delegate dominance disappeared last night. Romney now holds a 415-176 lead according to figures from the AP. Santorum got just enough good news that he won't need to drop out anytime soon, but that outcome seems inescapable now, whether it is tomorrow or at some point later this spring. Luckily for Santorum, the next rounds of voting skew toward his base, allowing the former Pennsylvania senator to build on his momentum and provide justification for fighting on for a bit longer. The next votes will be held this weekend, when the small stakes Virgin Islands and Guam join Kansas in holding caucuses this Saturday. There are 40 delegates up for grabs in Kansas, a state straddling the Midwest and South, the two regions where Santorum's bid has gained the most traction. There have not yet been any polls for this year's race, but Mike Huckabee—Santorum's stand-in for comparisons to 2008—captured nearly 60 percent of the 19,000 votes cast in...

All Mitt Romney Wants is to be Himself

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
For all of his gaffes and unforced errors, it’s important to remember that Mitt Romney never promised to be a likeable presidential candidate, or someone for whom personality was a selling point. The point of Romney has always been that he is a generic Republican candidate, with the skills and profile necessary to win a general election. He has conventional experience (a business career with a stint in the public sector), a conventional persona (competent businessman), and a standard-issue message—the economy is off-track, and only I can bring it back to station. The simple fact is that this is more than enough to win the general election. Even the most optimistic predictions have unemployment clocking in at 8 percent by November, and while the rate of change is more important than the overall number, the economy won’t grow fast enough for Barack Obama to cruise to reelection. By definition, a major-party presidential nominee has a good chance of winning the presidency, and the...

Romney's Spine, Or Lack Thereof

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Ahead of the likely celebratory night for Mitt Romney's supporters, I wrote a cautionary note this morning about why neutral observers shouldn't take Romney's success in the Republican primaries as a sign of they accept him as a moderate. Instead, Romney has gained his spot in the party by aligning himself with every conservative whim. Still, conservatives don't fully trust Romney's sincerity. The former Massachusetts governor will have to watch his back at every turn in the general election; any misstep from conservative dogma will incite a round of handwringing among movement Republicans who would view it as confirmation of their worst fears about Romney. Unlike, say, Rick Santorum, who can adopt the occasional heterodox view without fear of being tarnished a RINO (Republican in Name Only), Romney must maintain a perfect track record to keep conservatives satisfied. That predicament could very well cost him in the general election. His favorability among the broad electorate has...

When in Doubt, Spend

(Flickr/401K)
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.” Under these circumstances, money goes a long way. Regardless of the content, sustained advertising can shape the electorate and bring low-information voters to one side or another. Look no further than the major Super Tuesday races for...

No Room Here for Moderates

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
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. As Slate 's Dave Weigel put it yesterday: "This was what the Romney campaign always wanted and expected … It was Super Tuesday that was supposed to kill the Santorum grassroots campaign, with the live-off-the-land candidate unable to campaign in every state, unable to match Romney's ad spending." When Romney does land the knockout blow—whether it comes tonight or later this spring—a torrent of competing narratives...

No Longer A Lost Cause

(Flickr/Cosmic Smudge)
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. But, a series of favorable polls coupled with a spate of state-level developments have brightened Democrats' chances. The big news last week was Maine Senator Olympia Snowe's decision to retire at the end of the current session. What was one a safe Republican seat is now considered a toss-up that could easily land in the Democrats column. Two of the Democrats' weakest open seats gained stronger than expected candidates last week as well, with former Senator Bob Kerrey jumping...

Republicans Coalesce Around Romney

(Flickr/KP Tripathi)
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. In case that's not evidence enough, Republican elites continue to flock to Romney's side. And it's not just the establishment GOP of old (think Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush). Leaders from the far right of Republican politics are also lending Romney their support. Yesterday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Senator Tom Coburn both endorsed Romney. If Santorum were truly a threat to Romney's bid, a few arch conservative elected officials would be out stumping for the former Pennsylvania senator. Yet his former colleagues are entirely absent from his campaign. Romney has secured the support of 80 sitting members of Congress, according to a count from The Hill...

Americans are "Depressed, Disappointed, and Underwhelmed" by the GOP Primary

(Sander van der Wel/Flickr)
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. None of this has done much to help the Republican Party. According to the latest survey by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal , 40 percent of adults say that “the GOP nominating process has given them a less favorable impression of the Republican Party,” compared with the 10 percent who have come away from the event satisfied. What’s more, when asked to describe the GOP primaries in a word or phrase, 70 percent (including 60 percent of independents and half of Republicans) reach for something negative: “Unenthusiastic,” “discouraged,” “lesser of two evils,” “painful,” “...

In Ohio, the Underlying Facts Look Great for Santorum

(jcburns/Flickr)
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. Santorum leads Romney 36–27 among voters without a college degree, as well as voters with an annual income below $100,000. As Quinnipiac notes, “he leads Romney 34–28 percent among men and 37–33 percent among women, 40–27 percent among self-described conservatives and 42–25 percent among Tea Party members. Romney leads Santorum 46–26 percent among self-described moderates.” This wouldn’t matter much if these voters were a small percentage of the electorate, but if the 2008 Republican primary is any indication, these are...

Blunt Amendment Fails in the Senate

(Flickr/Stacy Lynn Baum)
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. Any qualms with the legislation evaporated when it was put to a vote this morning. The measure failed 51-48, but Republicans voted with their usual lockstep discipline. Soon retiring Senator Olympia Snowe was the lone Republican opposing the measure and three Democrats—Ben Nelson, Joe Manchin, and Bob Casey—crossed the aisles to join...

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