Monthly Archives: February 2012

Live Blogging Michigan and Arizona

8:05 Late start tonight. Sorry. But had to get the beer out of the freezer.  (Miller Lite as the intro beer.)

I’m watching CNN.  And what do you know – Callista Speaks!

She introduces the Newtster.  He’s going to give his speech to his Georgia supporters, which is his must win state next Tuesday.  (He’s up big in the polls there now, but who knows what will happen if Santorum wins Michigan.  right now Mitt is in danger of getting shut out entirely in Georgia.

sidestory – I taught Nelson Polsby’s classic work on the How Congress Evolves today in my seminar.  Polsby explains how the Republicans rose to prominence in the South – (hint: it had a lot to do with demographic changes, but air conditioning played a role).  Polsby bases his argument in part on conversations with Newt Gingrich. When you read Gingrich’s comments, you understand perfectly why he does so well in debates: he’s pithy, comprehensive and entertaining.  (He was also a bit thinner I’m guessing).

But I digress.  Meanwhile, back at the speech – what is Newt’s point —- who was that laughing?  Porky Pig? – Quick!  $10,000 what the point of Professor Gingrich’s lecture is!  It’s like listening to one of my lectures….

ah, and here’s the point!  There’s always a point, isn’t there?  He says the tree felling incident proves that a lot of people like him, even though he’s not too smart!  He’s playing the humble Newt role before his home base.  Newt is a lumberjack, and he’s ok!

Ok, back to the exit poll data. It looks like Democrats constitute about 10% of the voters – more than the 7% that turned out in 2008, but less than the 17% from 2000.  Keep in mind that we wouldn’t be talking about Democratic turnout if this wasn’t so close – it’s a function of Mitt’s weakness.

Which reminds me.  I can’t use Operation Hilarity.  It’s a stupid title.  A free “It’s the Fundamentals, Stupid” t-shirt to someone who can come up with the best descriptive phrase for my plan to set up a brokered Republican convention.  It needs to be short and imaginative – but accurate too.

By the way, CNN is playing up what a disaster it will be if Romney loses his home state.  I disagree, mainly because I think he’s already a weak candidate and he’s not likely to do well next week no matter  what the outcome in Michigan.  Again, there’s what actually happens tonight, and what the media will say happened tonight.  They are not necessarily the same thing.

We should probably mention what Chris noted in the comments: Olympia Snowe, one of the few remaining moderates in the Senate, has announced she is stepping down, in large part because of the increasing polarization in Congress.  Remember that Snowe was one of few Republicans to actually engage Obama on both the stimulus and health care bills.   Her departure will only widen the gulf between the two parties.

Chris asks about Snowe as a potential V.P. candidate?  Back in 2008, heading into the Republican Convention, I predicted that McCain would choose a woman as his vice presidential candidate, and was widely ridiculed for saying so.  Did I know he was going to pick Palin?   Of course not – I had never heard of her!  I had Olympia Snowe or Kay Bailey Hutchison in mind.   But Chris – why not Olympia for president coming out of the brokered Republican convention?

Anna Esten says Newt’s new “fight” song is one used by Hulk Hogan, of WWE fame.  I’m waiting for Newt to rip his shirt off and tell all those Newtomaniacs to eat their vitamins and remember the 1o demandments, brother!

Wolf is going to have a heart attack on CNN as he tries to keep up with the vote totals.  Meanwhile, John King’s magic wall has been acting up all night.

Keep in mind that the exit numbers that are being bandied about on various sites are not the final ones – they get adjusted based on overall turnout figures.   For what it’s worth, the number of self-described conservatives who voted is actually higher than in 2008, despite the slight uptick in Democrats.

CNN switched to Ron Paul just as he was haranguing the Fed – great timing.  For the life of me, I can’t figure out how he gets his supporters to get so revved up when they’ve heard this speech a gazillon times.  At least Newt switched it up tonight and talked about logging. Heck, Ron’s supporters are shouting out his lines before he even speaks them.

Note that Paul’s recital of the events of the Cuban Missile crisis only tells part of the story.  In fact, JFK used carrots (trading the missiles) but he also threatened the stick (the illegal blockade).

Keep in mind that we haven’t seen the final exit polls as yet – the results that have been leaked have not yet been adjusted for turnout.  so be cautious with these numbers.

We should get Arizona called in a few seconds.  Note that as I blogged earlier today we shouldn’t be certain that in the end Romney will in fact get all of Arizona’s 29 delegates – I’m pretty sure there will be a rules challenge at the convention.  for now, however, we put them in Mitt’s column.

Jeff Greenfield tweets that while Mitt gets 29 delegates, it won’t matter at all if he loses Michigan.  That is typical media nonsense.  It’s about the delegates, not the media spin.  Assuming he gets to keep those delegates this is a big win, if not unexpected.  The problem the media is having is that they set the bar unrealistically high for Mitt because this is his “home state”, and now they are punishing him from not reaching their outlandish expectations.  The reality is Mitt is doing as well in Michigan this time around as he did in 2008.  This has been the story for Mitt all year long – he pretty much is reprising his 2008 performance, but he hasn’t expanded his coalition at all.

Meanwhile, not a lot of talk by the talking heads about what a loss here means for Santorum.  He really needs to do well in the rust belt area and Michigan was expected to be one of his better states.

Let me touch on a few of the exit poll numbers in Arizona. Interestingly, Romney wins a third of the Hispanic/Latino vote which was only 8% of the total Arizona vote.  Still, that is pretty impressive.  Meanwhile, Santorum actually does better among women, winning 31% of their vote, but only 24% of men.   So much for his social issues turning women voters off.  Once again, as we go up the income ladder, Romney’s support increases while Santorum’s support decreases.  Mitt wins 64% of those earning more than $200,000, but only 34% of those earning less than $30,000 – about the same as Santorum among this income group.  So, he gets the Cadillac vote.  35% of Arizona voters are “strong” supporters of the Tea Party – Santorum beats Romney 39%-35%.  Again, I see no evidence in Arizona at least that Romney has dispelled any of the weaknesses in his candidacy that we’ve cited before.  No broadening of the coalition.  However, if you add in “somewhat” support Tea Party Romney gains support.   Similarly, 37% of Arizona vote are evangelicals – Romney loses them as well to Santorum, 38% to 33%.  Again, this does not bode well for SuperTuesday for Mitt.  biggest support for Mitt?  14% of Arizona vote is Mormon – they go for Mitt with 91% support!  More than half of the Arizona electorate decided for whom they would support in January or earlier – in other words, long before Mitt’s vulnerabilities were apparent.

When we look at Michigan, we see a similar pattern in exit polls. Mitt’s support increases in almost linear fashion as we go up the income ladder.  According to exit polls Romney loses the under $100,000 voters, but wins the 33% who earn more than $100,o00 by 12% over Santorum.

(By the way, is it me or does it seem like the CNN pundits have grown subdued now that Mitt is pulling away in Michigan?  There’s goes the horse race!)

Once again, Santorum doesn’t seem to suffer from a gender gap in support in Michigan.  It’s a reminder that the women’s vote turns largely on social welfare issues – not so-called “women’s” issues related to contraception, abortion, etc.

Several tweeters have noted the exit polls “discrepancy” which show Santorum winning both strong Tea Party supporters and those who strongly oppose the Tea Party in Michigan.  Of course, that likely reflects the Democratic crossover vote.

Eyeballing turnout figures, it doesn’t look like an increase over 2008, but that’s projecting tonight’s total based on preliminary figures.

Santorum easily wins the 39% of self-identified evangelicals in Michigan, beating Mitt in this group 50-35%.

Biggest story of the night so far:  Santorum misses the chance to win his best primary state so far.  Already the talking heads are blaming his defeat on tactical moves in the last days of the campaign, but frankly I don’t see any evidence that they are right.  Gloria Borger says Rick forfeited populist economic message, but in fact Rick won low income voters.   Media always goes back to campaign tactics, but that’s usually not the story.

Santorum is on for his concession speech.  Great opening music!

More on media missing the story here: Borger says Rick went off message in last few days, cost him support.  Maybe, but among voters who made up mind in last few days (24%), Rick wins over Mitt 42-34%. Even among the 30% who thought the debate was important, Rick lost to Mitt by only 3%.

CNN is now projecting Mitt to win Michigan tonight.  Cue media spin – Mitt rescued his candidacy tonight!  Sigh.

Biggest news tonight?  My winning streak when it comes to predictions is broken!  Let the critics descend!

Not much evidence of a gender gap in Rick’s support, but that’s not stopping the pundits from saying there is one.  Repeat after me: so-called “women’s issues” – abortion, contraception, etc. do not drive the women’s vote as much as support for social welfare programs and ability to keep the peace.

Interestingly, the Democrat CNN talking head just said Rick lost working women – he actually won working women in Michigan, based on exit polls.  The pundits are fixated on this gender issue, but there’s just no evidence that it mattered. …

I’ve got an early teaching time tomorrow so I’m going to have to cut this short tonight.  But there’s three things to keep in mind.

1. Rick may yet win more delegates in Michigan than does Mitt – remember, delegates are largely allocated to by congressional district.  Because much of Mitt’s support is more concentrated in Detroit area, it is possible that he will win the popular vote but won’t quite win the delegate race.  However, Mitt will exceed his 2008 total vote in Michigan.  Still waiting to calculate overall turnout.  It would be nice if a Mitt victory was accompanied by an increase in voter turnout!

2. Once again Rick has failed to win the popular vote in a big primary state.

3. It bears repeating – Mitt has once again shown little ability to attract support from lower income voters or Tea Party supporters.  He just can’t seem to broaden his coalition.

Bottom line: the race remains where it was before tonight.  Mitt is slogging his way to victory, delegate by delegate, but without generating much enthusiasm among rank and file Republican voters.  And I suspect next Tuesday will not be his strongest day of the race.   There’s a long way to go… .

If I’m a Republican, I’m still angling for a brokered convention….meanwhile, it’s on to Super Tuesday!  Let’s do it all again a week from now.

More tomorrow….let’s break out the scotch.  It’s a wrap.


Beware Those Internet “Exit Polls”!

As we prepare for tonight’s live blogging, let me warn you about a number of “exit polls” released on the web purporting to show the Romney-Santorum vote. For example, this “exit poll” from Conservative Intelligence Briefing purports to show Mitt leading Santorum by 39%-38%. Alas, this is not an exit poll of actual voters – it is, at best, a poll of likely voters and should be treated as such.  The only exit polls that have been released so far deal with some demographic data – I’ll address those later tonight.  But even these are early waves, and they may be adjusted somewhat.    So be forewarned!

As most of you know, I like to make the night interesting by presenting my own predictions based solely on polling data and intuition (not necessarily in that order!)   Tonight I’m calling a split decision – Mitt to take Arizona with 41% of the vote, but to narrowly lose to Santorum, 38%-37%, in Michigan on the strength of the crossover Democratic vote – a testament to my far-reaching blogging power (cue Operation Hilarity!)

A couple of other points to keep in mind. Although Arizona is, as of now, a winner-take-all state, it won’t necessarily stay that way if its delegation allocation system is challenged by Santorum, Gingrich or Paul during the national convention.  Remember, Arizona’s decision to go to a winner-take-all system is one of the reasons it was penalized and lost delegates. In this respect, it is similar to Florida.  So, it may matter how well Newt and Rick do there (Ron Paul too!)

Of course, if Mitt does lose Michigan, that will be the media story of the night, fair or not, no matter what happens in Arizona.   I’ll be back on in about a half hour to begin the live blogging segment.  In the interim, put the beers outside, the dog on ice, and kids on the leash, and join in!


Mitt To Be Tied? Previewing the Arizona and Michigan Primaries

Based on the latest polling data in Michigan, today’s primary there is almost certainly not going to have the ending Mitt Romney likely envisioned when he announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination last year.   The very latest Michigan poll shows Romney leading Santorum by 37%-36%, which, in effect, is a tossup.  Given the closeness of the race, the winner may be determined by how many Democrats decide to participate in this open primary, and whether they all go for Santorum.  If they do, he may squeak out a victory.

However, because the bulk of Michigan’s 30 delegates are allocated by winner-take-all in each of the state’s 14 congressional districts, it is quite likely that Romney and Santorum will split the delegate haul pretty evenly no matter who wins the popular vote, although there’s a slight possibility Ron Paul could steal a district.  Three months ago I’m confident that Mitt viewed Michigan, his home state, as solid Romney territory.  Today, he’s hoping to hang on for a win, knowing full well that he’s squandered a chance to pad his delegate lead.

As Jon Bernstein reminds us, however, the news is not likely to be all bad for Mitt tonight.  All indications are that he is going to win Arizona, with the latest polls there having him leading Santorum by about 16%. Unlike in Michigan, Arizona’s 29 delegates are awarded on a winner-take-all statewide basis; you don’t get anything for finishing second statewide or winning congressional districts.    (Note that both Michigan and Arizona saw their delegate totals halved by the Republican Party by virtue of holding their primaries before March 1.)   So, based on delegates alone, Mitt is likely to be the big winner tonight no matter what the Michigan outcome.   Unfortunately for Mitt, given the expectations game, this may not be how the media spins the results.  Instead, it is more likely that in their fixation on the horse race, they will emphasize Mitt’s surprisingly (based on earlier media expectations!)  close race in his home state, and suggest this is another indication of his rather lackluster candidacy.    This will set up the media narrative looking ahead to the March 6 Super Tuesday events, where Mitt is not likely to do very well.  Poor Mitt – even when he wins he loses!   But in truth this is not solely media spin – the fact that Mitt is struggling in a state that he won easily in 2008 with 39% of the vote over the eventual Republican nominee John McCain is a valid indication that Romney is a weak candidate.  So, victory in Arizona notwithstanding, tonight is not going to be all sweetness and light for Mitt.

Given the closeness of the Michigan race, this could be a long night.  Polls close there at 8 p.m. eastern time, but I don’t expect the networks to project a winner for some time.  In Arizona, where polls close at 9 Eastern Time, Mitt should be declared the winner in short order.   As always, I’ll be on for more extended analysis and a live blog later tonight.  Keep in mind that these are the first primaries since Florida at the end of January, and the first events that will actually award delegates since the Nevada caucus.  (All of Santorum’s subsequent “victories” came without any fixed delegates as yet.)  And there are some interesting subplots beyond the delegate haul to discuss. For example, how will Mitt do among Hispanics in Arizona?  What do the exit polls indicate about Mitt’s support among lower-income voters, and among the Tea Party crowd?  Has Santorum’s gender gap widened? Can Ron Paul rally to win any delegates at all tonight?  And, most importantly, how do the media spin the results?

As always, you are invited to join in tonight.  I’ll likely be on closer to 8 p.m., unless exit polls are leaked earlier.

Why Republicans Should Embrace Operation Hilarity

With polls indicating that Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are in a virtual tie in Michigan less than 24 hours before tomorrow’s primary there, it may be time for Republicans to start hoping that “Operation Hilarity” succeeds.  Operation Hilarity, of course, is the plan hatched by left-leaning blogger and Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas to have Democrats vote in Michigan’s Republican primary in order to defeat Romney in his “home state”.  If Democrats can swing the Michigan election to Santorum, Moulitsas  believes, they may derail Romney’s candidacy, extend the Republican nomination fight and weaken whoever the eventual Republican nominee might be for the general election.  Moulitsas isn’t the only one pushing this idea; already Michiganders are receiving 30-second robocalls organized by a Democratic operative urging them to vote for Santorum in order to “embarrass” Romney.

Note that the Democratic-inspired strategy in Michigan mirrors the advice Republican Sarah Palin gave fellow partisans a month ago, when she urged them to vote against Romney in order to extend the nominating process.  She argued that by doing so, it would give time for all the Republican candidates to be fully vetted, but it was clear she was particularly concerned about Romney, the frontrunner whose conservative bona fides remain suspect to many Tea Party activists. More recently, Palin openly speculated about the possibility of a brokered convention, allowing that it might not be a bad outcome and offering to do what is necessary to “help” her fellow Republicans if it came down to that.  Although she didn’t specify the nature of that “help”, one imagines it centers on her volunteering to head the Republican ticket.

The ultra-liberal Moulitsas and Tea Party favorite Palin reading from the same electoral playbook?  As Saturday Night Live’s Kenan Thompson might ask, “What up with that?”  The liberal Senator Ted Kennedy once remarked about cosponsoring legislation with Strom Thurmond, his conservative Senate counterpart from South Carolina, that “Whenever Strom and I introduce a bill together, it is either an idea whose time has come, or one of us has not read the bill”.

In this case, I suggest the Palin-Moulitsas “cosponsored” strategy indicates it is an idea whose time has come.  Here’s why.  Assuming the latest polling is correct, it is almost certain that Romney will not quell the growing doubts regarding his candidacy even if he squeaks by Santorum in Michigan and wins Arizona, which also holds its Republican primary tomorrow.  In my previous post I noted veteran prognosticator Charlie Cook’s latest column in which he admits to increasing skepticism regarding the viability of Romney’s candidacy. Today New Yorker columnist Ryan Lizza suggests that members of the Republican establishment may be starting to walk back their endorsements of Romney.  None of this should surprise longtime readers, of course; I’ve been citing evidence of Romney’s weakness since before the Iowa caucuses. It simply has taken awhile for others to catch on.

The problem for Republicans, however, has always been finding a suitable alternative.  The only non-Romney candidate that ever showed evidence of inspiring the base to turn out and vote was Newt Gingrich in South Carolina.  His victory there, however, led Romney to once again bury poor Newt in an avalanche of negative ads, much as he did in the run-up to the Iowa caucus.  Romney’s strategy had the desired effect; the Newtster fared poorly in Florida and to date has never really recovered.  Santorum, meanwhile, for all the media hype coming off of his caucus victories in Minnesota and Colorado, has so far not demonstrated that he can win in any state where turnout approaches double-figures, although he may snap that skein tomorrow in Michigan.  Nonetheless, among many Republicans there remain huge doubts regarding Santorum’s unyielding brand of social conservatism.

So what’s a good Republican to do?  To this point, it involves a lot of handwringing and hoping that someone – anyone! – will step forward to excite the base and win this nomination.  For all his money and organizational advantages, it is clear that Mitt simply lacks the political acumen to win this race in convincing fashion.  His victories to date testify more to his ability to drown his opponents in a sea of negative ads than to any power to attract broad-based support based on his own attributes.  Yesterday – as only Mitt can – he once again showed that he just doesn’t connect with the NASCAR shot and beer crowd, and he never will.  Ironically, the latest evidence came at a genuine NASCAR event; visiting the Daytona 500 Romney was asked about his love of racing.   He replied, “I have some great friends who are NASCAR team owners.”  That’s right.  Mitt rubs shoulders with the owners.  Santorum, meanwhile, had his name plastered on an actual race car.   Mitt, you will recall, prefers Cadillacs.

As we near Super Tuesday, however, it becomes increasingly clear that there simply isn’t time for one of the usual non-Mitt suspects – say, Mitch Daniels, Jeb Bush or Chris Christie – to get on the ballot in enough states to win the nomination outright – not that any of them has shown any willingness to do so.   Increasingly, for Republicans who are less than thrilled with the current crop of candidates, that leaves one option – the brokered convention.  More than one Republican strategist has openly speculated that the possibility of a brokered convention,  once considered completely unrealistic, is now at least plausible if still unlikely.  A few are even whispering, as Palin implicitly suggested, that it might be for the best if it allows a new Republican to step up.

I think Republicans are missing an opportunity here. Rather than wondering whether a brokered convention might occur, it’s time for Republicans to embrace the Moulitsas strategy in order to make certain it does occur.  That means an orchestrated campaign designed to prevent Mitt from securing a majority of delegates and winning the nomination outright.  Without active intervention, Romney is likely to slog his way to an uninspiring victory by dint of his massive advantage in resources.  He will simply outlast, if not outwit or outplay, his fellow Survivor contestants.   To prevent this, Republicans should organize against Mitt by backing his opponents – all his opponents.  The idea is to go into the convention with none of the current candidates having any real claim to the nomination.   If they are all discredited, it makes it easier to propose an alternative – and harder for the alternative to say no.  After all, it’s one thing to say I don’t want to endure three months of chicken wings, cheap hotels and character assassination.  It’s another to say I won’t accept a draft at a three-day convention.  I defy any of these non-Mitt’s to go Shermanesque on a desperate party and refuse a draft nomination.  It’s simply not going to happen.  They will fall all over themselves to do the right thing by the party and run for President – if asked.

Let’s be clear. There are real risks to this strategy.  No one can be sure how a brokered convention will play out.  Certainly it raises the possibility that the party establishment will lose control of events.  But then, that might be for the best, given their misguided efforts to ram Romney down Republican voters’ throats.  It is also true that whoever is chosen will not have been battled-hardened by a nomination run before the rigors of a general election campaign.  But keep in mind that in the pre-reform period, parties often chose candidates via a convention fight.  It’s not like this is completely unchartered waters.  And besides, think of the enthusiasm mingled with relief that will accompany the nomination of a new candidate, one who ideally will reignite the passions of the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party while retaining support of party moderates.

An unlikely scenario?  Undoubtedly so if Republicans continue to sit on their hands and hope for the best, while fearing the worst.  All the more reason to take matters into their own hands, beginning tomorrow in Michigan and continuing through the end of the nominating process.

Operation Hilarity, your time has come!

Addendum (10:45 p.m.): Public Policy Polling is hyping their latest Michigan poll on tweeter by suggesting Santorum may pull this out by virtue of support from Democrats!  The Master Plan Is Unveiled!

The Delegate Race: Can Newt Win The Bonus Round?

As the media fixates on the Romney-Santorum duel that will come to a head in Michigan and Arizona next Tuesday, it’s worth remembering another reason why Mitt’s slog to the nomination may prove more difficult than many thought, and why we shouldn’t yet count Newt Gingrich out: the bonus delegates. These are delegates awarded to states based on whether they meet one or more of the following requirements: the state cast a majority of its votes for the Republican presidential candidate in the previous presidential election, the state elected Republicans to the U.S. House or Senate, it selected a Republican Governor, or the state elected a Republican legislative majority. The formula (see the Green Papers website) for determining how many bonus delegates a state gets varies from the simple – 1 bonus delegate if the state elected a Republican governor between Jan. 1, 2008 and December 31, 2011 – to the more complex – states casting a majority of their 2008 electoral votes for the Republican presidential candidate receive 4.5 + 0.60 × the jurisdiction’s total 2012 electoral vote in bonus delegates.

But the basic point is that the more Republican a state’s voting tendencies are, the more bonus delegates it earns.  This is potentially important, because it means that some Republican-leaning states will award more delegates than larger but more Democratic states by virtue of earning these bonus delegates.  On Super Tuesday March 6, for example, the biggest delegate prize is Georgia, which awards 77 delegates, 11 more than the more populated Ohio, which hands out 66 delegates.  The reason why Georgia awards more than Ohio, even though Ohio is the larger state, is because Georgia is allocated 21 bonus delegates compared to Ohio’s five.  The difference, of course, reflects Ohio’s status as a competitive battleground state, whereas Georgia is solidly Republican.

Because these bonus delegates are awarded statewide, rather than by congressional district, a candidate who does well across that state can get a significant delegate boost. All told, there are 396 bonus delegates at stake in the Republican nomination process (not adjusting for the 50% penalties imposed in five states that held nominating contests too early).  Significantly, however, 164 of these delegates, or about 41% of the total, are clustered in the following nine southern states, (listed in descending order by total bonus delegates): Texas (34), Georgia (21), Tennessee (18), Alabama (16), South Carolina (16 originally, but note that the state was penalized half its total delegates), Louisiana (15), Mississippi (15), Oklahoma (15) and Kentucky (14).  These are all states in which, in theory, either Newt Gingrich or possibly Rick Santorum should be very competitive (Gingrich’s already won South Carolina, of course.)   Looking ahead only to the Super Tuesday contests on March 6, Gingrich has a solid 5-8% polling lead over Santorum in Georgia, the biggest delegate prize that day. Conceivably Gingrich could come out of there with 30-35 delegates, including a plurality of the state’s bonus delegates.

However, if Santorum does show that he can win a large primary state by, for example, beating Mitt in either Arizona or Michigan, he rather than Newt may be the primary beneficiary of these bonus delegate rules on March 6. Looking only at the Super Tuesday states, Santorum currently leads Newt in both Tennessee and Oklahoma, although neither state has been polled extensively at this stage and I suspect Santorum’s support is soft in both places. Gingrich does not look to do as well as Santorum in Ohio, and neither he nor Santorum is on the ballot in Virginia. Romney, of course, should win Vermont and Massachusetts quite easily on Super Tuesday.  If Gingrich does well enough on Super Tuesday to convince the media he remains a viable candidate, however, that may boost his stock somewhat in the remaining southern states  – Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky and Arkansas, that have a combined 55 bonus delegates.

In contrast, many states in the Northeast and on the West Coast where Romney is likely to run the strongest have almost no bonus delegates, since these are mostly Democratic strongholds.  Thus, California, New York, Illinois, New Jersey and Pennsylvania – all large states where Mitt and possibly Rick should do well – award a grand total of 9 bonus delegates. The lack of bonus delegates won’t matter, of course, if Mitt is able to parley his advantages in money and organization into sizable victories in these states and if he amasses such a delegate lead that his nomination appears all but inevitable. However, if he continues to stumble, and the delegate race tightens considerably, these bonus delegates may yet prove to be his undoing.

UPDATE 8:53.  Just saw this poll in the field Feb. 16-22 that has Santorum leading in Tennessee with 33% over Romney at 17%, with Gingrich trailing badly at 10%.  If this holds, it is not going to help Gingrich’s “southern strategy”.