Live Blogging Caucus Tuesday

7:55  We are on, watching the CNN feed and scouring the internets.  Keep in mind that there are no entrance polls tonight, but I will be doing some analysis of the few polls that have been in the field while waiting for precinct results to come in.  I laid out some of the background earlier tonight.  Note that Michele Bachmann was on earlier tonight and claimed that the Minnesota caucus was too close to call.  That means we may be in for a long night – but of course, Nevada was easy to call but we still were in for a long night.  Colorado, on the other hand, shouldn’t be as close – if it is, that means it will likely be a long night for Mitt. Meanwhile, the Missouri polls shouldn’t close until 9 p.m. eastern time, if I remember correctly.

Note that in 2008 Romney won Minnesota easily, with 41% of the vote, compared to McCain’s 22% and Huckabee’s 20%.  At that time, however, Romney was positioning himself to the Right of McCain.  This time he’s viewed as the most moderate candidate, so it’s not clear that he can reprise that performance in a caucus that historically has been dominated by conservative activists.  One thing to eye tonight is turnout – in 2008 about 60,000 people attended the Republican caucus.  So far, Romney’s victories have not occurred with high turnout.

CORRECTION:  Missouri’s polls closed at 8 p.m. eastern time, not 9 p.m. as I indicated above.  Remember, however, there’s no exit polls tonight, so it may be some time before results are reported.  Also, Gingrich is not on the ballot in Missouri.

Meanwhile, Romney has set up headquarters tonight in Colorado, where he expects to do better.  In 2008, he swept to a convincing victory in Colorado, winning 61% of the vote, easily besting McCain who finished a distant second with 18% of the vote, while Huckabee drew 13%.  Mitt is hoping to reprise that performance tonight.  Again, turnout is of interest – about 70,000 voters turned out in 2008.

The CNN feed is slightly behind what the Missouri Secretary of State’s office is reporting – it has Rick up with almost 50% of the vote, with a whopping .04 of the precincts reporting.  One total to look at in Missouri is the “uncommitted” vote, which may be a stand-in for Gingrich’s support. Interestingly, in 2008 McCain barely won Missouri, with 33% of the vote, only 1% more than Huckabee’s 32% and 4% more than Romney 29%.   Turnout was high, with over half a million participants.

I haven’t said much about Ron Paul as yet, but in some respects he has more at stake tonight than anyone.  He’s boasted that his superior organization will begin to pay dividends in the caucus states, but he really underperformed in Nevada.  In her interview with CNN earlier tonight, Bachmann claimed that Paul was very well organized in Minnesota, but I have no way of verifying her claim.

I’ve noted earlier that we don’t have entrance polls tonight.  We also don’t have much in the way of polling data. Keep in mind that given the very low turnout in caucus proceedings, it is much harder for polling companies to find a credible sample of likely voters.   PPP did poll all three states that are holding events tonight and, with the caveat that these are polls, the result may be instructive.  In Missouri, PPP had Santorum up with 45% to 32% for Mitt Romney and 19% for Paul.   He also leads in Minnesota, but in a much closer race, according to PPP; Santorum has 33%, Romney 24%, Gingrich 22% and Paul 20%.  In Colorado, Romney is at 37%, Santorum at 27%, Gingrich at 21%, and Paul at 13%.

Interestingly Paul is the only one of the four candidates who has a negative favorable/unfavorable ratio in Colorado.  In Minnesota, all four candidates are viewed favorably (according to the PPP poll), but Santorum is viewed as the most favorable, with 74% viewing him favorably.   He’s winning 37% among the 33% of those who consider themselves supporters of the Tea Party, and 41% among the 49% who describe themselves evangelicals.  Gignrich is second in both categories.  This represents a reversal of what we saw in the southern states, where Gingrich beat Santorum among Tea Partiers and Evangelicals.   This suggests that there may be a regional difference in Santorum’s and Gingrich’s support among these two groups.

9:10  With 10% of the precincts reported in Missouri, (we are ahead of the CNN site), Santorum is winning 50% of the meaningless vote, compared to Romney’s 27%.  Wolf is hyping this as an “upset” but on what basis I have no idea.  It appears, however, that CNN is going to report these results as if they really matter – which means they may in fact end up mattering in terms of perceptions.

I’d like to give you a sense of what the early returns mean in Minnesota, but I don’t have enough knowledge about the various regions to hazard a guess.  Meanwhile, the Missouri vote is coming in pretty quickly – with over 13% of the precincts reporting, Santorum is holding steady at 50%.  The uncommitted (Gingrich?) vote, meanwhile, is down at about 5.6%.  Wolf continues to hype the “upset” in the making – is this how other cable stations are playing this?  Keep in mind that because the Missouri vote is a beauty contest today, turnout will be nowhere near what it was in 2008, when the primary results were used to select the 58 Republican state delegates.

Wolf insists that Missouri is a huge “upset” for Santorum.  Between that, and his insistence on forcing his correspondents to actually get the results from a precinct that, by itself, is one of a thousand such precincts, really speaks to how desperate they are to hype the coverage.  And to top it off, Wolf notes that people are “dying in Syria” because they don’t have a caucus.  I think there’s a serious point there, but it isn’t coming across.

I’m amazed how much attention the CNN pundits are paying to Missouri.

Don’t look now, but with about 3% of the Colorado vote in, Santorum is leading.  If he wins there, that will be newsworthy.

By the way, the reason why Missouri’s primary is meaningless this year is because state law requires the state to hold a primary on Feb. 7, but this violates the rules of the Republican National Committee, which limits which states can have primaries before March.  To resolve the conflict between party and state law, Missouri decided to hold the meaningless primary, but schedule a caucus later to actually choose the delegates.   This hasn’t stopped CNN from hyping tonight’s “upset”.

Meanwhile, in other news, the Celtics are poised to win their fifth straight victory, and Paul Pierce has passed the legendary Larry Bird for second place on the all-time Celtic scoring list.

Not that it matters, but NBC is projecting that Santorum will win the Missouri primary.

Meanwhile, in real news, the Celtics have now won 9 of the last 10. Who said they were too old?

Gergen is amazed that Romney isn’t running the board.  Who could have predicted this, he asks?  Sigh.  He doesn’t read this blog, does he?

In comparing the 2008 Minnesota map with today’s, it appears that Santorum – based on very early returns – is winning areas that Romney took in 2008.  Still, I stress that it is early – only 12% of the vote is in, but Santorum is getting 44%, compared to Paul who is in second with 27%.  If these results hold, the media will undoubtedly hype that Romney finished behind both Santorum and Paul.

Looking at Romney getting trounced in Missouri, and trailing in Minnesota, I am reminded of poor Will Cain going on last week regarding Romney’s “breakthrough” among Tea Partiers and evangelicals in Nevada.   Some breakthrough!

So far Paul seems to be hanging in second place in Minnesota – not what he wanted, but better than the alternative.  Not unexpectedly, Gingrich is not doing well in Santorum territory.  I expect that pundits will suggest that he’s become the Tea Party and Evangelical frontrunner, but I’m not convinced that he’s demonstrated he can win outside the midwest, just as Gingrich hasn’t demonstrated he can win outside the south among these groups.

John King is trying to make the case that Romney’s stumbles can be compared to McCain’s in 2008.  But the difference is McCain had a bigger cushion by virtue of the winner-take-all system in place four years ago.  Romney can’t count on that to put his opponents away.

One other point to keep in mind – almost no money was spent by any candidates on television advertising in Colorado and Minnesota, but what was spent was expended almost entirely by Romney.  And, as the CNN commentators have correctly noted, the overall spending dynamic heavily favors Romney – and yet he still hasn’t put his opponents away.

In the past as prologue symbolism, four years ago tonight Mitt Romney suspended his presidential campaign.  Will he do the same tonight?  (Of course not….)

For those of you who are tuning in late and who might be watching the CNN feed – contrary to Wolf’s hyperventilated reporting, there’s been no upset anywhere tonight.

Let me preface this by saying I am not familiar with the in-state voting dynamics in Minnesota.  Nonetheless, as I compare the 2008 and 2012 maps, Santorum continues to win in areas that Romney took in 2008. Indeed, with about 25% of the vote in, Mitt hasn’t won a single county.  He won more than half of them in 2008.  This is not shaping up to be a great night for the Mittster.

By my back of the envelope calculations, it doesn’t look like turnout in Minnesota is going to beat the 2008 total by very much, if at all.  I stress, however, that this is a back-of-the-envelope calculation.

OK, NBC is projecting that Santorum is going to win Minnesota – now this is big news!

Ok, somewhat late to the party, CNN is also projecting that Rick has won in Minnesota.  If Mitt finishes third – as it looks like he will – this will put a real crimp in the Mitrt-as-inevitable nominee theme (and it will make me look darn good.)   Keep in mind, Mitt did not pummel his opponents with negative ads here as he did when he crushed Newt in Florida…..

It’s early in Colorado, but if Rick somehow pulls off the trifecta, the punditocracy will be falling all over themselves to proclaim that the race has changed.  In truth, as you’ve heard me say repeatedly, Mitt is simply not a strong candidate.  But we shouldn’t overreact here and suddenly proclaim Santorum as the main alternative.  As Anna can attest, he has real vulnerabilities that will undoubtedly become the focus of Mitt’s negative advertising machine in the next two weeks.  Also keep in mind that Mitt is still the frontrunner in Arizona and Michigan, the two states that vote next (after Maine’s caucuses which end next Saturday).

Donna Brazile just blathered on about how turnout in Missouri tonight was dismal, completely ignoring the fact that no delegates were at stake.  An absolutely stunningly stupid observation.

As expected, the talking heads are overreacting to the results tonight.  Part of this is because they fed us the Romney as inevitable line for so long that this actually seems like a surprise. Part of it is because they always tend to overreact to the latest results, rather than putting them in the context of the overall race.

Ok, Santorum is on to proclaim victory, sans sweater vest!  He’s pumped!  Good timing here – he’s on during primetime, before the viewing audience drifts off.  A nice opening shot at Mitt in Massachusetts, and the obvious move to claim the mantle of the Tea Party, and the evangelicals.  And now on to the Obama bashing….this is his bid to show he’s electable.

A subtle jab here at Mitt – Rick cares about the very rich and the very poor.

(Meanwhile, with just over 40% of Minnesota’s vote in, Paul is holding on to second with Mitt still in third.)

I was waiting for the Catholic pitch in reaction to the Obama contraceptive ruling.   I am curious how much this helped Santorum in these caucuses.  This is serious Rick – a bit too serious, if you ask me.  You’d think he’d be a bit more upbeat.  (There’s a bit of humor – pledge not your life, but maybe your fortune!)  I wonder if the honor is a subtle jab at Newt?  He does remind us that with this victory he’s going to pull in some more money.

Colorado results are not even trickling in – shades of Nevada.

Great catch here by CNN – the man behind Rick’s shoulder was his “sugardaddy” Foster Friess, the man who is funding the pro-Santorum Superpac. Remember under campaign finance laws candidates are not supposed to coordinate their spending with their Superpacs.   It doesn’t look good to have Friess standing right behind you!  How is that not coordination?

Paul is on, trying to make something of another bad night.  He’s making the case that it’s all about delegates – which it is, but right now he’s not winning them based on the initial results.  Of course, there’s still several steps to go in both Colorado and Minnesota, and he may yet out organize his opponents to steal a few.  For now, however, another disappointing night.

Same caveats hold – I don’t know Colorado well – but my read of the returns is that Santorum has a shot at winning it.  (Where’s Baumann when you need him?) With 26% of the vote in, Santorum is up by 11%.  To be sure, there’s some large population areas around Denver that haven’t reported as yet, so I’m not counting him out.

One thing to remember – in 2008, Romney won Minnesota and Colorado as the conservative alternative to McCain.  This cycle he’s the moderate and so it’s not too surprising that he’s doing worse in caucuses dominated by party activists.  Still, if he loses Colorado – Wolf can legitimately claim that’s an upset.  So far, however, there’ s been no real surprises tonight.

Mitt is on – but where’s Ann?  Is she a front-runner wife?

(Colorado – 29% of precincts reporting, and Paul is in last place.  Not where he wants to be, given his emphasis on caucuses).

Mitt’s short declarative statements “I’ll be the nominee”, “He has failed. We won’t”,  etc., have lost a bit of their impact after hearing it for the umpteenth time.

Did he say America’s soul could be corrupted?  I see a Youtube campaign ad coming out soon.

Did I just hear Mitt praise his father’s ability to spit out nails, sharp point facing out?  Whenever he starts riffing on his humble roots, the hypocrisy meter goes red.

This is not Mitt’s typical stump speech.  It was much heavier on love of America, and more personal anecdotes. I’m guessing the references to his father’s humble roots is an effort to cut into Santorum’s more populist base, but it just doesn’t seem to pass the smell test.

The first crack in the wall: Gergen asks, “Is Mitt Romney still the frontrunner?”  Everyone immediately jumps in to say he is, but the fact that the question has been asked suggests that the punditocracy is finally catching on.

Some of the election analysts (who shall remain nameless,but you know who I mean) are using 2008 results to interpret the results coming in now.  The problem is that Romney is positioned differently this time around, so you have to be careful making one-to-one county comparisons.  It’s really a new world this time around.

Tonight is also a reminder about how difficult it is to poll a caucus state.  PPP tried, and while they anticipated a strong night for Santorum, they didn’t quite pick up on how strong it was going to be, and they overestimated Romney’s performance.

It’s the witching hour – time for me to call it a night in order to be prepared for my day job.  Remember, if Rick sweeps all three contests tonight, the punditocracy will be flooding the airwaves with cries that everything has been turned upside down.  Don’t get caught up in the hype.  This has been Santorum’s night, but it doesn’t do much to change the dynamics of this race – as regular readers know, I’ve been harping on Romney’s weaknesses for several weeks now.  But this doesn’t mean he’s suddenly not the front runner.  He is, but there’s still a long way to go, as you well know.

More in the morning.  Thanks for all the participation…. .

 

28 comments

  1. Chris – In what sense? That they are glossing over the mechanics, or that they are actually paying attention?

  2. Logistics aren’t conducive for sound bites or breaking news; seems that they’re reduced in importance

  3. More that they are not mentioning the fact that MO is a simple straw poll, and again the caucus are not binding.

  4. Wolf hints that there may be an upset in the works…does really have any info or is he trying to keep viewership up?

  5. @Chris. I agree – no need informing the audience that the Missouri results tonight don’t really matter when it comes to allocating delegates. Of course, will the media spin influence events down the road?

  6. R- In the absence of entrance polls, I don’t see how Wolf knows anything more than we know. I think by “upset”, he’s hinting that Mitt Romney may lose two of the three events tonight. Of course, that’s only an upset to him and the other media members who have been pushing the Romney “inevitability” scenario.

  7. @Chris – Yes, Gingrich will be competing for delegates in Missouri when it really counts, as far as I know.

  8. It is pretty funny how CNN is giving the impression we are watching every caucus vote being counted one by one.

  9. How much to make of a Santorum victory in MN? Romney won pretty convincingly in 2008 (41% and 26000 votes) Seems like this would be a bigger talking points for the pundits.

  10. @Chris- I agree. Minnesota is a bigger victory for Santorum and Colorado even bigger, if Santorum holds on there.

  11. Before tonight it looked as though Mitt had a run to super Tuesday as the front runner. However, clearly tonight the race is still, in the pundits mind, greatly in flux. It looks as though the first person to drop out now would be Paul – do you even see this happening? Are we in a 4 man race for a long time now?

  12. Professor Dickinson,

    One of the CNN analysts (I forget who) mentioned a few minutes ago that they think that if/when Santorum drops out of this race, his votes would go to Romney, whereas most people seem to think that Santorum’s supporters would go for Gingrich. They mentioned that Santorum’s supporters would have a problem with some of Gingrich’s personal and moral issues and thus would go for Romney instead.

    What’s your take?

  13. @Chris – This is a four-person race at least through March 6. Paul is not doing great tonight, but if he beats Romney in Minnesota, he will claim a moral victory. He has shown in the past that he’s able to raise money, so I don’t think he’s going to drop out. But so far he has to be disappointed because he made a bit of a show regarding how he was going to do well in the caucus states. So far, it’s not happening.

  14. Conservatives will go to another conservative – without Santorum Gingrich is the one who picks up the votes – 3 wives and all!

  15. Anna – I don’t think it’s either/or. I think if Santorum drops out (and I don’t see that happening if he wins Minnesota as NBC is projecting), I think most of his supporters go to Gingrich, but certainly not all of them. I think in the South he will do better than with Santorum’s backers than in the north. But remember, after tonight, the punditocracy is going play up Gingrich’s poor showing tonight to suggest Santorum has supplanted him as the conservative favorite.

  16. Boy, Santorum is having real difficulty attacking Obama – he is stumbling over his words. He certainly doesn’t have the passion of The Newt or Ron Paul.

  17. @Chris – Yep. Not the smoothest delivery. but he makes up for his lack of finesse with enthusiasm. But you are right – it’s almost as if his victories have taken him by surprise.

  18. I’m not convinced Santorum believes what he is saying here. I’m not sure he is comfortable with the attacks on Obama – either he was never expecting to the be front runner and he hasn’t practiced or he just isn’t a good attack politician.

  19. Seeing as how Romney on the one hand has depicted himself as the front runner, and Gingrich on the other has characterized this nomination as a two man race… with the results tonight taking hits to both portrayals, is this a worse night for Mitt or Newt?

  20. Chris – Remember, Rick wants to portray himself as the man who won’t sink down to Newt’s or Mitt’s level, so he needs to be careful about how he attacks Obama as well. It’s a fine line…

  21. Tom – It’s a worse night for Mitt. He’s been dogged by this lingering whisper campaign that he can’t win conservatives and that his support is shallow and soft. Tonight will bring this out in the open, particularly if he also loses Colorado. If the media finally catches up to me to realize that Mitt’s vulnerable, Newt is strengthened going into Super Tuesday in states like Ohio (although Rick will also now play better there). Newt’s already made it clear that he’s biding his time for March 6th, so I don’t think tonight hurts him as much as it does Mitt.

  22. How far into this do we need to get before its not mathmatically possible for 1 candidate to get enough delegates?

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