9:00 p.m. CNN has just declared Rick Santorum the winner in Louisiana, even without releasing any actual votes. It’s not a surprise, of course, particularly given the exit polls, which have Santorum winning 45% to Romney’s 30%, with Gingrich trailing badly with about 17%. These are exit polls, to be sure, and they may be adjusted a bit, but they reveal the same voting patterns we have been seeing during most of the recent Republican contests. Although the evangelical vote was less than I anticipated at 52%, it nonetheless continued the streak in which Romney loses any state with more than half of voters self-identifying as evangelicals. And, once again, Romney’s support increases as one goes up the income ladder; but the only income group he won is the 11% earning $200,000 or more. Santorum beat him among all the other lower income groups. Romney also does better among the 21% professional class who have some post-graduate education, but Rick beats him across all other education levels. Although Mitt does better among older voters, he loses all age categories to Rick nonetheless. Santorum, meanwhile, did equally well among women and men – again, no surprise. He wins 46% of women voters, 44% of men, beating Mitt among both genders.
Not surprisingly, less than 1 in 5 votes said the “etch-a-sketch” controversy was important to their vote and my guess is those saying it was important were already disinclined to vote for Mitt. Again, lots of media hype, not much substantive importance.
As for Newt and Ron Paul – no delegates tonight. This will inevitably raise the question regarding whether Newt can sustain his campaign. For some reason, pundits don’t seem to bother asking this about Paul, even though he consistently finishes last in most contests (Illinois was a recent exception.) But it seems clear that Rick, and not Newt, has become the anti-Mitt among conservatives.
Perhaps the biggest story tonight? None of CNN’s major crew bothered to cover this story on air. (I miss Wolf!) Indeed, none of the major cable news networks paid it very much attention, particularly with the breaking story regarding former Vice President Dick Cheney’s heart transplant. Just Rick’s luck – his big win gets overshadowed by an ex-Vice President’s health issues. Even the Twitterverse is relatively quiet. This is just not getting very much coverage – which may be significant in itself! Of course, the lack of coverage may be warranted – this result is hardly going to shake up the delegate race. It’s too early to call, of course, but my earlier projection of a 9-6 delegate split may not be far off. Keep in mind, however, that exit polls have often understated Rick’s support. It will be interesting to see if he comes closer to 50%. But I”m not waiting up to find out.
As of today, the delegate race is only half over! Yep, you heard it right. The best is yet to come. Next stop? On April 3, there’s Maryland, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia. Meanwhile, I’ll try to be on tomorrow with a brief update on the race at the midway point.
Addendum (10:32 p.m.): Updated exit polls now show that the evangelical turnout was 60% in Louisiana, and that includes 56% white evangelicals. That’s closer to what I anticipated – and it means Rick has a better chance of getting to 50%. Mitt, meanwhile, may not reach 25%. If not, he gets no delegates – but that doesn’t mean they go to Rick. Instead, they become uncommitted.
11:30 – It appears that, with 99% of the vote in, that Mitt will just make the 25% threshold, which means he should pick up at least 5 delegates. Meanwhile, the updated exit poll data indicated that 61% of the Louisiana vote were self-identified evangelicals, which is about what I expected. That explains why Rick has approached the 50% vote proportion – once again doing better than polls suggested. In fact, the last RCP aggregate poll had Santorum winning 41% – he’s going to finish closer to 50%. It’s interesting that polls consistently underestimate his support in southern primaries. I’m not quite sure why this is the case.