Category Archives: Republicans

Live Blogging the True Grit Faceoff

7: p.m. We are on a little early tonight, in order to give me some time to catch up on course reading during the live blogging session.  As always, I encourage you to join in through the comments section.

Polls will close in both Alabama and Mississippi in a bit more than an hour.  But the first wave of exit polls have been released.  Note that Romney hasn’t won a state that has had more than 50% evangelical vote – tonight in Mississippi and Alabama the evangelical vote is overwhelming – 83% in Mississippi, and 79% in Alabama.   Can he break the streak tonight?

By the way, for all the talk this year about SuperPacs and the outpouring of corporate cash in light of the Citizens United decision, the Washington Post reports yesterday that spending the Republican primary is down this year from previous campaigns.  Longtime readers won’t be surprised by this – when the economy is down, spending on most everything – including campaigns – goes down.

By the way, I’m watching CNN just to see Wolf hyperventilate when the results come in at 8 p.m.

Despite high number of evangelicals, however, exit polls indicate that the proportion of strong conservatives – although high – is lower than in Iowa, Oklahoma or Nevada.  In both states it’s closer to Tennessee and Georgia, at about 38% Alabama and 42% for Mississippi. Measnwhile the moderate/liberal vote is at 30% (Mississippi) and 31% (Alabama) – again close to the Tennessee/Georgia levels.  Romney won 28% in Tennessee, and 26% in Georgia.  The other thing to keep in mind that polls have underestimated Santorum’s support in the southern border states.  Romney won about 28% in Oklahoma as well, with a more conservative voting turnout.   So we shouldn’t be surprised to see Romney pull in 27-28% tonight.

One other interesting exit poll finding: 50% women turnout!  That’s one of the highest turnouts so far.  Only Oklahoma was higher.  That should favor Mitt – I think. He did slightly better (29%-27%) among women in Tennessee.  Same in Georgia (26%-25%) and Oklahoma (29-28%).  However, Santorum did much better among women in Oklahoma (38%-29%), while Newt did worse among women in that state.

I have no turnout numbers, but scanning talking heads, they are suggesting it is sparse in Mississippi.

While we are waiting I should mention the lack of attention paid on this site to national polls head-to-head matchups between Obama and the various Republican candidates. I ignore them because they are meaningless at this time – not even newsworthy.

Now CNN is serious – it’s Wolf time!  Also, is that James Earl Jones’ voice that does the “This is CNN” intro?  If so, that’s cool!

By the way, exit polls indicate abortion was the most important issue for 11% of Alabama voters, and 10% of Mississippi – higher than in most previous states (but not as high as it was in Michigan) but not by much.   The top issue for most voters (57% Alabama, 54% Mississippi) is the economy, followed by the federal budget deficit (24% Alabama, 28% Mississippi.)  This is consistent with previous states – so again, the dominant issue for 3/4 of voters is the pocketbook.)

Polls close – and CNN cannot – I repeat! – cannot make a projection.  Thanks Wolf!

But exit polls have Romney up with 35% in Mississippi – up 5% over Gingrich, while Santorum leads by 5% in Alabama.

CNN talking heads say if Newt finishes second, he is finished.  But, in cliche #49, Anderson Cooper says Newt can “live off the land.”  I think Newt can live off anything, judging by his girth.

By the way, let’s not forget 17 delegates at stake in Hawaii tonight with precinct caucuses there. An America Samoa selects 9 delegates who are, officially, unbound.

If Newt loses, it will be in part due to the gender gap.  He’s down among women in both states.

Remember, pre-election polls have understated Rick’s support in some states.  He’s out performing some of them now. But the exit polls will be adjusted a bit as additional results come in.  This could be a long night.

The curse of Marianne bites Newt!  He’s down 10% among women compared to men in Alabama, while Santorum is up 8% among women over men.  Remember how Santorum was going to have a women problem due to his views on contraception?  That was never the case, as I argued in previous posts.  That gender split is similar to what we saw in Tennessee.

Meanwhile, Mitt once again wins the over 65 crowd – he’s consistently done that throughout this campaign.  He also sees his support in Alabama go up as one goes up the income ladder – he wins the over $100,000 income groups, with 36% of the vote.

Newt, meanwhile, gets crushed among married women in Alabama – he wins only 18% of their vote, compared to 37% of married men.  Hell hath no fury….

In Alabama, among the 63% who support the Tea Party Santorum gets 36%, Gingrich 32% while Mitt only wins 26%.  Again, the split between Santorum and Gingrich is hurting both of them.   Either one would crush Mitt here – instead, he might pull it out.

By the way, CNN talking heads have finally realized that both Mississippi and Alabama are open primaries.  Note that in Alabama  turnout included 6% Democrats and 25% independents.   In Mississippi the numbers are 4% Democrat and 16% independents.

We get similar results in Mississippi.  Newt’s support among married men is 13% higher than among married women.  Mitt, meanwhile, sees his support increase as one goes up the income ladder in this state as well.  And once again, Mitt loses Tea Party supporters vote to both Santorum and Gingrich, although he within 1% of Santorum’s support. TP was 66% of total turnout.

Media narratives are fascinating things.  So far there’s no evidence whatsoever that Mitt has expanded his coalition, yet if he wins either state because of a split between Mitt and Rick, pundits are going to say it shows he can win in the South!  He won about 30% of evangelicals in Mississippi, and 27% of this group in Alabama – finishing behind Santorum and Gingrich in both groups.

To his credit, John King is acknowledging that winning is about “bragging rights” – won’t have a big impact on the delegate race.

Note also that in Alabama you don’t get delegates at the congressional district level if you finish third, but in Mississippi you do.  So you want to be at tleast second in each congressional district in Alabama.

One thing I am sure of: Ron Paul is going to lose, and he is going to give a speech about the Constitution.

Uh, oh.  Gergen is off and running on if Mitt wins, it will be a big win.  The reality is this race is so close, it’s not going to change anything regarding the delegates total or the relative standing of the candidates.   Gergen is also going off on the contraceptive issue.  How that is driving women to the Democrats.  Guess what David – Santorum is doing better among women than men in both states.

This is where my basic ignorance of the political terrain in Mississippi and Alabama prevents me from having any idea how to interpret where the votes are likely to come from, and for whom.  I hate to say it, but I’m relying on John King’s analysis in this regard.

Slow count, particularly in Alabama. Some of the Twitter feeds are suggesting Romney can’t win Alabama based on current returns, but I think this is premature.  One thing is certain: if Santorum wins both states, Wolf will be at high decibel form in loudly proclaiming that this is a two man race. But if Santorum loses both states to Newt by 1%, media narrative will change dramatically.   In short, even though a shift of 1-2% in the vote won’t really matter, in terms of the media narrative it could be huge.  In contrast, Hawaii and American Samoa may prove more significant tonight in terms of padding Mitt’s delegate lead than will Alabama or Mississippi!

With about 20% of the Alabama vote in, Santorum leads Newt by about 5,000 votes.  I have to think they are drawing from the same area, so it will be hard for Newt to make this up.  However, I won’t be surprised if Mitt can close the gap based on bigger urban areas coming in late.  But that’s a guess….

Just a reminder – if Mitt remains third in Alabama in the congressional districts, he doesn’t pick up any delegates.  So that’s a total loss of 7 delegates, out of a total 21 district delegates, and 26 at large.

Romney is slightly underperforming the preelection polls, but doing about as well as he did in Tennessee, Oklahoma and Georgia – right around the 28% level.

Apparently NBC is projecting that Santorum will win Alabama – wait for the overreaction from the pundits!  If Santorum wins Mississippi too the media will come down hard on Mitt.  He is almost better off if Newt wins in Mississippi, and thus stakes a claim for staying in.

Story of the night is that Mitt is underperforming pre-election polls, and exit polls, but doing about as well as he did in Tennessee, Georgia and Oklahoma.

But keep in mind – even if Mitt finishes third in Mississippi, it is so close that he’ll earn almost as many delegates as Rick and Newt – but the media is going to overlook this.

When we factor in American Samoa and Hawaii, Mitt may be the winner tonight in delegates.   But John King is already telling us that if Rick wins both states, “we have a very different race.”  No, we don’t.

The spectator in me wants Rick to win both states, just to see media overreact.  Wait – get the paddles out!  Wolf is projecting that Rick takes Alabama.

At this point if I’m Rick I offer the VP slot to Newt.

Folks- get ready: we are going to have a huge divergence between the media narrative after tonight and the political science narrative if Santorum wins Mississippi too.  The political science narrative is that nothing much has changed.  The media narrative is that it is a whole new ballgame.

Smart move by Santorum to come on now, while there’s still an audience – and before potential loss in Mississippi potentially steps on his narrative.

I think Santorum is going to take Mississippi as well – he’s up a bit more than 3,000 votes with 95% in.

Rick needs to start looking ahead to Missouri caucuses – give it a shout out.

We go to Missouri on Thursday, then Puerto Rico, and then Illinois a week from now – at that point almost 50% of the delegates will be allocated.

Fox calls Mississippi for Rick Santorum – if that’s true, he sweeps tonight.  Cue the doom-and-gloom Romney can’t close the deal media narrative.  I can’t say I’m displeased – it means the race will go on!

And now Wolf confirms!  I can’t wait for the media explosion tomorrow….poor Mitt!

In fact, Mitt is going to win 30% in Mississippi – his best performance in a southern state so far.   but all for naught, according to the media.

Newt is on – but given the gender gap that likely cost him tonight, he needs to tell Callista to step it up.

Newt is on – will he step down?  Not likely!  He points out that his delegate haul will be “substantial” – in fact it will be close to Rick’s.   And he takes time to take a shot at the “elite” media.   Newt has to make nice to Rick, in case he has to strike a deal. At this point I expect Newt to stay in at least through Louisiana.

This is a very revealing speech.  Newt is making it clear that at this point his goal is to prevent Mitt from clinching the delegate race before the convention – but note that he avoids taking on Rick and in fact speaks of himself and Rick as allies of a sort.

When will we hear from Mitt?  Not tonight!  He’s going to wait for the Hawaii and American Samoa results and then he’ll proclaim delegate victory.

That’s it for tonight folks.  Not much happened to change the delegate math – but a whole lot happened to change the media spin.  And it raises the question whether the media narrative can influence events from here on out.  Mitt has to hope Newt stays in – and I think he will until at least Louisiana votes.  I’ll be on tomorrow for the post-mortem.  thanks again for all your participation….

Final point: if this isn’t support for my Operation Brokered Convention – I don’t know what is.  Spread the word!

Why don’t the pundits push Ron Paul to drop out?

And let’s leave on this comment from CNN’s Erin Burnett: “men don’t know how to wear blue jeans”.   OK.

Who Has True Grit (Besides Chuck Norris)?

There are dueling narratives occurring as the race moves to Alabama and Mississippi for tomorrow’s primaries.  The first is the media-driven one focusing on issues of momentum, contest victories and potentially game-changing “surprise” results.  In this narrative, tomorrow’s contests are important because they could resurrect, or end, Newt Gingrich’s candidacy, since he has emphasized the need to do well in southern states.  But if Mitt Romney won two southern states with large evangelical voting blocs he might finally put to rest the claim that he can’t seal the deal with these voters.  Indeed, the Washington Post’s Chris Cilizza argues that the possibility of a “surprise” Romney win is “why the Mississippi and Alabama primaries tomorrow could truly matter — if, that is, Romney can find a way to win one of the two.”  It would, he claims, lead to “an upsetting of expectations and conventional wisdom that could reset the governing dynamic of the contest.”

I have no doubt that a Romney victory in one or both southern states would upset the prevailing media narrative.  But it wouldn’t do much to change the political science narrative, with its focus on the delegate math.  Nor would it be much of a surprise. This is because current polling has Romney in something close to a statistical dead heat for the lead in both states.  Here’s the latest polling data, as compiled by Mark Halperin at

If these polls are accurate, it is not likely to matter all that much whether Mitt wins or finishes a close second, or even third.   This is because no matter where he places won’t have much impact on the delegate math. Gingrich and Santorum are once again likely to divvy up a portion of the evangelical/tea party/lower income vote, which will likely prevent either one from clearing the 50% threshold required to win most of the combined 84 delegates at stake in the two states and come close to shutting Romney out.   That means Romney is likely to finish very close to the top of leaderboard – and win close to a third of the delegates whether he wins, places or is merely in the show.

I don’t mean to entirely dismiss the importance of a significant change in the media narrative based on tomorrow’s results.  A two-state sweep by Gingrich may put an end, for the moment, to calls for him to drop out.  A third place finish by Santorum may resurrect doubts about his ability to broaden his appeal. (Keep in mind that his “victory” in Saturday’s Kansas caucus was based on winning less than 1% of that state’s eligible voters.) And two last-place finishes by Romney would once again suggest he lacks “true grit”, at least among southern evangelical voters.  Any of these results could conceivably affect voters’ perceptions and donors’ willingness to fork over more cash.

Will tomorrow’s races be suspenseful?  Certainly.  Given the current polling, it may take most of the night before the networks declare a winner in either state.  But surprises that change the dynamic of this race? I’m not expecting any.

Unless Chuck Norris shows up and kicks some ass.

Should Newt Drop Out? Or Should Rick? Republican Dilemmas

On the heels of my post suggesting that Santorum and Gingrich must strike a deal, and soon, if either hopes to stop Mitt, the Rickster yesterday indicated publicly that he’s amenable to considering Gingrich as his vice presidential running mate.   This comes as the usual anonymous (and some not so anonymous) campaign sources and party leaders are openly suggesting that it’s time for Newt to step aside.  The Newtster, for his part, is having none of it, continuing to insist that he is in this race for the duration.

One need not buy Doyle McManus’ argument that Newt is staying in the race primarily to cement his Churchillian legacy to understand his reluctance to end his campaign. To begin, he is likely to do quite well – probably slightly better than Santorum – in Tuesday’s primaries in Alabama and Mississippi; polls indicate he is leading or close to the lead in both states.  If he does, he can expect a brief boost in media coverage and all that entails.  Strictly speaking, Gingrich also leads Santorum in a “hard” count of delegates won so far, 107-95, since the Republican National Committee does not give Santorum credit for the estimated 79 delegates he may have earned in his caucus state victories in Illinois, Colorado, Minnesota or North Dakota.  By the time those states actually award their delegates, the dynamics of this race may have changed dramatically.  Keep in mind that the pundits wrote Newt off at least two previous times, and yet here he is, in the final four, and with a credible shot at being the sole alternative to Mitt.

The problem for Newt is that if he is going to negotiate an exit strategy with Rick, his leverage is greatest now, and not later, when the delegate math may have rendered him irrelevant.   Consider Tuesday’s two primaries in Alabama and Mississippi.   Combined, they will award a total of 84 delegates.  Of that two-state allotment, 33 are divvied up, three a piece, to the winner of the states’ congressional districts, and 51 are apportioned statewide.  Here’s why striking a deal now is critical for Rick and Newt.  If any single candidate clears 50% in the statewide vote, he gets all the at-large delegates.  Similarly, in both states, a candidate who wins 50% or more in a congressional district takes all three district delegates.  Presumably someone who does well statewide will also do well in the congressional districts.  Current polling indicates that the combined support for Rick and Newt is above or close to 50% in both Alabama and Mississippi.  This suggests, then, that if one of them dropped, the other would be poised to come close to reaching the 50% threshold in both states, picking up in excess of 80 delegates, and shutting Romney out in the process.  However, if both Rick and Newt stay in the race, neither clears 50%, and the delegates are allocated in somewhat proportional fashion.  That means Mitt will likely get 20-plus delegates, with Rick and Newt divvying up the remaining 60.  In terms of cutting into Mitt’s delegate lead, the delegates Rick gains on Tuesday will just about offset the 9 delegates Mitt picked up yesterday in Guam!

Now play this scenario out across multiple contests, and you can see the dilemma Newt, and Rick, face.  If both stay in, neither has a strong shot at catching Mitt.  If one drops, the other’s chances improve.  But which one should drop?  Because both think they are still in this race, neither is likely to drop soon.  By the time it becomes obvious to one (or both) that the delegate math is clearly against them, it will be too late (if it’s not already!)  And while party leaders are now pressing Newt to drop out, it’s not immediately clear to me – nor, more importantly, to him! – that he is actually the weaker of the two candidates.   Indeed, for the first time during this nomination contest, Gingrich is running ads targeting Santorum.

Dilemmas, dilemmas.  As Rick and Newt try to push each other out, Mitt continues to win delegates and wrack up endorsements as he slogs forward, delegate by delegate, to clinching the nomination – this despite the fact that he’s the guy who, as Romney supporter and former Congressman Tom Davis suggested, “gives the fireside chat and the fire goes out.”  Davis went on to praise Romney’s leadership qualities, saying, “H]e’s a results-oriented guy and in tough times, who do you want leading the country? He may not be able to feel your pain and empathize with people, but do you want that or do you want somebody who’s actually accomplished some things and is going to make some tough decisions, which the country needs.” (Davis also noted that Romney might fall short of winning a majority of delegates prior to the convention.)

Ouch! And that’s from a supporter!  With endorsements like that, it’s understandable why Gingrich and Santorum won’t drop out.

And so, Gatsby-like, Newt and Rick will likely beat on, boats against the current… .

Addendum 1:57: As Mo Fiorina reminds me via email, my scenario assumes that most of Newt’s supporters go to Rick if Newt drops out, and vice versa if Rick calls it quits.  Polling data suggests, however, that at least some of Newt’s vote would go to Romney, although a majority would likely switch to Rick.

Why Rick, Newt (and Ron) Stay In The Race

At the risk of oversimplification, there are two dominant views regarding what happened on SuperTuesday, and what it means for the rest of the Republican nomination fight.  The prevailing (but not sole) media view is that Romney underperformed; although he won a majority of states and delegates, he failed to deliver a knockout blow.  As a result, despite padding his delegate lead, the nomination contest will continue, with an outside chance that Romney won’t win a majority of the delegates before the convention. Despite his delegate lead, then, Romney’s failure to put his rivals away opens up the possibility that he will increasingly project the aura of a loser.

Political scientists, on the other hand, don’t really care about “style points”, or even how many states candidates won.  To them, all that matters is the delegates.  And, on that basis, Romney was the decisive winner on Tuesday; by gaining a majority of the 400-plus available delegates, he padded his overall lead in that column, moving ahead of his closest rival Rick Santorum by about 220 delegates, 380 to 160, and inching closer to securing the necessary 1,144.   (Note that these delegates totals should be read with caution because they are based in part on projected caucus votes.) For most political scientists, then, the results from SuperTuesday gave Romney a bushel of bricks to add to his already formidable wall of inevitability.

It won’t surprise regular readers to know that I reside mostly in the political science camp.  Indeed, as I posted before SuperTuesday,  the collective outcomes of the 10 races on that day were never going to change the essential dynamics driving this nomination race – dynamics that have put Romney in the undisputable delegate lead and which make it very difficult to see how any of his current rivals can catch him.   Where I have differed with some of my professional colleagues, however, is in their initial assumptions that this nomination fight would follow the pattern of most previous contests in the modern presidential selection process, with Romney building on early victories to close this race out fairly quickly.  I did not think this would happen for at least two reasons.

First, I think some early assessments probably overreacted to some of Josh Putnam’s invaluable analyses of the new delegate rules and assumed that the Republican Party decision to move toward a more mixed delegate allocation process probably wouldn’t change the nomination dynamics too much.  The idea was that if one candidate emerged as a clear frontrunner, even under the new rules that person would effectively win delegates in many states in a winner-take-all fashion.  But this assumption underplayed the fact that candidates are not passive players; they react strategically to incentives.  In this case, rather than drop out after Romney’s early victories as they would have done under the old rules, his opponents calculated that if they stayed in the race they could both pick up delegates and prevent Romney from reaching the winner-take-all  thresholds in most states.   The new delegate system, then, has done more than spread the contests out – it has created incentives for those trailing the front runner to stay in the race longer than in previous years.

The second difference is that I put less stock in the value of endorsements to impact the nomination process this time around.  I do so in large part because of what happened in 2010, when the Tea Party faction was able in key Senate and House races to override the wishes of party leaders and run their own preferred candidates.  That suggested to me that, in the face of Tea Party and conservative opposition, the power of party leaders to swing support to their preferred candidate during the nomination process had probably lessened.  Although periodically I read that a recent set of endorsements suggests that the party is finally falling in line behind Romney, I’ve yet to see evidence that this is actually happening.  Instead, what I have seen is that the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party shows no sign of warming up to Romney, despite repeated efforts by party leaders to declare that this nomination race is over.   If it is, conservative Republican voters haven’t got the message.

There is a third factor at play here that has extended this race, one that I did not anticipate.  That is the rise of the SuperPacs.  While I was very confident that expectations that corporations would pour money into the presidential campaign in response to the Citizens United decision was wrong, I did not anticipate how the Speechnow ruling (which referenced Citizens United) would contribute to the rise of the SuperPacs.  While not completely leveling the playing field by erasing Romney’s financial advantage – indeed, he has benefitted from SuperPac money – they have at least kept Santorum and Gingrich in the game.

Even assuming that I am correct, however, and that these factors explain why the dynamics of this race have differed in some respects from most recent nomination contests, why do Rick and Newt (and Ron Paul) bother to stay in the race if the eventual outcome will be a Romney victory?  Again, pundits have postulated a number of reasons, ranging from Newt’s desire to spite Mitt to Rick’s hope to finagle a position in the Romney administration to both candidates’ unwillingness to yield the media spotlight.   I think the answer is much simpler.  Both Rick and Newt believe a significant portion of Republican voters are unhappy with Romney – they are right about this – and that these voters probably prefer either one of them to Mitt, and both see a not implausible way in which they can prevent Romney from clinching the nomination before the convention.  This is a longshot strategy, of course, but not mathematically impossible and, if it happens, all bets are off.  Until this strategy becomes clearly unfeasible, or more nearly so, I expect both Rick and Newt to stay in this race.  Currently Newt is in the more vulnerable position – he needs to do very well in Alabama and Mississippi next Tuesday – but barring a Romney victory in both these states, this race is destined to continue for at least another month.  The worry for the Republican Party leaders, of course, is that an extended race simply weakens Romney heading into the general election.  I tend to think gas prices and the jobs picture will play a bigger role come November than whether Romney clinches earlier or later.  In either case, however, Republican Party leaders aren’t in a great position to do anything about the dynamics of the nomination process.

Of course, it is possible that at some point Rick and Newt may realize that it is in their mutual interest for them to join forces, with one of them stepping down in exchange for future promises,  in order to stop fracturing conservative support.  It actually would be to both their benefit to strike this deal now, while each is in a relatively strong negotiating position.  In the absence of such a deal, however, the race will go on. While I disagree with my colleagues who say the race is over, I agree that in the absence of a joint Newt-Rick venture, the most probable outcome remains Mitt winning the delegate race.

Of course, there’s always  Operation Brokered Convention.

Live Blogging Super Tuesday

7:00  We open with bad news for Romney – CNN has not given him Vermont, which means he didn’t likely clear the 50% total, which means he doesn’t win a clean sweep of Vermont 17 delegates.  Only Paul and Mitt were on the air here, and I’m surprised he didn’t clear 50%.  If these numbers hold he’s likely going to have to share some Vermont delegates with both Paul and Santorum.  Not the best way to start the night.

Meanwhile, as expected, Newt takes Georgia.  But by how much?  And did Santorum clear 20% statewide?  Exit polls suggest Newt just fell short, but it’s close enough that given the margin of error, it’s not out of the question.  Meanwhile, it looks like Rick just fell short of 20%, meaning he gets no statewide delegates in the biggest delegate state of the night.   Not a good start for Rick either.

also, late call on Mitt in Virginia, which suggests he didn’t do as well there as I might have guessed.  Again, not a good sign for Mitt, but a very good sign for Ron Paul.  Remember, neither Santorum nor Newt were on the Virginia ballot.

Meanwhile, apropos of my latest post, the Gingrich people are arguing that Santorum may be finished tonight, with the bottom dropping out of his support.  Meanwhile, Santorum is arguing that if only Gingrich was out of the race, they would be beating Romney.  sigh – listen to  yourselves!  This isn’t rocket science!  Your strategy is clear…..otherwise, it Operation Brokered Convention.

By the way, we spent a seminar today talking about Mo Fiorina’s argument in his book Disconnect that while elites are focused on social cultural issues, the general public just doesn’t care about these highly divisive issues.   As if on cue, I just listened to the talking heads on CNN spend 15 minutes battling about contraception and so-called “women’s issues.”  Class, I hope you are taking notes!  And CNN people – one more time:  contraception is not a women’s issue, and the gender gap is not premised on differences among women and men these “women’s issues”.

The Ohio results are coming in in five minutes, but I’m guessing they won’t call the state immediately.   Already CNN has hyped this as the big story tonight. You know my take on that.

Wolf just trotted out the whole whoever wins Ohio wins the presidency canard – should someone tell him that’s for the general election?

In Georgia, once again Romney’s support goes up as one moves up the income ladder.   Not much evidence he’s gaining among the Tea Party group.  43% of Mitt’s support comes from  those earning over $220 thousand.   Of course, as Ann would remind us, that doesn’t feel like much money!

Fox has already projected Romney to win Vermont – now CNN agrees.

CNN blathering on about Ohio as the most important state tonight. Not.

The Georgia results are really interesting – Mitt actually beat Santorum 24%-21% among the 69% who are Tea Party supporters. I don’t think Rick is going to make the 20% threshold.  If Newt clears 50%, this is a big big win for him there in terms of delegates.

Meanwhile, Ron Paul is in North Dakota.  That says alot about how limited his candidacy is among Republicans.  He’s hoping for a win there… .Wolf just trotted out the whole whoever wins Ohio wins the presidency canard – should someone tell him that’s for the general election?

Remember, we are still waiting on two key states – Tennessee and Oklahoma. In many respects, Tennessee is a bigger state tonight than Ohio in showing candidates strengths and weaknesses.  And Oklahoma will be a surprise no matter how it turns out, since we have so little polling data there.

Finally, some exit poll data in Tennessee and Oklahoma – huge turnout among evangelicals – about 78% in both states.  But, if that vote is split, Romney can squeak by with about 30% of the vote.  But I’m guessing he’s going to fall short in Tennessee – just a guess at this point.

Wow – exit polls showing Santorum ahead in both Tennessee and Oklahoma – if that holds, that’s big for him, since he can claim he’s the non-Mitt.  It’s bad news for Newt…..and bad news for Mitt.  By the way, CNN is projecting Mitt at about 38%  in Vermont, which means he did not clear the 50% barrier. That means both Rick and Ron Paul might get the minimum 3 delegates each.  Meanwhile, Mitt falls short in Tennessee.  This is not looking like a good night for Mitt, compared to what he might have hoped for at the outset.  He’s still going to win the most delegates, however… .

Same story in Ohio – Mitt’s support maps onto income.  He wins older and better educated voters. Still no sign he’s expanding his coalition.

So, stepping back and looking at the big picture – so far, this is a reaffirmation of the status quo.  Not a great night for Mitt – still no evidence he can expand his support.  Rick and Newt continue to split the tea party evangelical vote.  It will be interesting to see if Gingrich clears 20% statewide threshold in Tennessee – he needs that to win delegates there.  Right now, however, I don’t see this as a great night for Newt.  He wins Georgia, and he’ll pick up delegates in Oklahoma and Tennessee, I think, but he’s not making the case for why he should be the non-Mitt.  The media will fixate on state victories, and Santorum looks like he’ll take at least two (Tennessee and Oklahoma).

So, big news tonight is Sarah Palin doesn’t deny that she would accept draft at a brokered convention!  Go Operation Brokered Convention!

Huge debate on CNN about Sarah Palin’s future.  Filling dead air….. .

Is it me, or has this been a very underwhelming SuperTuesday night?  No surprises at all so far.  But what’s worse – no sign that any of the candidates have changed the dynamics of this race. At all.

Well, so much for Harold Ford!  NBC is projecting that Santorum will win Tennessee.  My guess is he benefited from early banking of votes, but still a big victory for him – and bad news for Newt.  I wonder what this does for the Alabama and Mississippi contests next week?

Newt is coming on – just as he hears he has lost Tennessee.  The crowd looks very subdued.  It’s not by accident that they have begun using Callista more and more – obvious ploy to help with his “baggage”.   But this is not a good night for him.

So far, Newt doesn’t seem like a chicken who recognizes his head is gone.  But I guess that’s the point.

This is sounding more like mean Newt than happy Newt.  He has to be careful  that he doesn’t sound too bitter.

Newt doesn’t sound like he’s dropping out.  New image for cartoonists – Newt is a tortoise.  A very heavy tortoise.

In Newt’s defense, he may still come out ahead of Rick in delegates.   I think I may have said that if Newt gets 50%, he wins all of Georgia’s statewide delegates.  Actually, I don’t think that’s true – that only holds for the congressional districts; he gets all 3 delegates in each c.d. if he breaks 50%.  But he doesn’t get all statewide delegates – Mitt will get a few of them by virtue of clearing 20%.

Newt is suddenly on a roll.  It’s worth watching.  He’s gotten beyond bitter Newt to big ideas Newt.  Frankly, big ideas Newt is a bit more appealing.

Santorum takes Oklahoma – big night for Rick, and more bad news for Newt, although he’s in a battle for second place there.  But in more bad news for Newt – he may not make 20% in Tennessee either, which means he get none of the 21 at large delegates there.

Perhaps the least publicized story of the night?  Ron Paul got 41% of the vote in Virginia!  How much of that was the protest vote from Santorum and Gingrich backers?

Don’t look now, but Santorum is hanging in at 20% in Georgia – if he can clear that, he gets some of the statewide votes.

I’m wondering if the exit polls understated Rick’s vote in GA – if so, did they also understate it in Ohio?   The media will go berserk if Rick wins Ohio, along with Tennessee and Oklahoma….looks like he’s ready to speak!

Rick is holding his “victory party” in Ohio, and not wearing a vest.  Great touch to mention he’s in a high school – contrast with Mitt’s country club roots.

BTW, in response to Chris re: Virginia question:  if Mitt wins 50% plus statewide, he gets all 13 statewide delegates.  Remaining 33 delegates are apportioned three a piece to each congressional district winner.   So Mitt may win all 46 delegates there – or at least close to that.   Let’s not forget that before we say Mitt has had a bad night.

But – Mitt has had a bad night!

Don’t look now, but Rick’s 90 year old mother is ready to keel over.

Mitt is on.  This is early – not a good sign. It means he wants to get on the stage before Ohio is declared against him (if it is)..although they are saying Mitt planned it this way all along. And maybe he did.

Meanwhile, I thought that was a very good speech by Santorum – one that contrasted nicely in a positive way with Newt’s.

BTW, looks like Newt will clear 20% in Tennessee, but it’s very dicey for Santorum to do the same in Georgia….

Parsing the exit polls – the only income group Mitt wins in Tennessee is the greater than $200k income level – as in Georgia and Ohio, his support declines as you go down the income ladder.  Santorum’s increase as you go down the income scale.

Chris points out that Rick is up 12% in North Dakota, with 60% of the precincts counted.   Bad news for Ron Paul, who has to spend his night there. Once again he’s the bridesmaid.  More importantly, it adds to Rick’s luster tonight…

Romney just doesn’t seem to have Rick’s enthusiasm in his speech tonight.  I think he’s knows this is a bad night for him…..

Great comment from Jeff – even Mitt’s audience seems mechanized tonight. They do everything they are supposed to, but it seems rehearsed, not genuine…

meanwhile, Mitt is closing in Ohio as votes come in from lake areas….

Looks like a reprise of Michigan – much as I thought.  Not going to be much difference in the delegate count between Mitt and Rick, but the media narrative will be affected if Mitt loses Ohio.  But I want to go on record as saying this is a big night for Rick no matter what happens in Ohio.

As Chris pointed out, Rick is ahead in North Dakota, and now CNN is giving him the state.  In CNN’s world, that means equivalency with Mitt.  Both have won three states….. .  Remember, however, North Dakota’s actual 28 convention delegates aren’t chosen until late March.  It is supposed to reflect today’s vote, but it doesn’t have to.

So, where does the hard delegate count stand?  This is back of the envelope calculations and much depends on whether Rick meets the 20% threshold in Georgia, and the same for Newt in Tennessee.   But I think Newt and Rick are going to be pretty close in overall delegates.  I’ll know better tomorrow.  But it will be interesting to combine their total and see how well it matches up to Mitt’s.  Harry Enten has Newt taking 29 congressional districts delegates in Georgia and Santorum only 3 – if that.

Meanwhile, Chris wonders about Saturday’s territorial votes in Guam and the Virgin Islands.  I have no idea how they will go – but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ron Paul fly out to claim at least one victory.

John King just repeated the idea that no Republican has won the presidency without winning Ohio – which is completely irrelevant to tonight’s results.   Somebody smack the entire CNN news crew!

Keep in mind that because he didn’t file a full delegate slate in Ohio, Santorum’s going to lose the delegate race to Romney in Ohio by a bit.  Not that the media will notice that.

Look, Ohio is going to be a dead heat tonight.  I think whoever loses will probably push for a recount.  But the larger story is that this has not been a good night for Mitt, and it has been a very good night for Rick.  But I’ll know better by the light of day what the delegate count is…

What I want to know now – will Santorum move ahead of Newt in Mississippi and Alabama?

Meanwhile, Wolf is about to have a coronary!  Ohio is tightening!

Meanwhile, CNN is projecting that Gingrich gets 6 delegates in Tennessee, compared to 10 for Mitt and 24 for Rick.  In Georgia, they’ve given Newt 33 delegates – none as yet to Mitt or Rick.

Looks like Mitt will pull Ohio out, but it hardly matters except in symbolic terms.  The fact is, this has been a weak night for him. Keep in mind, if you add Gingrich and Santorum vote together in Ohio, they dwarf Mitt’s.

Let’s not forget Idaho – if Romney wins there, doesn’t he win the night using CNN’s ridiculous “state wins” criteria?

Folks, I think we have the gist of what happened tonight – Mitt will get the bulk of the delegates but he probably underperformed, Rick had a very good night, Newt not so good – and the race will continue…

I have an early teaching day tomorrow, so I’m signing off.  If I can (and tomorrow is busy teaching day), I’ll try to do an initial post-mortem.

thanks all for participating!