Monthly Archives: January 2012

Finland 2012

The first round of presidential elections were held in Finland on January 23, with a runoff scheduled to take place on February 5. The President of Finland is directly elected for a term of six years and is immediately re-eligible once. Interestingly, as Finland amended its constitution to make the President directly elected (in 1994), it went in suit with a significant reduction in the President’s powers, transforming Finland from a French-like semi-presidential system to a rather parliamentary system with a ceremonial presidency. While the President retains power over appointments, defense and foreign policy, the presidency’s powers vis-a-vis legislation has been curtailed and a veto can be overridden very easily. Despite the limited powers, the President is still a fairly prestigious position and the Presidents in recent years have become seen as sources of stability. Presidential elections also attract very heavy turnout, often 80% or more of voters, who are said to appreciate the personal nature of the election in contrast to party-list parliamentary elections.

Since 1982, the Presidency has been held by the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Presidential elections since 1994 have all been decided in fairly close runoffs, and they have been straight left-right contests with the left united behind the SDP while the ‘non-socialist’ parties unite behind whichever of their candidates placed second in the first round. For example, in 2006, incumbent President Tarja Halonen of the SDP (backed by the Left Alliance, VAS) won 46% in the first round against only 24% for conservative candidate (National Coalition, KOK) Sauli Niinistö, but in the runoff Niinistö won 48% as he received the backing of other candidates including then-Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen of the Centre Party (KESK).

This year’s presidential election follows a legislative election in April last year which saw the emergence of Timo Soini’s populist True Finns (PS) as the third largest party with 19%, closely behind KOK (20%) and the SDP (19%) and ahead of former Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi’s Centre Party (15.8%). Mari Kiviniemi’s party paid a heavy price for the government’s support of the EU bailout of Ireland and Greece. Soini’s agenda, mixing left-wing rhetoric on economic and welfare issue with Euroscepticism, nationalism, anti-parliamentarianism and isolationism proved popular with voters in an election fought around the bailout and political-financial scandals in the Finnish political class. However, differences on European policy were far too vast to bridge and PS ended up staying outside government, joining KESK in opposition. All other parties – led by Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen’s National Coalition – are in government which thus includes the SDP, the Left Alliance (VAS), the Greens, the Swedish People’s Party (SFP-RKP) and the Christian

Since his surprising strong showing in the 2006 election, Sauli Niinistö of the governing KOK has been something of a “President in waiting” or at least runaway favourite for this year’s election. Niinistö served as Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister between 1995 and 2001 (actually, he was Justice Minister between 1995 and 1996) and as Speaker between 2007 and 2011. Like most of his party, Niinistö is rather libertarian: right-wing on economic issues, but liberal on moral issues. Niinistö and KOK are both pro-European, and Niinistö says that only inflation will help Europe’s indebted countries settle their problems. Niinistö’s appeal breaks that of his party as he already seems to have a personal stature and a reputation as a competent and independent politician.

The race featured several other big names. The SDP nominated former Prime Minister (1995-2003) Paavo Lipponen is suspected of being an East German agent of influence and has been criticized – notably by EU milieus – because of his ties to Nord Stream, a Russian gas project. Lipponen ran a very pro-European campaign, supporting greater European integration. The True Finns (PS) nominated their leader, Timo Soini, who ran for President in 2006 winning only 3% of the vote. Soini, obviously, ran a Eurosceptic campaign, arguing that Greece’s departure from the Euro-zone is inevitable. He has warned against what he says is growing centralization in financial decision making in the EU behind the ECB.

The Centre Party (KESK) nominated former Foreign Minister and longtime politician Paavo Väyrynen. Väyrynen, who has served in various cabinets since the mid-1970s, already ran for President in 1988 and 1994, both times without success. On European policy, KESK has usually been divided, historically being rather Eurosceptic but moving towards more pro-European positions under the leadership of Matti Vanhanen and Mari Kiviniemi. Since their defeat, KESK seems to have moved back towards more Euro-critical positions, likely in a bid to woo those Centre voters who voted for PS in the April 2011 election. Since Finland joined the EU in 1994, Väyrynen has always been critical of EU membership and then Eurozone membership, and has thus been a thorn in the side for his party’s leadership. He returned to government in 2007 as Foreign Trade Minister, but was defeated running in a new constituency in 2011. Väyrynen ran a Euro-critical campaign, joining Soini in saying that the Eurozone would dissolve and in criticizing the pro-European Lipponen and Niinistö of misleading the public and the legislature when Finland joined the Euro. He supports leaving the Euro.

The Greens nominated Pekka Haavisto, an openly gay MP and former Environment Minister in the 1990s. After his tenure in government, Haavisto worked for the UN and the EU, notably serving as the EU’s representative in Sudan during the Darfur peace negotiations. Haavisto is liberal and pro-European. The Left Alliance (VAS) nominated its leader and incumbent Culture Minister Paavo Arhinmäki, who ran as the ‘anti-NATO’ candidate. The Swedish People’s Party nominated Eva Biaudet, a former MP and cabinet minister and incumbent Ombudsman for Minorities. The Christian Democrats nominated Sari Essayah MEP, a former world and European race walking (10km) champion.

Turnout was 72.7%, down a bit from 2006 but up from 70.5% in the 2011 election. Results were:

Sauli Niinistö (KOK) 37%
Pekka Haavisto (Green) 18.8%
Paavo Väyrynen (KESK) 17.5%
Timo Soini (PS) 9.4%
Paavo Lipponen (SDP) 6.7%
Paavo Arhinmäki (VAS) 5.5%
Eva Biaudet (SFP-RKP) 2.7%
Sari Essayah (KD) 2.5%

The runaway favourite and leader in all polling since day one, Sauli Niinistö predictably came out on top. With 37%, he far outruns his party’s showing in the last election – just a tad above 20% – which really shows how Niinistö has built a large personal vote for himself which far surpasses the traditional base of KOK. Of course, his support is not so overwhelming that he could win by the first round, but no candidate has done that since the Finnish President has been directly elected. He enters the runoff, which will be held on February 5, as the favourite but like every other runoff contest since 1994 it is inevitable that the race will narrow considerably. What makes this election particularly interesting, however, is not Sauli Niinistö’s victory – that was predictable – but rather who placed second.

Pekka Haavisto had been surging in polls in the last few days, placing him in contention for the runoff. On election night, early returns initially placed him behind the KESK’s Paavo Väyrynen but as votes piled up from urbanized Helsinki and southern Finland, he ran past Väyrynen and placed himself into second. While polls had picked up Haavisto’s surge in the last few days, advance voting (11-17 January) indicates that he had a rather important surge in the final stretch: he won 14.6% of the advance votes, quite a bit behind Väyrynen (18%) and Niinistö (39.6%). On election day votes only, he won 22% against 17% for Väyrynen and 34.7% for Niinistö. Niinistö had a similar late surge in the 2006 runoff: if I recall correctly, he only lost because he had done poorly in advance voting. Haavisto’s support, of course, like that of Niinistö, far surpasses that of his party which won 7.3% in the 2011 election. Haavisto built a strong campaign in part through the use of social media, but he has always been popular as a person because of his character: he is said to treat all equally, regardless of rank, and places emphasis on the power of dialogue and reconciliation. Haavisto – who is openly gay – recently met with a particularly anti-gay PS MP and the meeting ended quite successfully for both involved. Finnish media has also talked of Haavisto’s success as some sort of “counter-jytky” – a backlash by liberal voters following the PS’ success in 2011.

As in 1994, Paavo Väyrynen was ultimately unsuccessful in making it to the runoff despite having been seen by the media as the likely runner-up even in the final days. With 17.5%, he builds a bit on KESK’s terrible 15.8% in the 2011 election. For KEKS, Väyrynen can be credited for at least one thing: attracting back some of the traditional rural KESK voters who had abandoned the party in favour of Timo Soini’s True Finns in the 2011 election. Väyrynen’s Euro-critical campaign, quite similar to Soini’s campaign on European issues in fact, was the perfect fit for that type of rural, conservative voter who have formed the backbone of KESK but whose preference for Soini’s PS in the 2011 election destroyed KESK, which lost over 7% of the vote in that election.

Timo Soini’s result is about 10% less than what his party won in 2011. It has been said that PS’ true focus this year are the fall local elections, but it is still a fairly weak showing for the sensation of the 2011 election. Väyrynen likely won the support of quite a few PS voters. It has also been written that Soini’s personal support is weaker than that of his party, which might sound bizarre given how Soini is the party and all, but it is not too uncommon. In Austria at least, Heinz-Christian Strache’s personal ratings on suitability for Prime Minister are much lower than that of his party – and Strache is becoming as closely connected to his party as Soini is with his.

Paavo Lipponen and the left in general had a horrible night. The next President of Finland – for the first time since 1982 – will not be a Social Democrat (and for the first time since 1956, will not be a centrist) and the SDP will not be in the runoff. The Finnish left as a whole has won a horrible result, barely above 12% of the total vote. Lipponen’s popularity was probably hit a bit by the Nord Stream case, but he was not a particularly horrible candidate and the SDP is not in horrible shape (16% in polls, down from 19% in 2011). Lipponen is a very right-wing Social Democrat, so those who liked him voted directly for Niinistö, who also enjoyed strong support with old voters – a key SDP constituency. On the other hand, Haavisto likely took a look from traditional left-wing SDP voters. The VAS’ Paavo Arhinmäki also did pretty poorly – his party had won 8% in 2011. VAS has been hit by entering the right-leaning government and it has also been a source of division inside the party: a few MPs walked out from the party following VAS leadership’s decision to join cabinet. Haavisto probably took support from some VAS voters, after VAS had took some votes from the Greens in 2011.

Biaudet and Essayah did pretty poorly compared to the 4% their parties won in 2011, though in both their cases they did better than their parties candidates in 2006.

The map of the result shows us a pretty interesting north-south split, with Niinistö’s support concentrated in the urbanized, more industrialized regions of southern Finland and Väyrynen sweeping the sparsely populated rural areas up north, the traditional bedrock of KESK support. Niinistö appears to have won some traditionally left-leaning working-class cities in southern Finland, in addition to the more conservative Helsinki suburbs or Turku. Haavisto’s support, unsurprisingly, was also heavily concentrated in the urbanized south. He took 22% in Uusimaa and 34.5% in Helsinki – and he actually won election day votes in the Finnish capital with 39% against 34% for Niinistö. While Väyrynen, placing third, won a ton of municipalities – rural, northern for the most part – Haavisto, placing second, won nothing. Eva Biaudet, of course, won the Swedish-speaking municipalities of coastal Finland and the Swedish-speaking Åland Islands (though by no means was the vote in the homogeneously Swedish Åland Islands homogeneously behind the Swedish candidate; Lipponen did very well with 25% and second place). A similar thing had happened in 2006, when Niinistö far outran the KESK’s Vanhanen for second but ended up winning only two towns (two affluent Helsinki suburbs) while Vanhanen swept a bunch of rural Centre strongholds in religious Oulu country (but nobody lives there).

The runoff will be particularly interesting, as instead of being an old-style left/right contest or even a straight pro-EU/anti-EU contest, it opposes a ‘conservative’ to a ‘liberal’ who are both pro-European and fairly centrist, Haavisto being the most left-wing of the two. Anti-European voters who backed Soini and Väyrynen may choose to opt out from the runoff, but those who do vote will need to choose between two pro-European centrists. Niinistö remains the favourite, but if he wins it will not be a landslide (polls say 74-26, which obviously won’t happen). Haavisto is going to get serious momentum out of his result and if he replicates his first round campaign in the runoff, he could prove a match to Niinistö. Niinistö will likely grasp conservative voters, those who backed the PS, KESK and KD candidates in the first round. Haavisto will take heavy support from VAS voters and probably a good share of SDP voters and a fair share of Swedish voters. YLE had a rumour that Soini had said he could back Haavisto in the runoff, which is interesting and while he has said he has not indicated his preference at this point, it might be indicative of something. The overlap between PS and KOK is usually pretty thin, but the overlap between PS and Green is almost in-existent as the two parties traditionally hate each other. The race is on.

Croatia EU membership referendum 2012

A referendum on the EU accession of Croatia was held on January 22 in Croatia. On December 9, Croatia signed a Treaty of Accession but a referendum on the matter is constitutionally mandated. If all 27 member states ratify Croatia’s accession, the country should become the EU’s 28th member state on July 1, 2013.

Croatia’s accession process formally began in June 2004 when it became an official candidate country and negotiations between Zagreb and Brussels were launched in October 2005 and lasted until June 2011. Croatia faced two main challenges in the accession process: full cooperation by Zagreb with the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and a border dispute with Slovenia. In June 2001, the ICTY charged Croatian general Ante Gotovina – a Croatian hero because of his role in the Croatian War of Independence in the 1990s – with crimes against humanity, but Gotovina fled into hiding for four years day before an arrest warrant was handed down. He was arrested in Spain in 2005 and convicted to 24 years in jail in April 2011. While Croatian governments post-2001 have been willing to cooperate with the ICTY, public opinion has proven to be far more nationalist on the issue as Gotovina is still well regarded by most Croats as an hero of the country’s war of independence against the Serbs. There was an ephemeral surge in Eurosceptic nationalist sentiment in Croatia in April following Gotovina’s conviction. Until 2010, finally, Slovenia, an EU member, had blocked Croatia’s accession process because of a territorial dispute between the two countries (explained in full on Wikipedia) which was resolved in 2009 and ratified by referendum in Slovenia in 2010. Corruption and foreign land ownership (notably by Italians in Istria, which was Italian until the end of World War II) also proved to be contentious issues.

All major parties in Croatia are supportive of European integration. The conservative HDZ, in power until late last year, moved away from the authoritarian nationalism of the Tuđman era to traditional pro-European modern conservatism, especially under the leadership of former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader. Following Tuđman’s death, the election in 2000 of a Social Democratic government led by Ivica Račan and a liberal President, Stjepan Mesić, kicked off the accession process by transforming Croatia into a modern liberal democratic society. These policies were continued, enthusiastically, by the conservative governments of Ivo Sanader and Jadranska Kosor. No parliamentary party seems to have clearly said it is against EU membership – only far-right movements such as the Croatian Party of Rights have done so – but Dragutin Lesar’s Labour Party and the conservative-regionalist HDSSB both called for delaying the vote to allow for what they claim would be a fairer campaign by both sides.

The results were as follows:

Do you support membership of Croatia in the EU?
YES 66.27%
NO 33.13%

It is a fairly resounding victory for European integration, with two thirds of voters in support, but it is tarred a bit by the low turnout: only 43.51% of voters turned out to vote, which has led the far-right to say that 71% of voters either did not vote or rejected membership. I don’t know what to attribute low turnout to, but it is likely motivated by the sense that the resounding victory of the yes was an inevitability and that voting would not change much to what seems to be a fait accompli. The campaign – which was very short – did not seem particularly active or interesting. Besides, the opponents surely did not have the mobilization and financial resources of the yes side and could not really mount a major campaign of opposition. The government also warned that popular rejection of EU accession would cost Croatia 1.6 billion € of lost European funding.

Despite the low turnout, it is fairly clear that Croatian public opinion remains favourable to the EU. It seems a bit crazy for any country to be rushing to join the European Union in the midst of the European debt crisis in which the EU as an institution has fared pretty poorly. Enthusiasm has perhaps been diminished a bit by the debt crisis, but European integration probably retains much support because Croatia is due to receive 3.5 billion € in European funds over two years once it joins in 2013.

The map of the vote is quite interesting. I had expected opposition to be highest in the conservative and nationalist areas bordering Bosnia in Slavonia and Lika – basically the old war zones covering the territory of the old breakaway republic of Serbian Krajina in the 1990s. Nationalist parties and candidates have always performed best in that poor and rural region, but in the referendum there was little discernible difference between the vote in those regions and the national average. In some cases, such as in Slavonia, support was even higher than the national average. Opposition was highest in the counties of Split (40.7%) and Dubrovnik (42%). Politically, these two counties tend to be conservative, but they act less nationalistic as they lie outside the war zones. Dubrovnik especially and Split to a lesser extent are important tourist destinations, which makes the low support for European integration kind of puzzling. My only uneducated theory about the low support for European integration in Split and Dubrovnbik is that these two counties – which border the heavily Croatian counties of Bosnia – have closer economic ties with Bosnia. Dubrovnik county itself is split in two by Bosnia’s 20km-long seacoast in Neum, and the economic implications of this might have something to do with the level of support for EU membership. The northern inland county of Koprivnica-Križevci also saw pretty high opposition, just below 40%. I was a bit surprised support was just 68% in Istria, which has a reputation for being a liberal, tolerant and internationally-oriented place. Perhaps the issue of foreign land ownership by Italians played a role? At any rate, the map is rather interesting and I do hope somebody, someday, will do more research on the topic.

USA 2012: South Carolina 2012

The race for the Republican nomination for this year’s American presidential election continued on January 21 with the “first in the South” primary in South Carolina. This is the third contest following the Iowa caucuses on January 3 and the NH primary on January 10. Rick Santorum ended up being certified as the winner in Iowa by a mere 34 votes after originally trailing Romney by 8 votes on election night. Mitt Romney won New Hampshire by a decisive margin, taking 39.3% of the vote in his ‘firewall’ state.

Rick Santorum’s delayed victory in Iowa (on January 19) did not generate much buzz so long after the actual caucus, so the record going into South Carolina was 2 wins and no loses for Romney. For Mitt Romney, South Carolina was a crucial state, almost a must-win for him. If he could score a knock-out blow in a conservative Southern state, it would if not speed up Romney’s potential nomination but could seal the deal for him. On top of that, South Carolina has picked the eventual Republican nominee in all contests since 1980, meaning that it is much more decisive than Iowa or New Hampshire who have tended to either choose insurgent/rebel candidates or just picked the “wrong guy”. In 2000, Governor Bush’s decisive win over John McCain pretty much ended the race for McCain while in 2008, John McCain’s victory over Southern evangelical Mike Huckabee did not end the race but it did give McCain major momentum going into Florida and Super Tuesday. Romney understood this, as did his three remaining rivals: Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul. Gingrich emerged as Romney’s main rival.

The race was bloody and a real roller-coaster. Gingrich’s original line of attack against Romney was Romney’s role in Bain Capital, but that attack pretty much backfired on Gingrich. As late as Monday-Tuesday, Romney had started pulling away from Gingrich and it seemed as if he would win the state pretty easily. But Romney did very poorly in a debate on Monday January 16 and stumbled further in a heated debate on January 19. In the final debate, Romney’s campaign was dealt a serious blow as he equivocated over his tax records (which he has not yet released, unlike Gingrich). When asked by CNN’s John King in the debate if Romney would follow in his father’s footsteps and release his tax records, Romney answered with a funny yet pretty strategically horrible “maybe”.

Gingrich could have been hurt with his conservative base by an ABC news interview with his second wife who claimed that he had asked her for an “open marriage” and that topic became the first subject of discussion in the CNN debate on January 19. But Gingrich, knowing the Republican electorate’s natural propensity to view the media as liberal and constantly seeking to destroy Republicans, gave a skillfully crafted answer which conveyed the feelings of many Republicans towards the media, calling the story ridiculous and disgusting. It generated a surge of sympathy of sorts for Gingrich, perceived by the Republican electorate as the victim of the liberal media.

Two candidates dropped out of the race between NH and SC. Jon Huntsman withdrew and endorsed Romney, realizing that after 17% in NH he had nowhere to go, especially not in a conservative state like South Carolina. Rick Perry, the biggest flop of this campaign, dropped out and endorsed Gingrich, realizing that his ‘last stand’ in SC was quite futile and that he no longer had a place in the campaign. Perry, a Southern evangelical, endorsing Gingrich (despite the “open marriage” moral issue) gave Gingrich a small momentum boost. On January 18, the race turned around as a whole string of polls showing Gingrich ahead came out. The January 19 debate only sped up Gingrich’s train.

Results and Conclusions

Newt Gingrich 40.41%
Mitt Romney 27.84%
Rick Santorum 16.98%
Ron Paul 12.99%
Herman Cain 1.05%
Rick Perry 0.41%
Others 0.31%

Results of the SC primary (source: uselectionatlas)

Newt Gingrich scored a landslide victory in South Carolina. After Iowa and New Hampshire, we had all presumed that Romney was becoming quite unstoppable and that he would be the likely nominee. However, Gingrich blowing Romney out of the water in Romney throws the race wide open. Gingrich’s victory in South Carolina is a mix of a number of things: late momentum for him following the ‘media attacks’ and Perry’s endorsement, negative coverage of Romney’s campaign following the tax records flop, his conservative stand in a conservative state against a moderate and a “Southern advantage” for Gingrich which should not be forgotten.

South Carolina is a conservative state and Evangelicals are a major voting bloc in the GOP primaries, but unlike, say, Alabama, it isn’t quite unwinnable for non-Southern or more moderate candidates. It backed John McCain over Mike Huckabee, despite McCain’s less-than-perfect conservative credentials and Huckabee’s standing as the sole Southern evangelical candidate in the race. Which is to say that despite Romney’s 15% in SC in 2008, Romney could have won South Carolina. Especially after his early momentum, Romney at one point looked unstoppable. But what seems to have happened is that Romney turned into the ‘Flavour of the Month’ like Bachmann, Perry, Cain and Gingrich before him. He experienced a brief surge, all to have it crumble as he faced intensive media scrutiny and became the top target of attacks from the not-Romneys. The tax records flop did hurt him a lot, but Republicans now seem uncomfortable a bit with Romney in part because of his conservative credentials but also his standing as a very wealthy venture capitalist. There is also the matter that Romney comes out as fake and plastic under scrutiny, answering questions like a robot.

Romney was blown out of the water in South Carolina. The next contest, which is equally as decisive, will be Florida on January 31. In 2008, McCain had defeated Romney 36-31 in Florida. Unlike South Carolina, Florida isn’t “heartland Dixie” outside the Panhandle, which means that Gingrich’s southern conservative advantage is less important. At the same time, at the height of his surge in late November-early December, Gingrich polled up to 47% in Florida, which means that he definitely has a shot at winning. In the last polls, Romney had a double-digit lead in Florida, but SC will give Gingrich momentum going into Florida meaning that at this point it probably starts out as a tossup. What seems increasingly important are the debates (January 23 and 26). In SC, they derailed Romney’s momentum and exit polls showed that for 65% of voters, debates were important and for 88% of voters, debates were a factor in their vote. Romney has not performed very well in debates, and in South Carolina he performed about as well as Rick Perry. If he can turn that around in Florida, he stands a chance, but if Gingrich can continue his destruction of Romney in Florida’s debates then it will be hard for Romney to fight back.

Following Florida, the next contests are a string of caucuses in Nevada (Feb 4), Colorado, Minnesota (Feb 7) and Maine (Feb 11) plus a beauty pageant primary in Missouri on February 7 where no delegates are distributed and Gingrich isn’t on the ballot there. Besides Missouri, Romney had won all those contests in 2008, a year in which Romney’s strength was caucuses. Caucuses tend to skew heavily conservative (Nevada had the second most conservative GOP electorate in 2008, behind Iowa), and Romney had an edge in 2008 as the ‘conservative’ candidate against Romney but in 2012 it is doubtful that Romney will have a similar advantage. Ron Paul can be expected to perform very strongly in all those caucus states, and it is not impossible that he runs away with one or two of those states. If Gingrich can hold on throughout this tougher spell, March will be a largely “Southern” month in which Gingrich should do well. But Gingrich needs to avoid becoming a second Mike Huckabee, an overrated sectional candidate. He has shown that in SC, but he must show it in Florida.

Rick Santorum won third place with 17%, which is impressive considering that Santorum had no organization in SC and still has little money to compete, but it seems as if South Carolina has halted what was left of Santorum’s post-Iowa momentum. He can still perform well, but it is doubtful he can win any other upcoming contests. He lacks the organization and money which he had in Iowa but which he doesn’t really have elsewhere. He has signaled that he remains in the race, claiming that it’s a dead heat after the 1-1-1 tie in state wins, but really if Santorum’s point is to win (unlike Ron Paul, who has money and a solid base and can just pile up delegates in case of a brokered convention), then he has little chance to do so. Rick Santorum is a strong candidate for South Carolina (despite being a Pennsylvania Catholic) and his social conservative record is the cleanest of all candidates, but it seems as if his main weakness is that he’s not a Southerner. In Iowa, he had very much under-performed Huckabee in those southern Iowa counties which are the most culturally Southern: those counties have preferred Southerners like John Edwards (in 2004 and 2008 Democratic caucuses) and Rick Perry this year.

For Ron Paul, 13% in South Carolina is a very good showing. South Carolina, like the bulk of the Confederacy, is not fertile ground for Ron Paul whose traditional base is dependent on a big presence of college kids or libertarian/moderate Republicans in places like Montana. Dixie has none of those, and Paul had won only 3.6% in SC in 2008. This shows that he has developed a much wider appeal to conservative Republicans or Republicans worried a lot about the deficit. Paul seems to be skipping Iowa, but as mentioned above, the caucus states in February should be favourable to Paul who has a motivated base and an increasingly conservative electorate. Paul probably won’t drop out until the convention, given that he has nothing to lose by staying in and nothing to gain from getting out. In fact, if the convention is a brokered convention (it probably won’t be), he could have a key role at the negotiating table if he piles up many delegates.

Herman Cain, everybody’s favourite candidate, did so “well” despite dropping out because he allowed his ballot slot to be used by comedian Stephen Colbert for purposes of Colbert’s attempt to throw himself into these primaries. Colbert and Cain held a large rally together in South Carolina, but it was mostly filled with liberals and out-of-state college kids.

Exit Poll Data

The exit polls provide interesting data to reflect on. Gingrich won all age groups save for the 18-29 cohort which went for Paul, and performed strongest with the older voters (65+, he took 47% of their vote) as did Romney (36%). For Romney, income remains one of the best predictors – save for a weird 29% showing for Romney with the poorest voters (under $30k), the wealthier you are the more likely you are to back Romney: he won the highest earners ($200k+) with 47% against 32% for Gingrich.

Republicans were 71% of the electorate, and they backed Gingrich 45-28 over Romney, but independents (25%) also supported him, though by a narrower 31-25-23 margin over Romney and Paul. Predictably, voters were quite conservative: 68% were conservatives (-1 from 2008) and 32% were moderates or liberals. Romney won moderates with 34% against 31% for Gingrich, while conservatives backed him 45-24 over Mitt. With those 36% who were very conservative, Gingrich won 48%. Evangelical Christians were 65% of the electorate, and those voters gave Gingrich 44% against 22% for Romney and 21% for Santorum.

The economy was the most important issue for 63% of voters, and Gingrich won those voters with 40% against 32% for Romney. Paul performed best (19%) with those 22% who cited the budget deficit as the most important issue, but Gingrich clearly dominated those voters with 45% against 23% for Romney. Predictably, Santorum rocked the field (51%) for those 8% who thought abortion was the most important issue. In what I think should ring alarm bells for Romney, he was clearly beaten by Gingrich (51-37) among those voters – 45% of the electorate – who see a candidate’s ability to defeat Obama as the most important quality. Romney’s ability to defeat Obama had been one of his biggest advantages thus far, so if he starts losing that kind of voter, it should ring alarm bells for Mitt.

On a final note, for those 65% who felt that debates were important in their vote, Gingrich was the preferred candidate with 50% against 23% for Romney. Romney, however, easily won those who felt debates were not important and won that small minority who said the debates were not even a factor in their vote by a big margin. Clearly, the debates are the main culprit in derailing Romney’s momentum.

Geographical Analysis

Politically, South Carolina is divided in three main regions: Upstate (Piedmont/Greater Appalachians), the Midlands (including the PeeDee) and the Low Country (Coastal Plains and Coastal Region). The Upstate, centered around the Evangelical epicentres of Greenville-Spartanburg (Bob Jones University is in Greenville) is a poor, deeply religious, largely white and historically textile-driven region. It has always tended to resist the power of the downstate plantations and Charleston elite, and has a very religious populist-conservative side to it. In 2008, it backed Mike Huckabee, whose strength also extended into the PeeDee region which, to a lesser extent, is also very religious and historically driven by the textile industry. Populist, conservative or evangelical candidates all play very well in this region, but they are not must-wins for winners as McCain showed.

Races are decided in the more populated Midlands and Low Country, which include the state capital and college town of Columbia, the economic centre of Charleston, the wealthy resort of Hilton Head and the tourist-retiree destination of Myrtle Beach. Historically, these regions in the Southern Black Belt were at the core of South Carolina’s plantation economy (and they retain a large black population) and exerted much of the political power. They are rather conservative (though the cities are more moderate), but more or less conservative establishment candidates usually tend to do best in the Black Belt counties while Columbia, Charleston and Hilton Head usually back moderates. At any rate, races are decided in these two regions. McCain’s victory was won there in 2008, while in 2000 Bush was able to defeat McCain by winning Upstate religious conservatives and the Midlands’ establishment conservatives (McCain won, basically, the four purely coastal counties).

Romney performed best in the Low Country, but his problem was that he ended up having limited demographic appeal. He could have won the establishment conservatives, and if he had done so he could have done without the religious conservatives of the Upstate where he was never competitive to begin with. However, Gingrich ended up having wider demographic appeal and built a Bush-like coalition of Upstate and Midlands conservatives while remaining very competitive even with the most moderate conservatives of the Low Country.

The map is pretty brutal to Romney. He won only Charleston, Richland and Beaufort Counties. Charleston and Columbia (Richland County) are the two largest cities in the state and Republicans there are largely affluent, white and more moderate. Beaufort County is Hilton Head, a very affluent resort community which is natural Romney territory. It was where he had done best in 2008, and where he did best this year with 43% of the vote. Romney was also a bit more competitive in Columbia’s suburbs, including affluent but more conservative Lexington County, and coastal Georgetown County which is affluent and old.

Gingrich won the rest of the state, by varying margins. He really did best in the Black Belt and the PeeDee (but ‘turnout’ is, of course, very low in the Black Belt), and won the Upstate. Interestingly, however, he actually did better in the Midlands/PeeDee than Upstate. This is largely because Rick Santorum’s more populist campaign (he has shown himself surprisingly ‘left-wing’ on economic issues compared to the rest of the field) resonated best with poorer populist whites. Santorum won 24% in York County, which is half Charlotte suburbia and half poorer textile country, and also won 23% in Lancaster County, 21.4% in Cherokee County and 20.7% in Spartanburg County. Ron Paul also performed best Upstate, peaking at 22% in Abbeville County, which seems fairly unremarkable besides being John C. Calhoun’s birthplace. He also did well in Greenville-Spartanburg, the rural Upstate and Pickens County (an Upstate county including the college town of Clemson). ‘Fake’ Herman Cain, predictably, did best in Columbia and Charleston (2.3%).

What should worry Romney going into Florida is his showing in Horry County (Myrtle Beach). McCain had won Horry County in 2000 and Romney had done fairly well there in 2008, so it was important for Romney to do well there. The kind of older, transplanted white retiree demographic which we find around Myrtle Beach is similar to the ones we find in parts of Florida, especially on the Gulf coast of the state (Cape Coral etc). Gingrich won Horry with 45.7% against 30% for Romney – predictably Santorum and Paul didn’t play well there. That Romney won’t do well in the Florida Panhandle is already well known, but if he wants to win Florida (he does), then he does need to perform better with the older age groups. He has a base there already, but in SC it was not large enough.

A lot of us (those who like primaries because they make for fun maps) had concluded not so long ago that the contest was over and that Romney would score a 45-50 state sweep. Less than a week later, the race is back to stage one and remains wide open. Romney’s nomination is no longer a quasi-certainty and the race is unlikely to end in Florida. It has been a crazy contest, and hopefully it remains just as crazy and fascinating!

Taiwan (Republic of China) 2012

Presidential and legislative elections were held in Taiwan (Republic of China) on January 14. The President and all 113 members of the country’s unicameral legislature, the Legislative Yuan, were up for reelection. The President is directly elected to a four-year term, renewable immediately once. There are no runoffs. The Legislative Yuan is now elected to a four-year term instead of a three-year term to synchronize legislative terms with the presidential term. Since a constitutional reform in 2005, 73 of the 113 members are elected by FPTP in single-member constituencies, while 34 seats are elected by the supplementary member system on a second ballot. The 6 remaining seats are elected by aboriginal voters through SNTV in two 3-member constituencies (highland and lowland tribes).

The President is elected on a ticket with a Vice President, and once in office he names a Premier, who is the head of the Executive Yuan – basically the cabinet. However, the Premier is not responsible to the legislature (it can depose him in a confidence vote, but he does not seek its confidence upon nomination) and rather reports to the President. In practice, the President is the dominant political actor and the Premier is a sidekick and ally of the president or his party.

Taiwan’s Political System: A Primer

American readers will find many elements of Taiwan’s political system rather similar to the American political system, especially the polarized two-party system. Taiwanese politics are fought not on left-right lines, but rather around the crucial question of whether Taiwan – officially the Republic of China – should become an independent nation or should seek reunification with mainland China.

Taiwan was incorporated in the same political entity as mainland China for only four years during the twentieth century, meaning that the island’s  ties with the mainland are not particularly strong. Taiwan was ceded to Japan by the Qing in 1895, and it only returned to China in 1945 after Japan’s defeat. However, four years later, Chiang Kai-Shek’s Kuomintang (KMT) was run out of the mainland by the Communists and forced to flee across the Straits to the island of Taiwan, which the Japanese had been careful of ceding to the KMT and not the Communists. Officially, the KMT’s stay in Taiwan was to be quite temporary, as Chiang was rather confident that he could reconquer the mainland within three years. But, as years passed, lacking American support for such an invasion, Taiwan became the KMT’s inexpugnable stronghold rather than the launching ground of a reconquest of the Communist mainland.

Viewing Taiwan as a base to retake the mainland, the KMT quickly attempted to subdue potential political opposition in Taiwan. Martial law was instituted in 1949 and lifted only in 1987, meaning that Taiwan – the Republic of China – became the KMT’s one-party state. The authoritarian era did not prevent rapid economic growth: Taiwan’s economic miracle and its emergence as a developed economic powerhouse took place during the authoritarian period. At the outset, the KMT, for obvious reasons, promoted Chinese nationalism over any local Taiwanese identity and the loyal  mainlanders who had fled with the KMT in 1949 took up the bulk of government and big business positions at the expense of Taiwan’s ‘local’ Han Chinese population since the 17th century, the Hoklo (or Taiwanese), who originally hailed from Fujian Province. The Hoklo, who spoke Taiwanese Hokkien rather than Mandarin, were excluded from political participation under the KMT regime and received little place in the KMT’s historical discourse which emphasized Chinese nationalism and the Mandarin language as the language of the one China.

Given the Hoklo’s exclusion from political participation, as the democratic unrest movement developed in the 1970s and 1980s in the wake of social inequalities, a rural exodus and labour disputes, it was largely dominated by the Hoklo majority. But even within the KMT there was a slow shift in the power dynamics: President Chiang Ching-kuo, a gradual reformist, sought to shift power towards the bensheng ren (those who lived in Taiwan pre-1949) rather than maintain mainlander/waisheng ren dominance of the system. Following Chiang Ching-kuo’s death in 1988, it was the Taiwanese-born Lee Teng-hui who became President despite the opposition of some conservative mainlanders. Lee would spearhead the movement towards democratization, with the repeal in 1991 of the laws setting up the authoritarian state and the first direct presidential election in 1996, won by Lee.

As the chances of the KMT’s reconquest of the mainland quickly faded by the 1970s, and as the political liberalization of the 1990s opened old taboos, the main political question in Taiwan became the issue of relations with mainland China, the PRC. Taiwan, still officially known as the Republic of China, claims that it is the sole legitimate government for the whole of China. The policy of eventual reunification and, in the meantime, maintaining the status-quo and a progressive liberalization of relations with the PRC, is supported by the pan-blue coalition, led by the KMT. The basis for this policy is the so-called 1992 consensus, which the KMT reads as an agreement between the two Chinas that there is only one China – which includes Taiwan – but the two ‘Chinese governments’ (Beijing and Taipei) have a different definition of who the legitimate ruler of the one China is. Chinese reunification has always been the KMT’s policy, though it is fairly recent that the KMT now supports peaceful diplomatic relations with the PRC. The discourse of reunification has always been set in the historical discourse of the KMT’s Chinese nationalism, which emphasizes the unity of China including the mainland and considers Taiwan as only one province of the broader China. The modern KMT no longer really treats Taiwan as an appendage, and its recent leaders have been rather moderate. Lee Teng-hui’s presidency supported the ‘Taiwanization’ movement, though Lee is now a prominent leader of the pro-independence pan-greens.

Those who oppose reunification or the 1992 consensus generally support the independence of Taiwan, as a sovereign entity separate from mainland China which lays no claim to the mainland. Taiwanese independence is officially supported by the pan-green coalition, led by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), a party born in 1986 out of the anti-KMT democratic movement. While the KMT’s rhetoric of reunification treats Taiwan as an integral part of a Greater China, the rhetoric of Taiwanese independence is founded in the idea of Taiwanese identity as different from Chinese identity. The Taiwanese identity claimed by the pan-green coalition is largely that of the Hoklo, who, though they are Han Chinese, lived in Taiwan long before the KMT’s mainlanders arrived in 1949 (which entails a much closer identification with Taiwan rather than China, given the long period of Japanese rule in Taiwan which broke links with the mainland) and speak Hokkien rather than Mandarian Chinese. A minority of more radical nationalists would support a unilateral declaration of independence of the Republic of Taiwan, but the DPP has been constrained by two factors to take a more moderate position. The first factor, which is domestic, is the widespread popular support for the status-quo; a recognition that Taiwan’s current position is de-facto independence through sovereign self-rule. The second factor, which is international, is the visceral opposition of Beijing to Taiwanese independence. The PRC considers Taiwan as an integral part of China and views the pan-green movement as a separatist movement within its borders, and threatens to use military force in the case of a declaration of independence. The US is also hostile to Taiwanese independence, for fear of the PRC’s response. The DPP thus tends to blur the difference between Taiwanese independence and sovereignty, while the KMT keenly delineates the two.

Talk of left-right politics are rare in Taiwan, and the parties are defined more by the reunification/independence divide than by traditional categories of left and right. The KMT leans to the right, which is the natural evolution of its old anti-communism and its current support for more economic deals with the mainland, which favours the large businesses in Taiwan. The DPP leans towards the centre-left (and has a strong environmentalist streak), which might be the natural evolution of the DPP out of the largely lower-income Hoklo movement for democratization and reforms in the 1990s. The left-right positioning of the KMT and DPP might also reflect their social bases: the KMT receives support from big business and media elites and the upper-classes, while the DPP has support from lower-income groups including some workers, farmers, fishermen and small business owners. The parties are also defined along ethnic lines, which go hand in hand with the main divide (reunification/independence). The KMT’s cadres have historically tended to be mainlanders, while the DPP’s leaders have tended to be of Taiwanese ancestry (Hoklo).

Since 1996, politics in Taiwan have been structured around the “Taiwan question” (as Beijing calls it) and polarized between the KMT-led pan-blues and the DPP-led pan-greens. In 2000, outgoing President Lee teng-hui caused a crisis in pan-blue ranks which led to the alignment of two pro-reunification candidates against the DPP’s Chen Shui-bian. Lee backed his then-Vice President, Lien Chan, as the official KMT candidate, over the head of the far more popular James Soong, a former KMT leader and former Governor of Taiwan Province. The split of the pan-blue coalition in 2000 paved the way for Chen’s victory with 39% against 37% for Soong and 23% for Lien. Chen, who served as mayor of Taipei between 1994 and 1998, was a long-time leading figure of the DPP and generally considered as one of the party’s more  radical pro-independence members. However, to be elected and once elected, he quickly moderated his intentions and declared that as long as the PRC did not use force against Taiwan, he would not change the country’s name or declare its independence. However, constant gridlock with the KMT-controlled legislature led to his taking a more radical stance. As Chen’s presidency showed, the DPP cannot diplomatically afford to make bold moves but it can make symbolic gestures which serves as sabre-rattling with Beijing. Under his presidency, this included emphasizing ‘Taiwan’ rather than ‘China’ as the country’s name and renaming several state-owned companies to reflect this orientation. Chen was reelected in a narrow and much contested election in 2004, where he took 50.1% of the vote against 49.9% for the Lien-Soong ticket. The election was very much influenced by an attempt on Chen’s life the day before the vote, a controversial assassination attempt which some KMT supporters still claim was a DPP set-up.

Chen’s second term was marked by continued tensions with the PRC and a series of corruption scandals (in which he was directly implicated in) which would eventually sink the DPP in 2008. Fought in this context, the 2008 presidential election marked the KMT’s return with a bang. Taipei mayor Ma Ying-jeou, a moderate within KMT ranks, was elected in a landslide with 58.5% of the vote.

Ma’s first term will be marked by the rapid advancements in relations between Taiwan and the PRC, which some describe as the most rapid advancements in the six-decade cold war between the two governments. Some of Ma’s policies have included direct weekend charter flights to the PRC, opening Taiwan to mainland tourists, easing restrictions on Taiwanese investment in the PRC and allowing Chinese investors to buy Taiwanese stocks. Similar to Western leaders, Ma has also been cautious when dealing with the issue of Tibet and human rights in China as to not annoy Beijing. Recently, Ma kind of put to foot in his mouth by raising the eventuality of a peace treaty with China, before retracting himself by saying it would require ratification by referendum if it came to be. The pan-green opposition has been very critical of Ma’s policies towards China, accusing him of either selling out the country to the PRC or damaging Taiwan’s sovereignty by taking steps towards reunification. Economically, after weathering a recession in late 2008 and 2009, Taiwan’s economy is now booming: it grew by 11% in 2010 and by 5% in 2011. Unemployment reached 5.9% in 2009 but has since fallen to 4.3%. There is concern, however, over a widening wealth gap and high property prices.

The Election

Ma Ying-jeou ran for reelection. But unlike in 2004 and 2008, the pan-blue coalition split up once again, with James Soong running as the nominee of his own party, the People First Party (PFP), a pan-blue party but always something of a rival for the KMT. Fortunately for the KMT, the PFP’s heyday seems to have been in the early 2000s and the PFP was risking marginalization and potential disappearance into the KMT as its political weight within the pan-blue coalition became less and less important. It won only 8 seats in 2008, almost all of them through an alliance with the KMT. Fearing a repeat of 2000, the KMT tried to dissuade Soong from running, but it was to no avail. The situation, however, is not as threatening to the pan-blues as the 2000 split was. Soong’s heyday was in the 1990s and his popularity peak was in the same period. He was far more popular, at any rate, than Lien who was never well-regarded as Premier or VP. Soong now faces an incumbent KMT president, who has been able to keep the party together and retain decent popularity numbers in the wider electorate.

The DPP was left in shambles following its 2008 rout(s), largely the work of Chen’s corruption scandal. Chen is now serving jail time on charges of embezzlement, bribery and money laundering. Its rebirth so rapidly was quite phenomenal, and largely the work of Tsai Ing-wen. Tsai served as Vice-Premier under Chen between 2006 and 2007 and has largely served a career as a government technocrat with little experience in elected office: she briefly served as a non-constituency member of the legislature and ran (and lost) for mayor of New Taipei in 2010. Despite this and her lack of charisma, she has managed to reunify the divided DPP and make it a credible and viable political actor again. Her campaign has managed to successfully channel discontent with the administration, including its economic policies (seen as helping the richest) and its cross-Straits policy. The DPP opposes the 1992 consensus and sees Ma and the KMT as Beijing’s accomplices in helping the PRC swallow up Taiwan. It claims that all the juicy business deals with the PRC have only benefited big businesses who have the means to do business in the PRC. Though Tsai rejects the 1992 consensus in favour of a vague ‘Taiwan consensus’, she has largely appeared moderate on the cross-Straits issue. She has also built herself an image as a defender of the underprivileged, focusing a good part of her campaign on social issues such as high property prices, income inequalities and so forth.

Given that the new conciliatory policy with the PRC will be the main thing which will come out of Ma’s first term, it is not too surprising that some have styled the election as a referendum on the 1992 consensus. The DPP has never been shy in its opposition to the 1992 consensus, and Tsai promised this vague new ‘Taiwan consensus’. Of course, of the KMT and DPP, the KMT is the only party which is diplomatically in a position to make bold actions given that any bold actions by the DPP would likely risk raising the PRC’s ire (and the US’ opposition as well). So it is not surprising that the DPP cannot afford to detail its Taiwan consensus further, though it can criticize the 1992 consensus and what it entails on a number of different aspects. Ma is running on his record of conciliatory cross-Straits relations, which he styles as the first steps in Taiwan’s “Golden Era” all while warning that a DPP victory would mean the end of such good times and a return to the confrontational relations with the PRC which marked Chen’s terms.

Turnout was 74.38%, down about 2% from 2008. The presidential results are as follows:

Ma Ying-jeou/Wu Den-yih (KMT) 51.60%
Tsai Ing-wen/Su Jia-chyuan (DPP) 45.63%
James Soong/Lin Ruey-shiung (PFP) 2.77%

In terms of the legislative elections, the results are as follows. The percentage vote refers to the party list, some parties like the NPSU did not run a list.

KMT 44.55% winning 64 seats (-17) including 44 FPTP, 4 aboriginal and 16 list
DPP 34.62% winning 40 seats (+13) including 27 FPTP and 13 list
TSU 8.96% winning 3 seats (+3) including 3 list
PFP 5.49% winning 3 seats (+2) including 2 list and 1 aboriginal
NPSU winning 2 seats (-1) including 1 FPTP and 1 aboriginal
Independent winning 1 seat (nc) including 1 FPTP
Green 1.74% winning 0 seats (nc)
NP 1.49% winning 0 seats (nc)
Others 3.16% winning 0 seats (nc)

Pan-Blue (KMT-PFP-NP) 51.48% winning 67 seats (-18)
Pan-Green (DPP-TSU) 43.56% winning 43 seats (+16)

The election is an incontestable victory for Ma and the KMT. Some will inevitably try to compare this election to 2008, in which Ma won 58% and the KMT won a legislative super-majority, but a comparison between 2008 and 2012 is not a fair one. 2008 was fought in a climate of mass disillusion with Chen and the DPP, meaning that anybody could have defeated the DPP’s Frank Hsieh in that year’s presidential contest. 2008 is not a normal election, it was one of those typical anti-incumbent ‘aberrations’ you see in such scenarios. The DPP was really no match to the KMT in 2008, but in 2012 it was. It had managed to rebuild successfully after 2008 and presented voters with an effective, credible and viable candidate who was able to catch discontent with the KMT administration. It is not easy being an incumbent these days, so Ma as an incumbent defending a pretty big and potentially controversial record was in a much more difficult situation than he had been in 2008 as an opposition candidate. Ma managed to win reelection – with 50% – with a pan-blue dissident, a first-rate DPP candidate who ran a very good campaign and as an incumbent defending a major and potentially controversial (for some) record. Viewed as such, his victory and that of the KMT in the legislative elections is pretty formidable.

After Tsai turned the DPP around and put it on the right track with a coherent and credible message, many had thought that she was in a strong position to win, boosted further by Soong who polled 5-10%. Taiwan’s media outlets had come out with polls which had given Ma a narrow single-digit lead, but Taiwan’s media outlets are largely distrusted – especially by the DPP – as they are largely pro-KMT and their polls always tend to overestimate the KMT’s support, meaning that a lead under 3-5% for the KMT in media polls is generally interpreted to mean a tie. A fair number of predictors were predicting that Tsai would win and reading some analyses it appears as if a fair number of commentators also considered Ma as the underdog in the final stretch. In the end, the ‘blue media’ polls were surprisingly spot-on.

A nice part of Ma’s last-minute momentum of sorts which allowed him to win by such a convincing victory was an evaporation of support for Soong, who was polling 6-8% in the last polls (polls could not be published after January 3, however). It is likely that some of his potential “protest vote” support did not materialize and largely abstained, while some potential pan-blue support switched strategically to Ma to prevent a repeat of 2000 where the blues lost to Chen because of their division. For Soong and the PFP, it was a pretty bad result. Soong had a strategic collapse and ended up with a paltry 2.8% of the vote. In the legislative elections, in which the PFP was attempting to display its independence from the KMT (and with quixotic hopes of repeating the successes it experienced in 2001 and 2004). Soong’s candidacy was in part a personal feud with Ma but also an attempt to boost the PFP’s legislative candidates and hope to save the PFP as a credible party in Taiwanese politics after its collapse of sorts after its early successes. The PFP did not have a total flop in the legislative elections, as it managed 5.5% of the vote and 2 seats (plus an aboriginal seat), but overall it hardly remains a viable political actor against the KMT. It risk to be marginalized even further as the KMT will have no need for it.

The DPP had a good race, and as I explained above, it did everything it could and it did everything (or close to it) right. A good candidate, a good campaign and a good message yet it failed to unseat Ma or win a legislative majority (as some predicted). Tsai resigned the DPP leadership following her defeat. 45.6% is the DPP’s second-best showing in a presidential election (avowedly, the sample is hardly big) and it in a much stronger opposition position than in 2008. Yet, it might be worthwhile to ask if the political opinion of Taiwan has some sort of slight natural inclination towards the KMT and reunification. We might be trying to read too much into the result, which could be an incident of a fairly popular incumbent riding a good economy and a successful first-term into a fairly easy reelection. But perhaps a slight majority of Taiwanese favour Ma’s policies of “good relations” (for lack of a better term) with the mainland or at least prefer it to the more confrontational relationship which marked the DPP’s eight-year stint in power. On a final note, it is interesting to note that the TSU – the DPP’s smaller and more radically pro-independence partner – had a very successful election with 9% of the list vote after having collapsed monumentally in 2008. I don’t know what to attribute it to except perhaps some sort of sympathy vote for the TSU’s spiritual leader, Lee Teng-hui, who is suffering from cancer but made several symbolic appearances alongside Tsai in this campaign.

In the legislative elections, the KMT managed to retain its absolute majority pretty easily. The FPTP system might provide a small advantage to the KMT which has maintained a pretty powerful financial advantage and patronage machine which can still do wonders. While the KMT’s majority has been eaten into a bit by the DPP, which was natural given how huge its 2008 majority was to begin with, the DPP failed to make serious inroads. It seems to have reconquered FPTP seats in its southern strongholds, but not much more than that.

Besides the KMT/DPP and their two sidekicks, one independent member was reelected in the Matsu Islands (given how strongly blue they are, I would guess the indie is at least blueish) and one member of the Non-Partisan Solidarity Union (NPSU) was reelected in Taichung-2 without KMT opposition. The NPSU is not a member of either coalition, but it could be considered a de-facto member of the pan-blue coalition.

My presentation of the main cleavages in Taiwanese politics had touched on the main causes of Taiwan’s voting patterns. Ethnicity forms the base of the main divide in voting patterns and explains the geographic opposition between southern Taiwan – a reliably green region – and northern Taiwan, which leans to the KMT. Voters of Hoklo ancestry – those Han Chinese from Fujian Province who settled in Taiwan long before 1949 – make up the bulk of the electorate in southern Taiwan as shown on this map. There is a very strong correlation, for reasons which need not be explained again, between a high percentage of Hoklo ethnicity and voting for the DPP. It certainly explains away why southern Taiwan but also Ilan County in northern Taiwan lean heavily towards the greens. The map of 2004 results by township is almost a perfect replica of the above map of Hoklo identity.

The KMT receives strong support from mainlanders, but also two other groups: the Hakka and the aboriginals. The Hakka, stuck in between the Hoklo-dominated DPP and the historically mainland Chinese-dominated KMT, tend to vote for the KMT by large margins for Ma as shown in Maoli and Hsinchu Counties. The Hakka, who are not unique to Taiwan (they often make up the bulk of Chinese in Southeast Asia), speak the Hakka language (some in Taiwan speak the Hoklo language, Hokkien) and settled in southern China before migrating across Asia including across the Straits. Ma and Tsai are both considered Hakka, though Tsai was born in Taiwan and Ma was born in Hong Kong. Soong May-ling, Chiang Kai-Shek’s wife, was Hakka. Taiwanese aboriginals, who make up 2% of the population and largely live in sparsely populated eastern Taiwan, are the indigenous non-Han Chinese inhabitants of Taiwan. They are Austronesian peoples and lived in Taiwan for roughly 8000 years before Han Chinese immigration began in the 17th century. Often sidelined and forcibly assimilated, Taiwan’s aboriginals could be seen as a solidly green group seeing how the DPP often seeks to promote aboriginal culture while the KMT promotes Chinese nationalism. Instead, they are one of the most reliably blue voting blocs and the aboriginal seats are the definition of ‘safe seats’ for the blues. Part of it stems from the KMT’s patronage machines built up during the KMT’s authoritarian regime in these poor remote areas, but a part of the aboriginal preference for the blue stems from distrust of the Hoklo-dominated DPP, seen as favouring the Hoklo over them.

USA 2012: Iowa and New Hampshire 2012

Happy New Year 2012 to all of this blog’s loyal readers. All the best in a year hopefully as rich as 2011 with fascinating elections.

The main election of 2012 – the American presidential contest – officially kicked off on January 3 with the Iowa caucuses and the first in the nation primary on January 10 in New Hampshire. Incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama faces no serious opposition in the Democratic primaries as an incumbent, meaning that the main contest is the one for the Republican presidential nomination. With unemployment still high, the American economy weak, the country’s debt a huge issue, a double-dip recession still a distinct possibility and popular anger over taxes and “ObamaCare” still lingering in some milieus; Obama is definitely not unbeatable and enters the 2012 contest as an incumbent hampered by the baggage of governing the world’s superpower in such hard times. Even if he wins reelection in November, it will likely be without the fanfare and enthusiasm (‘Obama-mania’) which accompanied his nomination and election in 2008.

Around the Western world, it seems as opposition parties – even those facing unpopular governments – are either terrible in their own right or are totally unable to provoke real enthusiasm around them in the wider electorate. The Republicans, after winning back the House in the 2010 mid-terms, are in such a position. They are hardly popular and their leaders are hardly inspiring to most voters. The GOP House’s leadership attitude of confrontation with the White House and the deadlock such attitude entails has not won them increased popular support. If Republicans can find comfort in Obama’s anemic approval numbers, they certainly cannot find further comfort in Congress’ terrible approval ratings which in part reflect the activities of the GOP House.

In the runup to 2012, Republicans have had a hard time finding themselves a credible champion to rally around and who is legitimately capable of defeating Obama in November. The Tea Party movement’s heyday has petered out somewhat and the movement has never been a cohesive force and it lacks a single leader. The one person who could have rallied parts of the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, did not run.

The one stable contender throughout the pre-primary season has been Mitt Romney, the Mormon businessman, former Governor of liberal Massachusetts (2003-2007) and unsuccessful 2008 presidential contender against John McCain. Romney is probably the one candidate who is the best positioned to win in 2012, but he carries along a lot of baggage. In a Republican primary where conservative values and ideological purity are increasingly important, Romney’s more moderate record as governor of Massachusetts and his liberal Republican image he had built himself in his unsuccessful 1994 run for Senate against liberal icon Ted Kennedy has created much unease about him and his conservative credentials (especially on issues such as abortion, where he was pro-choice in 1994 but is now pro-life) are often placed into serious doubt by the GOP’s right. Romney’s campaign has basically been that of a moderate Republican focused on the economy and flaunting his “businessman credentials” than on fighting the culture war. He has been the only candidate whose support has neither collapsed nor surged since he entered the race. But until recently, Romney had a glass ceiling of 25% in otherwise useless national primary polling. He has the support of GOP moderates and a good part of the more moderate establishment, and also has tons of money, but conservatives have traditionally loathed Romney.

While the moderates have their basically uncontested champion in Romney, the conservatives and the religious conservatives in the GOP have struggled to find their champion. The result has been the rapid emergence, surge and collapse of several non-Romney contenders in short succession. These ‘flavours of the month’ have all been unable – thus far – to become long-term rivals to Romney. In June and July, the first flavour was Michele Bachmann, the very conservative congresswoman from Minnesota originally hailed by some as the equivalent of Sarah Palin. Her surge was concentrated in Iowa but she never led Romney nationally.

Besides her being something of a gadfly with a penchant for inane statements, her collapse was prompted by the candidacy of  Texas Governor (since 2000) Rick Perry, who announced in early August. Perry could very well have been the conservative answer to Romney: strong conservative record, Southerner, governor of a large state, running on a record of rapid job-growth in his state and with deep appeal to the religious right and family values crowd. He also had, unlike Bachmann, high-profile backers with some very deep pockets. His support surged in September, running away with a huge lead in Iowa and nationally by mid/late September. But by early October, his support in Iowa and nationally collapsed almost overnight. It was caused in part by his poor debate performances and his support for his state’s policy of allowing in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants which alienated his right-wing backers. Perry was unable to resuscitate his campaign with a flat tax proposal or a later much-parodied ad aimed at appealing to Christian evangelical voters. His campaign turned into a worldwide joke during a debate on November 9 when Perry was unable to remember the name of the third agency of government he vowed to eliminate.

As Perry’s campaign stumbled and collapsed, he was replaced a ‘flavour of the month’ by Herman Cain, a black businessman who has never held elected office. Cain surged into the lead in Iowa by mid-October and he quickly took a narrow lead nationally over Romney as well. As an “outsider” businessman with an appealing, catchy (and controversial) tax plan – the 999 plan – he appealed to conservatives and the Tea Party movement. Cain collapsed under the weight of multiple allegations of sexual misconduct. Unlike Bachmann and Perry who did not drop out after their collapse, largely in quixotic hope of a win or strong performance in Iowa, Cain suspended his campaign on December 3.

Cain’s polling numbers had begun declining in mid-November. On the heels of Cain’s collapse, Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House and conservative hero of the Republican Revolution of 1994, surged into frontrunner status after having been at the helm of a struggling campaign for months. Gingrich surged into the lead nationally and in Iowa in mid-November and peaked roughly in early December (after Cain’s withdrawal), but his support in Iowa would evaporate very quickly (mid-December) as his legendary martial infidelity made headlines and under the weight of attacks from Romney and Ron Paul. His lead in national polling, a lagging indicator, only disappeared after Iowa (more or less).

In Iowa, Gingrich’s collapse helped Mitt Romney, who gained some additional support, but more especially Ron Paul and Rick Santorum. Ron Paul, who had run for the presidency in 2008 as well, is the icon and hero of libertarians. His somewhat out-there positions on some issues (according to his critics), his long-standing isolationist foreign policy (anti-Iraq War and so forth) and perhaps his 1988 presidential run as the Libertarian candidate have never made him a favourite of the GOP establishment, but his isolationist foreign policy mixed in with a strong record as a “budget hawk” and more traditionally conservative positions on moral/social questions have allowed him to build a bigger base in the 2012 race than in the 2008 race, in which Republicans are more isolationist than in 2008 and far more concerned about the debt and deficit than in 2008. Paul had won a strong 9.96% in Iowa in 2008, and it has always been a state where he found a more or less favourable crowd. Iowa Republicans are very conservative, but they have something of an independent or isolationist streak. Paul appealed to the Tea Party movement, especially the traditional ideological core of the movement which was at its root libertarian and anti-tax, not a wide portmanteau term for the whole right of the GOP staffed by less libertarian and more opportunistic Sarah Palin types.

Rick Santorum, a Senator from Pennsylvania first elected in 1994 but defeated in a landslide by Bob Casey Jr. in 2006, formally entered the contest back in June and had long been a potential contender. Santorum is well known for his social conservative positions most notably his vocal opposition to gay marriage. His name is well-known, especially in liberal circles, in part because Dan Savage turned his last name into a sexual neologism which would make people throw up. But he was little known outside those circles, and despite basically living in Iowa since Day 1, had a hard time making any headway until very late in the race. His strategy paid off late, as he surged in Iowa first outside the 3-5% range (around Christmas) and then into double digits in the final days of 2011. Appealing to the same type of socially conservative, often evangelical Christian, voter who had won Iowa for Mike Huckabee in 2008, he became Iowa’s top “anti-Romney” conservative contender and picked up votes from Gingrich, Bachmann and perhaps even Ron Paul. His emergence stopped Rick Perry’s mid/late December “mini-surge” in Iowa, which had seen Perry inch back up to 12% to the point where some had considered that his candidacy might re-appear on the forefront of the scene.

The final main contender in the race is Jon Huntsman, former Governor of Utah (2005-2009) and Obama’s ambassador to China (2009-2011). Huntsman is the most ‘liberal’ candidate in the race, noted for his far more liberal positions than the rest on social or environmental questions. He has a strong record as governor of Utah, and has strong moderate credentials which might appeal to the small minority of liberal Republicans who might find Romney too conservative or more likely too ideologically opportunistic for their tastes. Unsurprisingly, Huntsman totally ignored Iowa and has instead focused his campaign entirely around New Hampshire, whose open primary and more moderate electorate in general favours Huntsman. While potentially a strong candidate against Obama, Huntsman is too liberal for the current GOP electorate to go anywhere outside of New England.

Iowa

Iowa turned out to be very closely fought contest. Paul and Romney fought for the lead in the last stretch, as Gingrich collapsed and Santorum surged into high double-digits at the very last moment. Unfortunately, I missed the excitement of Iowa on January 3. Here is a late summary of what happened. Around 122 thousand Republicans showed up to caucus in Iowa, up a bit from the 119k of 2008.

Edited final results; January 19
Rick Santorum 24.56%
Mitt Romney 24.53%
Ron Paul 21.43%
Newt Gingrich 13.30%
Rick Perry 10.33%
Michele Bachmann 4.98%
Jon Huntsman 0.61%
Others 0.26%

Romney originally defeated Santorum by only 8 votes in the entire state, making these caucuses the closest in Iowa’s history. After a long-winded recount, the Iowa GOP finally certified Santorum as the winner by 34 votes. Measured against RCP’s final average, Paul performed smack where RCP’s average pegged him and Romney did about 1.5% better than predicted (Perry did about 1% worse, Gingrich did marginally less well than predicted). However, Santorum beat the average by about 8% and even beat his best polls (18%) by a full 6%. His surge most certainly came from fledgling Gingrich, Perry and especially Bachmann supporters – Bachmann was pegged at 6.8% by RCP, she won only 5%. For some reason, Huntsman had polled 2-4% in the last polls in Iowa despite ignoring the state by not even campaigning there. Reality hit and he won just 0.6%, and the bulk of the fake 2-4% Huntsman support likely explains Romney’s slight over-performance compared to RCP’s expectations.

Results of the Iowa caucuses (source: uselectionatlas)

Romney’s original win was a boost for his campaign and he certainly is the one candidate most likely to win the nomination. Romney has finally broken through his glass ceiling of 25% and has been able to gather more and more support from conservatives who have come around to seeing Romney as the pragmatic option of the candidate most able to defeat Obama, whom they certainly hate more than any of the GOP candidates when push comes to shove. However, Romney’s performance in Iowa is not particularly great: only a handful more votes than in 2008, and less percentage-wise than in 2008 (it is true, with a much narrower and stabilized field). Romney’s win in Iowa likely gave him a small momentum boost, but his entrance into likely-nominee territory was probably not caused directly by his victory in Iowa.

The main winner in Iowa was definitely Santorum, who as we saw defied all expectations and pulled out a delayed win. If Gingrich’s support erodes further, it is likely that conservatives interested more into an ideologically pure candidate rather than a candidate able to win in November will turn to Santorum as their final hope to block Romney. However, it is unlikely that Santorum will be ultimately able to do this, as he has little money and basically no organization outside Iowa. While Iowa gave Santorum a huge surge in national polls and in crucial conservative battlegrounds such as South Carolina (where he previously had minimal support), Santorum’s campaign was just too heavily focused on Iowa and basically absent outside of Iowa to be able to truly turn Iowa’s near-win into major momentum. Furthermore, Gingrich still has a surprisingly resilient core which is surprisingly hard to swing (seemingly) at this point. However, a moment will soon come – likely after South Carolina – where only one of Gingrich or Santorum will be in a position to fight. But it might be too late to fight at that point.

Michele Bachmann dropped out after her terrible showing, and her remaining support will probably flow to Santorum. Perry put up a face-saving performance in Iowa, but it was nowhere near the second or strong third he would have needed to save his trainwreck campaign and put him back into contention. He has not dropped out and seems to be banking it all on South Carolina (where he polls 5%), but Perry simply has no base in the contest and will be pushed out sooner or later, and his conservative support should flow to Santorum/Gingrich, assuming of course that Romney hasn’t simply run away with the nomination by that point.

The entrance polls provide an interesting base for analysis of the results in Iowa. Young voters from 17 to 29 heavily backed Paul (48%), who has a rock-solid cohort of young libertarian/online libertarian support. College graduates also backed Paul (25%) in large numbers. Paul and Romney’s support show an interesting trend related to income: the lower your income, the more likely you were to back Paul while the higher your income, the more likely you were to back Romney. Santorum’s support was highest (29%) with those earning $50-100k. The more interesting data is in terms of partisanship and ideology. Independents, 23% of the caucus electorate, gave Paul 43% and Romney 19% – while Santorum got only 13%. Republicans backed Santorum by a 2% margin (29-27) over Romney. In 2008, Iowa’s caucus electorate had been the most conservative in the country: eight in ten voters were conservatives. This year, 83% were conservative and only 17% were moderates or liberals. Conservatives backed Santorum 28-22 over Romney, with Paul pulling 18%. Those who described themselves as “very conservative” (47%) gave Santorum 35%. Those who were somewhat conservative backed Romney with 32%. The moderates gave Paul 40% and Romney 35%, but only 8% to Santorum.

64% of voters had a positive opinion of the Tea Party, and they backed Santorum with 29% against 19% apiece for Paul and Romney. Evangelical Christians, 57% of the electorate, heavily backed Santorum: 32% against 18% for Paul and 14% for Romney (tied with Gingrich and Perry). In terms of issues, the 13% who felt abortion was the most important issue supported Santorum, predictably, with 58%. The 34% who felt the deficit was the top issue backed Paul 28-21 over Romney. The 42% who said the ‘economy’ as a whole was the top issue backed Romney 33-20 over Paul.

31% of Iowan GOP voters felt that a candidate’s ability to defeat Obama was the most important quality. A sign of Romney’s support being in good part previously uneasy conservatives who pragmatically back him as the most electable option, those voters backed Romney with 48%. However, only 1% of the 25% who said being a ‘true conservative’ was the top quality and 11% of the 24% who said ‘strong moral character’ was the top quality backed Romney. Paul, interestingly, won 37% of those who said being a ‘true conservative’ was the top quality.

Rick Santorum’s typical voter seems to be middle-aged, middle-class but politically very conservative, Republican and a Tea Party supporter, as well as likely an Evangelical or born-again Christian. Santorum’s voter, it goes without saying, decided very late and voted for Santorum not because they feel he is the best candidate to beat Obama but because of his strong conservative and moral credentials.

Mitt Romney’s victory was propelled in large part by his support in urban Iowa: Romney won 29% in Polk County (Des Moines), 28.8% in Linn (Cedar Rapids), 34.1% in Johnson (Iowa City) and 33.5% in Scott (Davenport). He also won 33% in high-growth suburban Dallas County, which includes the bulk of Des Moines’ affluent high-growth Republican suburbs. Romney won 27.8% in Woodbury County (Sioux Falls), but Santorum won 33% there. Paul did well in Johnson County (30.7%) and won Black Hawk County (23.9%), two counties which include college towns (Iowa City and Cedar Falls). His best result, however, was in Jefferson County – which he had won in 2008 – and in which he took 48.6% this year. Jefferson County’s claim to fame, and in large part the base for Paul’s strong support, is being the home of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Transcendental Meditation movement, which has attracted many followers of the movement to the county. It has been a stronghold of the Natural Law Party: John Hagelin won 14.7% of the vote in Jefferson County in 2000.

Overall, Romney and Paul’s support was generally concentrated in eastern and central Iowa, which are the most urbanized regions of Iowa and often the most Democratic-leaning ones as well (it also has a larger number of Catholics, often Irish or German, and liberal Lutheran Scandinavians). However, Santorum won the bulk of western rural Iowa, often the most Protestant and conservative areas of the state. Besides Howard County (which Huckabee won in 2008), there seems to have been no decisive Catholic boost for Santorum in Catholic-majority counties, most of them located in eastern Iowa. Instead, Rick Santorum’s best performances – by far – came in the northwestern corner of Iowa (Lyon, Sioux, O’Brien Counties), which is Dutch Calvinist (Reformed Church, generally ultra-conservative) country and is Iowa’s most socially conservative (and Republican) part. Santorum took 61% in Lyon County, he broke 45% in Sioux and O’Brien Counties. Those had been the only three counties won by the social conservative standard-bearer Gary Bauer in the 2000. Rick Perry won two random rural conservative counties, one of which at least (Taylor) has a sizable Baptist population.

Compared to 2008, Romney seems to have shed support in the areas where he had done best in 2008 – while gaining or shedding slightly less votes in the areas (largely the ‘inland’ areas of rural Iowa) where he had not done as well in 2008.

New Hampshire

John McCain’s victory in New Hampshire in 2008 did not wrap up the nomination for him, but it gave him a huge momentum boost which was certainly indispensable in presenting him as the electable frontrunner and allowing him to rake in important victories in South Carolina and Florida later in the month. In that primary, McCain had defeated Mitt Romney, and while Romney’s defeat had not been a mortal blow it certainly did not help his campaign which had started focusing heavily on New Hampshire at Iowa’s expense following Huckabee’s surge. Since his 2008 defeat, Mitt Romney has basically made New Hampshire his de-facto home state and has been able to turn New Hampshire into a safe firewall for him which, no matter what happened, would give him a big win and a big momentum booster. Even during the FOTM surges of Bachmann, Perry, Cain and Gingrich, Romney’s big lead in the state was never put into jeopardy.

Similar to McCain in 2000 and 2008, Romney (in his 2012 incarnation) has a natural appeal to the state. New Hampshire’s primary is open, and moderate and liberal independents proved crucial to McCain’s victory in 2000 and 2008. And New Hampshire’s registered Republicans are otherwise some of the most moderate in the nation – in 2008, if I recall, New Hampshire’s primary electorate was the most moderate (nearly half were moderates or liberals). While Romney in his 2008 incarnation was a standard-fare non-evangelical conservative with appeal concentrated mostly to wealthy suburbanites, in his 2012 incarnation he takes up the 2008 McCain spot: an electable moderate. The 2012 Romney is thus pretty perfect for New Hampshire’s electorate. Its Republicans are largely native libertarians or older and newer Boston suburbanites who are both concerned far more about low taxes than about gays marrying or abortions. The economy is the main issue for them, and that is something on which Romney is generally strongest. Two other candidates also have a natural base in New Hampshire. Ron Paul, who won about 7% in the state in 2008, has a natural appeal to one of the most libertarian states in the country – the ‘Live Free or Die’ crowd, following the state’s motto. Jon Huntsman has basically been living in the state since he kicked off his campaign, and New Hampshire’s moderate electorate provides him with his strongest base.

As per the NYT, results with 100% reporting:

Mitt Romney 39.3%
Ron Paul 22.9%
Jon Huntsman 16.9%
Rick Santorum 9.4%
Newt Gingrich 9.4%
Rick Perry 0.7%
Others 1.5%

Unsurprisingly and with little suspense – if any – Romney won by a large margin (perhaps not a ‘landslide’) in his firewall state. His victory is historic in that it is rare for a GOP primary candidate to win both Iowa and New Hampshire, but given how certain his victory had been it is not quite a spectacular victory and it is unlikely to give him a huge momentum booster. In an ironic way, his uninspiring victory in Iowa was a bigger triumph than his big win in New Hampshire as Iowa was never the safe state that New Hampshire was. However, with two wins and no loses, Romney is still the big favourite to win the GOP nomination.

Results of the NH primary (source: uselectionatlas)

Ron Paul placed a very strong second, a great showing for him. New Hampshire is fertile ground for Paul, and he managed to exploit that to its fullest extent. However, Ron Paul simply cannot win the nomination: he is too despised by the establishment, be it pro-Romney or not. He also has a harder time than Santorum or Gingrich in being the final conservative alternative, as Paul has basically no appeal to the South (states like South Carolina, for example) which is likely where the last-ditch efforts of the GOP’s right will need to be concentrated in full strength if they are to stand a chance at stealing the nomination away from Romney who is beginning to run away with it.

Jon Huntsman won 17%, which is a good result for him and probably the best result he could realistically expect in these circumstances. It comes from months of being on the ground in the state and tailoring his message to the state, but in this regards it could also be considered as pretty underwhelming: basically living in the state for months to get 17%? Reminds me of Rudy Giuliani in Florida back in 2008. Huntsman is an electable general election candidate, but he is a totally unelectable GOP primary candidate. His showing in NH, certainly not bad, strikes me as something of a ‘woohoo!… but what now?’ type of thing. Huntsman has basically nowhere to go outside NH and New England. He is seemingly determined to keep fighting, atleast until SC, but he is deluding himself if he thinks he can go anywhere there. He might win 4% and be a nuisance to Romney, but there is simply no fertile ground for Huntsman to emerge as a strong primary candidate somehow.

Gingrich and Santorum, the remaining top conservative candidates, ended up all tied up with Santorum finally edging out Gingrich by 130 votes. Considering how Santorum had focused all his campaign on Iowa up until the caucuses there, it is a good result for him in New Hampshire and shows the effects of his post-Iowa bump – similar again to Huckabee’s post-Iowa bump which won him 11% in New Hampshire despite having been virtually absent from the state in the pre-primary season. But Santorum (and Gingrich for that matter) failed to score the knock-out blow to the other which could have sped up that candidate’s withdrawal and the chance for the unification of the conservative movement behind one candidate. Rick Perry, who ignored the state entirely – especially after the Iowan cold shower – won 0.7%  but did beat former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer (0.4%) who had focused a lot of his small campaign’s efforts on NH.

Exit polls again provide us with interesting bases for analysis. Unsurprisingly, Ron Paul rumped the ground with the 18-29 crowd (46%) but more interestingly did better with those with lower education than those with higher education, as well as low-income voters – the lowest income earners (under $30k) were the only category to back Paul over Romney, whose support once again increased as voter income increased – peaking at 52% with those earning $200k or more.

Independents were 47% of the electorate, and they split pretty evenly: 31% for Paul, 30% for Romney and 22% for Huntsman (Huntsman also won 41% with the 4% of Democratic voters who voted in the GOP primary). Romney dominated with Republicans, 49% against 15% for Paul. Conservatives made up only 53% of the primary electorate: overall they backed Romney with 42% against 19% for Paul, 15% for Santorum and 14% for Gingrich. Moderates, 47% of voters, gave Romney 38% against 26% for Paul and 24% for Huntsman. Romney even won the very conservative crowd (24%) with 29% against 25% for Santorum, and won 41% from those who support the Tea Party (51% of voters). The economy was the top issue for a full 61% of voters, and Romney owned the field there with 46% support against 20% for Paul. Among the 24% who felt the deficit was the top issue, Romney edged up Paul by 2 points. As in Iowa, finally, most of Romney’s support came from voters who judged candidates first on their ability to beat Obama, not conservative principles (35% of the electorate). Romney’s traditional voter seems to be wealthy, more optimistic about their personal economic situation, cares more about the economy than the deficit in general, is a somewhat generic centre-right Republican and supports Romney more because of his personal qualities and his ability to beat Obama than because of anything else.

Looking at a geographic analysis, complemented by the NYT’s interactive map of results by town, Romney’s base forms a very cohesive and homogeneous bloc concentrated along the coast and the state line with Massachusetts (Rockingham and Hillsborough Counties). These counties, which concentrate the bulk of NH’s Republicans and contribute to its purple state status (out of whack with solidly blue Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine) are basically affluent conservative exurbs of Boston whose residents are either old or new Boston commuters who live in New Hampshire for reasons often related to tax rate differences between the two states. Needless to say, affluent conservative exurbanites who care a lot about taxes (and not much about gays or abortions) are core Romney voters, both in 2008 and 2012. Romney actually improved the most vis-a-vis 2008 in these areas, but on a pure geographic basis he also somewhat extended his support into more rural, sometimes less conservative parts of New Hampshire. But it was Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman who found the most support in more liberal parts of western New Hampshire, closer to Vermont in terms of politics. Besides leaning Democratic in general elections, they also have lots of independents and a fair number of New England college towns. Huntsman won Hanover, a major college town and won 23% in Kenne. However, it is somewhat surprising that Paul did not perform better in Kenne and Hanover. His support was heavy in liberal Grafton and Cheshire Counties, but heaviest in the North Country (Coos County), which is more conservative (though leans Democratic, because of its French-Catholic population and working-class traditions) and whose GOP primary electorate seems more conservative (Huckabee did best there, and Gingrich and Santorum both won double-digits) than the rest of the state but also has a strong libertarian lean attributed to its geographic isolation in the White Mountains. Paul actually won Coos County with some 30% of the vote against 28% for Romney.

Looking Ahead

The next primary contest will be on January 21 in South Carolina. South Carolina will likely be the decisive battleground, and once again it is likely that it could make or brake the nominee. In 2000, McCain’s defeat in the bloody contest at the hands of Governor Bush had sealed his fate. In 2008, McCain’s narrow victory over Mike Huckabee had not sealed the deal just then but it certainly put McCain on a winning spree which would result in his eventual nomination. In Republican contests, South Carolina appears to be a much better determinant of the winner than either Iowa or New Hampshire.

South Carolina is a Southern conservative state with a large part of the electorate (60% in 2008) being Evangelical or born-again Christians, meaning that the primary electorate is predictably rather conservative (69% in 2008). This year’s contest might be different in the presence of an Evangelical Southerner, but in the lack thereof it is far more open. South Carolina is a test of any Republican candidate’s ability to appeal to the party’s increasingly powerful and important Southern religious base.

Romney is making minor inroads with conservatives because of his ability to win in November, but his performance in Iowa – especially with the conservatives in the caucus attenders there – was not particularly strong and there remains a lot of unease among conservatives about Romney. Romney will be looking for the knockout punch in South Carolina. If he wins such a conservative state, it will likely come close to sealing the deal and render the final efforts of the anti-Romneys futile. He would then win Florida in a landslide and pretty much end the race right then and there. At the same time, the conservative anti-Romneys (Gingrich, Santorum, Perry; Paul is in a different category and can be expected to fight even if Romney has the nomination) all know that South Carolina is their last chance to derail the Romney train. Which entails a bloody contest. Gingrich will need to win South Carolina to remain in the race. If he wins South Carolina, he likely knocks out Santorum (and Perry) and stands a slightly better chance at beating Romney in a contest which would probably become a two-man race between him and Romney with Paul probably sidelined. However, Santorum would probably be the strongest candidate in such a two-man matchup against Romney. Santorum also needs to win or at least place something like an extremely close second behind Romney to stand any chance in future contests. Chances are Perry will drop out after getting creamed.

The current RCP average in SC gives Romney a 9.3% lead over Gingrich (29.3% vs. 20%, Santorum at 19%). But a recent poll by Insider Advantage had the gap between the two down to only 2 points in Romney’s favour with Santorum at 14% and Perry (5%) trailing Huntsman (7%) and Paul (13%). Gingrich, despite his paltry showings in the first two races, seems to have a Southern advantage in the state (and an organizational/financial one as well) which has helped him stay strong and weather the seemingly short-lived Santorum surge. It seems as if the contest will come down to Gingrich vs. Romney, with Gingrich ready to inject large amounts of cash into a bloody fight with Romney. The favoured line of attack against Romney by Gingrich and others (Perry especially) seems to be a populist one: attacking Romney on his business past and shady investments at Bain Capital. Given the state and the nature of this year’s GOP electorate, this could prove to be a very fertile ground to attack Romney on.

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