Daily Archives: March 16, 2012
Legislative elections were held in El Salvador on March 11, 2012. All 84 members of the country’s unicameral legislature, the Legislative Assembly, are elected through closed-list proportional represents in 14 constituencies corresponding to the country’s 14 departments. Each departments returns between 3 and 24 members (the most populous department, San Salvador). The legislature is elected to a three-year term, meaning that unlike in 2009, this election did not coincide with a presidential ballot held the same year. The President serves a single five-year term.
Salvadoran politics are extremely polarized and political parties are spectacularly stable and enduring by regional standards. Since peace deals which ended El Salvador’s 12 year civil war in 1992, two main political forces have dominated the country’s politics, complimented by two older parties which have lost their old shine.
Like most Central American countries, El Salvador was emblematic for its social inequality (a group of fourteen families, las catorce, controlled the country’s coffee-driven economy and 90% of the wealth in the 1930s) and its revolutionary rural peasantry (a peasant revolt in 1932 ended in a massacre). The military seized power of the country for good in 1931, and ruled, under various guises and through various warring presidents, until 1979. The military regimes which controlled the country were built on the traditional alliance of the military, las catorce and foreign interests (notably the United States). However, unlike in other Latin American countries, the Catholic Church, after the late 1960s, increasingly sided with reform and later with revolution. Under the guidance of Archbishop Oscar Romero, the Salvadoran church became a base of opposition to the conservative regime. The other main force of opposition during this time was the moderate reformist Christian Democratic Party (PDC) led by San Salvador mayor José Napoleón Duarte.
In 1979, a military junta with left-leaning ideals overthrew the conservative regime, initially ushering in high hopes for success but ending in disaster as the country slid into civil war, the government facing opposition from right-wing death squads and a revolutionary socialist guerrilla movement, the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN). The government became increasingly conservative and was forced to crack down, but became increasingly powerless. José Napoleón Duarte, by now a conservative, was elected President in 1984 – with American support – but was powerless in a country which turned into chaos, whose economy was in ruins, whose government was corrupt and which was torn between right-wing death squads and well-implanted leftist guerrillas.
In 1989, the right, represented by the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), a party founded by “pathological killer” and death squad leader Roberto D’Aubuisson, won the presidential elections. In 1992, the Chapultepec Peace Accords were signed, which led to the FMLN’s disarming and its integration into the political system. In the 1994 elections, the FMLN became the country’s second largest political force, but ARENA retained power – united in part by fear of the still rather left-wing FMLN – until 2009. Successive ARENA presidents since the peace deals followed neoliberal economic policies which had some success in boosting the Salvadoran economy.
It was only when the FMLN chose a centrist moderate candidate, former journalist Mauricio Funes, that it was able to win power in the historic 2009 elections. Since then, Funes has proven to be one of the region’s most popular presidents, despite increasing crime rates (the country has one of the highest homicide rates in the world) and a sluggish economy since the 2009 recession. His social policies, including free basic education and free uniforms and shoes for poor schoolchildren, have proven popular. His moderate, consensual and pragmatic approach has won him support from voters who are tired of polarized politics, between a markedly right-wing ARENA and what used to be a markedly left-wing FMLN. However, the FMLN’s left-wing, which would prefer an Ortega or Chávez in his stead, has been distrustful of Funes and Wikileaks revealed that the presidency suspected that the FMLN-controlled intelligence services had bugged the palace.
Funes retains strong approval ratings, but in large part the FMLN has struggled to tap into that presidential popularity. On the other hand, the ARENA suffered a major split in 2010 when 16 of its parliamentarians, led by former President Antonio Saca, founded a splitoff, the Grand Alliance for National Unity (GANA) on the claim that ARENA has become too left-wing. Since then, GANA has tended to side with the FMLN minority in the legislature to help pass some of the government’s reforms, including tax reform. There are three other parties represented in the legislature: the PDC, a shadow of its former self and an ally of ARENA; the Party of National Conciliation (PCN), the old party of the military regimes and an ARENA stalwart; and Democratic Change (CD), a moderate centre-left party. By a technicality, the PCN and PDC disbanded in 2004 after it failed to clear the threshold for ballot access, but they were allowed to exist until 2011, when they were disbanded and refounded under the name Concertación Nacional (CN, ex-PCN) and the Party of Hope (PES, ex-PDC).
The results were:
ARENA 39.76% (+1.21%) winning 33 seats (+1)
FMLN 36.76% (-5.84%) winning 31 seats (-4)
GANA 9.6% (+9.6%) winning 11 seats (+11)
CN 7.18% (-1.61%) winning 7 seats (-4)*
PES 2.76% (-3.87%) winning 1 seat (-4)*
CD 2.14% (+0.02%) winning 1 seat (nc)
Others 3.19% (+1.89%) winning 0 seats (nc)
*There were CN/PES or PES/CN slates in three departments, who won a total of 1.4% of the vote and reelected one CN member. The CN member is counted with the CN, votes cast for these slates are counted as ‘others’.
ARENA’s victory was a significant blow to the FMLN and the government. The two parties had been roughly tied during most of the campaign, but ARENA ultimately won by a narrow margin. The division of the right did not seem to hinder ARENA that much, in fact it appears as if GANA took most of its support from smaller centre-right parties such as the old PDC.
At cause here is likely popular frustration with rising violence and homicides in the country, fueled by a local gang tied to the Mexican drug cartels. The murder rate has increased by 9% in 2011, reaching a homicide rate of 71 per 100,000 inhabitants, the second highest in the world after Honduras and far ahead of similarly blighted Guatemala (39) and Mexico (18). The government has been criticized for not doing enough to curb violence.
ARENA can likely block more ambitious attempts at reform, but the FMLN and Funes can avoid headaches through an alliance with GANA, whose presence ensures that the right remains divided between two warring brothers. Presidential elections are not due until 2014, when Funes’ single five-year term expires.
Local elections were held alongside these legislative elections. In San Salvador, incumbent ARENA mayor Norman Quijano won reelection in a landslide with 63.4% to the FMLN’s 32.6%. The right also took two historic FMLN strongholds in the greater San Salvador, winning Mejicanos with 43.6% to the FMLN’s 42.7% and Soyapango with 44.5% to the FMLN’s 44.2%. The FMLN held Santa Ana rather easily while GANA won San Miguel easily.
The 2012 Republican primary season did not wrap up on Super Tuesday, held on March 6, and it will probably not wrap up for quite some time. What I like to compare to a good TV show left the Super Tuesday states to move on to Dixie Tuesday on March 13, when Alabama, Mississippi, Hawaii and American Samoa voted. Between those two airings, however, some of the characters featured in some side-shows featuring contests in Kansas and three insular territories (Guam, the US Virgin Islands and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) on March 10.
Super Tuesday had ended up being fairly favourable to the frontrunner/presumptive nominee of sorts, Mitt Romney, who took six of the ten states which held nominating events on that day, including the crucial state of Ohio. But at the same time, his weak performance in states like Tennessee and Oklahoma and the nature of his win in Ohio only reinforced the narrative about Romney’s flagrant weaknesses with the conservative (largely Southern) base of the party. He is a frontrunner, but a pathetically weak one at that, and one who can’t score knockout blows even with the most formidable warchest of cash of all the candidates. Rick Santorum came out of Super Tuesday like he came in: not particularly strong, not particularly weak but with a still strong profile as the main conservative opponent to Mitt Romney. Newt Gingrich, meanwhile, won the right to continue a serious campaign after he was able to win his homestate of Georgia in a landslide – but it was his only success of the night.
The next steps on the calendar didn’t play to Romney’s strengths: a Saturday caucus in Kansas and two primaries in Alabama and Mississippi – the buckle of the Bible Belt, the heart(s) of Dixie. Only the insular contests in Hawaii plus the tiny but disproportionately important US dependencies of Guam, the USVI, the Northern Marianas and American Samoa seemed to favour Romney.
Alabama and Missisippi were, of course, the most important contests out of the flurry of contests held in the past week. Their demographics, as relatively low-income, very conservative, Southern states were very unfavourable to Mitt Romney who has a big ‘Southern problem’ or at even ‘conservative problem’. These are states where, according to PPP, nearly half or over half of the GOP electorate thinks Obama is Muslim and where a sizable minority are opposed to interracial marriage.
However, Alabama and Mississippi’s anti-Romney vote was bound to be seriously divided between Southern native son but increasingly irrelevant Newt Gingrich and conservative but Yankee Rick Santorum. Gingrich doubled-down on Alabama and Missisippi, which, although he won’t admit it, were basically make or break for him, his last chance to prove himself and his Southern strategy. Rick Santorum has proven that he can win big with Midwestern conservatives, but his appeal to the South has thus far been limited to the more populist Republicans of the Upland South (Tennessee as a good example) and up until this point he had not really proven himself to be a serious contender in the Deep South – but perhaps that was because the two Deep South states which have voted – South Carolina and Georgia – did so in ‘special circumstances’ – SC before his surge 2.0 and Georgia was Newt’s home state.
The fact is that the Gingrich-Santorum fight for conservative prominence in Alabama and Mississippi was so evenly divided that Romney stood a real chance at creeping up the middle to win in Alabama and/or Mississippi, which would have been based on artificial grounds but which, in the media narrative, would have been a serious boost to Romney (along the lines of ‘Romney finally breaks through in South’). A Rasmussen poll showed him up 7 in Mississippi, while PPP had him up 1 in Alabama and down 2 to Gingrich in Mississippi. The Santorum camp seemed to have resigned on both states somewhat, given that no poll showed Santorum ahead in either though he did stand a fighting chance in both states.
Kansas and the Islands (March 10) caucuses
Rick Santorum 51.21%
Mitt Romney 20.93%
Newt Gingrich 14.40%
Ron Paul 12.62%
Mitt Romney is reported to have won all 9 delegates with 83% in a straw poll
Mitt Romney 87.26%
Rick Santorum 6.25%
Ron Paul 3.30%
Newt Gingrich 3.18%
US Virgin Islands
Ron Paul 29.17%
Mitt Romney 26.30%
Rick Santorum 5.99%
Newt Gingrich 4.69%
Rick Santorum easily won Kansas. It carried all the factors which favoured him: a Midwestern state, a caucus state and a very socially conservative state. Kansas’ caucus-goers have usually tended, especially in recent years, to favour social conservative insurgents rather than more moderate establishment candidates. In 2008, Mike Huckabee trounced opposition with nearly 60% of the vote in the Kansas caucuses despite John McCain having the nomination basically wrapped up by that point. Mitt Romney, who finds himself in a position and profile similar to McCain in 2008 (albeit far weaker), understood that and totally ignored the contest in Kansas. In fact, he put more effort in Guam’s territorial caucus than in Kansas, which did not go down well with KS GOP voters. Newt Gingrich, on the other hand, despite ignoring the state, did perform relatively well taking in 14.4% of the vote.
Rick Santorum won all but one county in Kansas (the gray counties did not hold caucuses: voters could caucus at any location within their congressional district). He won all of the state’s major areas, including regions which are of favourable nature to Mitt Romney. He won 59% in Wyandotte County (Kansas City), but the GOP base in that heavily Democratic inner-city county is minimal. He otherwise won 50.2% to Romney’s 23.7% in Shawnee County (Topeka), 38.5% to 28.2% in Riley County (Manhattan) and 51.5% to 21.2% in Saline County (Salina). He romped in Sedgwick County, home to the blue-collar city of Witchita (which has a large aviation, oil and gas sector), taking in 56.2% of the vote against 18% for Ron Paul and a pathetic distant third for Romney (13.4%). He even performed very strongly in Johnson County, where most Kansas Republicans live and a generally fairly moderate, affluent and suburban county to the south of Kansas City including growing suburbs such as Overland Park and Olathe. This is, of course, supposed to be favourable terrain for Romney, who has thus far usually performed best in these kinds of moderate, suburban and affluent areas. He did perform strongly, taking 30.1%, but Santorum won 47.1% of the vote. The only county which Romney won is tiny, rural Lane County in sparsely populated west Kansas. For all we know, there might be a Mormon family there.
Mitt Romney won the Pacific territorial caucuses with no contest. In Guam, where he sent his son Matt to campaign for him, he won all 9 delegates with only some 200 voters showing up (out of 159k inhabitants). In the Northern Marianas, he won 87.3% in a straw poll and took 9 delegates with only 848 voters showing up (out of 53.8k inhabitants). Surprisingly, Romney’s organization in the Caribbean territory of the US Virgin Islands was unusually terrible (the islands are heavily black and the local GOP is unorganized). Uncommitted won the most votes, with Ron Paul in second. However, by some quirk in the delegate allocation, Romney still walks out with 7/9 delegates from the USVI – 7 delegates won with only 101 votes!
Dixie Tuesday, Hawaii and American Samoa (March 13)
Rick Santorum 34.51%
Newt Gingrich 29.30%
Mitt Romney 28.99%
Ron Paul 4.97%
Rick Santorum 32.77%
Newt Gingrich 31.18%
Mitt Romney 30.59%
Ron Paul 4.40%
Mitt Romney 45.38%
Rick Santorum 25.30%
Ron Paul 18.28%
Newt Gingrich 11.04%
Mitt Romney is reported to have won all 9 delegates with no details of a straw poll
The polls which had shown Romney up in Alabama and Missisippi always sounded a bit strange to me, and, simply put, I refused to buy into a Romney victory in either state until I saw it. In both cases, I was correct, given that Romney placed third – though a fairly solid third – in both states. Mitt Romney did still win his two strongest showings to date in a Southern contest (Mississippi is the first Southern state where he has broken 30% – and, no, Florida isn’t Southern), and Newt Gingrich did win rather strong results.
Romney had kind of conceded that winning these two states would be hard, but his machine – especially his infamous SuperPAC, dumped tons of cash into both states and ended up outspending Santorum by the same 5-to-1 margin he outspent him in Ohio (which Romney narrowly won on March 6). Santorum was also outspent by Gingrich, who had put a lot of campaign efforts into Alabama and Mississippi, the core states for the success of his Southern Strategy. Romney’s inability to win in AL/MS despite another moneybomb in those two states reveal how important his conservative or Southern problem is. The base of the party, or at the very least the ‘very conservative’ voters who make up a good third of the party, are still either opposed to Romney or reluctant to support him.
Mitt Romney probably wouldn’t have cared too much about a Gingrich win in both states, which seemed like a fairly reasonable proposition going into election day. Gingrich, as a purely sectional candidate at this point, could not have used victories in either AL or MS to propell him back to the top. Since he collapse prior to Florida, Gingrich has had no major bump in the polls – in fact, his numbers have usually trended downwards. His credibility as a GOP candidate is, at this point, pretty low. If Newt had won both contests, Romney would remain in a comfortable position given that it would give Gingrich a compelling reason to stay in the race and continue splitting the vote with Santorum.
Rick Santorum’s double win does not net him a significant amount of delegates given that the delegate results out of AL and MS will end up pretty evenly split between the three candidates. In fact, Romney still wins a plurality of delegates from all March 13 contests. However, the double win in the Deep South shows that he is not a Huckabee-like sectional candidate and that his conservative appeal carries from Lake Michigan to the Gulf Coast. It solidifies him in a position as the sole anti-Romney candidate who still has a distant but solid chance at the denying Romney a majority of delegates (or, less likely, the nomination). While Romney didn’t have a major post-Super Tuesday surge, it is probably likely that Santorum could enjoy a small post-AL/MS surge.
More importantly, this is really the first time that there is significant (non-pundit) pressure on Gingrich to drop out and the first time that speculation on what a Gingrich-free race would look like. Newt Gingrich, again, seems extremely resilient, largely because he has nothing to lose at this point (it’s not like he’s going to run for office again after 2012) and because – I think – Adelson pumped some cash recently. But Jon Huntsman was adamant about staying in post-NH and Rick Perry was pretty confident (publicly) about fighting it out in SC. Neither did that. Gingrich is neither an Huntsman or a Perry and his campaign probably still has more chances to go somewhere than either of them did, but I don’t think that anybody can seriously make the case for Gingrich to win another state, save some weird Santorum collapse. A case could be made for Louisiana (March 24), but if Gingrich lost AL/MS, he won’t win Louisiana. If Gingrich doesn’t drop out, then Romney will win the nomination without sweating too much. If he does drop out soon enough – perhaps even before Illinois on March 20 (but I have a hard time seeing that) – then Romney could face a real challenge from Santorum and his very status as presumptive nominee could be put into serious jeopardy.
Ron Paul won his worst results of the race thus far (ignoring the CNMI). Alabama and Mississippi, are, of course, hardly receptive to a candidate like Ron Paul and the Paul brand of libertarianism has very little appeal in the Deep South in general. After an encouraging start, with strong showings in Iowa, NH and even South Carolina, Ron Paul’s showing in recent contests have not been spectacular. He hasn’t won any state and probably won’t win any state, and in most cases they are barely above his 2008 results (while in the early states they were far above his 2008 results). As the race carries on into what increasingly looks like a two-way contest between Mitt and Rick, Paul is reduced to his core of supporters, which, while still pretty sizable in a lot of states, cannot give him spectacular showings any longer.
In Alabama, there was a gender gap between Gingrich and Santorum. Gingrich won males 34-31 over Santorum, Romney taking 28%; but lost women handily to Santorum 38-25, with Romney taking 30%. In terms of age, Romney again won his core 65+ constituency with 37% to Gingrich’s 31%, while Santorum won all other age groups – including 41% with those 18-29 and 39% with those 30-44. Gingrich’s electorate, compared to Santorum’s, is older though not by that huge of a margin. Finally, in terms of income, Romney took 36% to Santorum’s 31% with the top 23% who made over $100k. Santorum won all other income levels, doing best (40-29 over Gingrich) with the poorest 17% (under $30k) while Gingrich did best (31% to Santorum’s 32%) among those making $30-50k.
In ideological terms, a surprisingly large 33% identified as moderates, but this is self-identifying ‘moderates’ by Alabama standards, voters which would probably be considered ‘very conservative’ in Vermont. Romney did win moderates 39-29 over Santorum, Gingrich taking only 18%. Santorum beat Gingrich 41-36 with the 36% who were ‘very conservative’, with Romney taking in only 18%. Gingrich beat Santorum and Romney (33-31-31) with ‘somewhat conservative’ voters. Republicans were 70% of the electorate, independents were 24%. Gingrich did much better (32% vs. 25%) with Republicans.
75% of voters were Evangelical Christians, and they picked Rick 35-32 over Gingrich, with Romney still taking 27% of their votes. Romney won the non-Evangelicals 34-31 over Santorum. The 46% who said that the religious beliefs of candidates mattered ‘a great deal’ chose Santorum 47-31 over Gingrich, with Romney winning only 16%. This is likely reflective of an anti-Mormon or at least coolness towards Mormons with Evangelical voters.
Romney still dominates on the electability question (46% said he would be the best to beat Obama), and won those who chose based on a candidate’s ability to defeat Obama (51-32 over Gingrich, Santorum at a horrible 15%). 50% of voters felt Romney was not conservative enough.
Early Mississippi exit polls had Romney winning, but exit polls are corrected nowadays. Once again, we find a clear gender gap: Santorum took females 35-29 over Gingrich (Romney: 32%) but lost males 31-34 to Gingrich. Gingrich won the oldest voters, taking 39% to Romney’s 35%. Santorum won all other voters, doing best (45%) with those aged 17-29. The income data is a bit weird: Romney’s best income group (30%) was the $50-100k, because he only 28% to Santorum’s 35% and Gingrich’s 30% in the $100-200k group. The $200k+ group was too small to get good data, but Romney did win the combined $100k+ group 34-31 over Santorum. Gingrich won the poorest voters (the 15% making under $30k) 35-32 over Santorum.
Again, 29% of people would like us to think that they’re moderates or liberals in the Mississippi Republican Party, but at any rate Romney won them 38-28 over Santorum. Santorum did win 39-35 over Gingrich in the 42% who were ‘very conservative’, Romney taking just 22%.
80% of voters were Evangelical Christians, and they picked Santorum 35-32 over Gingrich, with Romney still taking 29% of their votes. Romney did far better (26%) with the 47% of voters who said that the religious beliefs of candidates mattered ‘a great deal’, but Santorum won those voters easily.
Romney still dominates on the electability question (49% said he would be the best to beat Obama), and won those who chose based on a candidate’s ability to defeat Obama (46-30 over Gingrich, Santorum at 22%). 52% of voters felt Romney was not conservative enough.
The Alabama results present to us a nice three-way of the split of the state, which follows the state’s main regions rather neatly. As in the rest of the South, there is a pretty important split in Alabama between the Upland and Midlands/Lowlands of the state. The Uplands tend to be whiter, more populist (a more plebeian tradition inherited from the lack of large plantations in the hilly regions of the Uplands), more working-class (textiles, manufacturing, the TVA) and ever slightly more conservative. This is a region where insurgent conservatives like Mike Huckabee have done well and it was where Rick Santorum had performed best in South Carolina.
In Alabama, Santorum swept the Upland regions (north of Birmingham) which are heavily Evangelical and rather working-class areas. He took 40% in a good number of these Upland counties. There are a lot of Dixiecrats in these old Democratic strongholds (save for Winston County), and a lot of them still self-ID as Democrats despite voting increasingly Republican at almost all levels – and this might explain why Santorum underpolled so much. Social conservatism is certainly big in this region, and it was where opposition to interracial marriage was highest in 2000 and where opposition to school desegregation was highest in 2004.
But Rick Santorum also performed well in the urban centres of northern Alabama, including in places where Romney had done well in 2008 and where he needed to do well this year. Santorum won Madison County, home to Huntsville’s increasingly white-collar workforce of affluent air-and-space engineers and rocket scientists, which was where Romney had done best in 2008 (with 29%). Santorum took 33.3% to Romney’s 30.5%, a major underperformance for Romney compared to 2008. In neighboring Limestone County, where Romney took 27% in 2008, he won only 23.7% this year, placing third behind Santorum (40.4%) and Gingrich (28.2%). Romney also placed third, with 25.1%, in working-class Decatur (Morgan County) where Santorum took 39.8% to Gingrich’s 27.8%. Santorum also won working-class Gadsen (Etowah County), with 40.1% to Gingrich’s 29.8%.
Newt Gingrich did best in the Midlands, especially the Black Belt, which concentrates the bulk of Alabama’s black population (which of course does not vote in GOP primaries), largely because the flatter Midlands were the core of the Southern plantation economy. The Midlands have retained a bias towards somewhat conservative establishment candidates – John McCain did best in the Midlands in South Carolina but also Alabama, and otherwise tend to be slightly less populist (perhaps because of the traditions associated with the once-powerful patrician plantocracy) and ever slightly so less socially conservative and Evangelical (interracial marriage and school desegregation found higher support, although support or opposition for both still broke largely on racial lines). Gingrich had performed best in the Midlands region of South Carolina, which is similar to this part of Alabama. However, Gingrich is not much of an establishment candidate any longer – in fact, his decrepit campaign presents itself as something of a long-shot, insurgent, screw-the-establishment conservative campaign. Gingrich’s appeal in this part of Alabama may simply be due to proximity to Georgia, though his support in the Midlands does extend all the way to the Mississippi state line.
Mitt Romney’s support was, of course, heavily urban. He won Jefferson County, home to Birmingham and some of its affluent suburbs (Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills), though his margin of victory there was certainly far from what he would have needed to win statewide. He took 34.8% to Santorum’s 30.4%. Worst, Romney lost Shelby County – the wealthiest county in Alabama, including some of Birmingham’s newer affluent exurbs – to Santorum, 30.7% to 33.9%. Shelby County, like most similar newer suburban or exurban counties in the Deep South, is one of the state’s most Republican counties. Similar to what we observed in South Carolina, north Florida, Georgia and Tennessee, Southern suburbia – even if affluent – is probably too conservative to vote heavily for Romney.
Romney lost more blue-collar Tuscaloosa County (Tuscaloosa) to Santorum, 35.6% to 29.7%.
Romney carried Montgomery County, home to the state capital and some of its affluent suburbs, with 36.7% to Gingrich’s 30.5%. Romney also carried Mobile and Baldwin counties, the two Alabama Gulf Coast counties home to defense-driven industries and affluent suburbs of Mobile and condominiums along the Gulf Coast. Romney won Mobile County with 35.6% to Santorum’s 33.5%, and won Baldwin County (Gulf Shores, Spanish Fort) convicingly with 36.2% to Santorum’s 29.3%.
The map of the results in Mississippi is a bit more random. Firstly, Mitt Romney won far more counties in Mississippi than in Alabama or the rest of the Deep South states for that matter. His performance in the state, as noted above, was the best result for Romney in the South (30.6%). Based solely on demographics – Mississippi is poorer and less urban than Alabama – Romney shouldn’t have done that well. However, Mississippi politics is still fairly hierarchical and the weight of old paternalistic, top-down relations still have a big impact in Mississippi. The Mississippi GOP bench is fairly ‘establishment’ rather than ‘insurgent’ conservative (like Alabama is sometimes) with the likes of former Governor Haley Barbour and incumbent Governor Phil Bryant, both of whom endorsed Romney. Barbour’s political machine is apparently rather powerful in Mississippi, which might explain why Romney did so well.
If we look at Romney’s support, it mixes his traditional urban centres of affluence with most of the heavily black Mississippi Delta (a very poor area) – where turnout, shockingly, was extremely low (below 1,000 votes in the most heavily black areas, including those two dark blue Gingrich counties on the river). Again, the Mississippi Delta areas really have the plantocratic tradition of the Midland South – Mississippi is by and large a ‘Midland’ state. Romney’s establishment image and support might explain his support there, where hierarchical and patriarchal traditions in social relations are perhaps more dominant and leads, in GOP contests, to a bias for the establishment favourite. Newt Gingrich often placed second in the Delta counties, with Santorum doing quite poorly.
Mitt Romney’s second area of dominance were the rather affluent, in some cases very affluent, suburbs of Jackson, the state capital. Romney carried Hinds County (Jackson) with 40.6% to Gingrich’s 27.5%, in a county where the GOP electorate is probably much wealthier than the county’s average resident. He also won convincingly in Madison County (Jackson’s very wealthy northern suburbs, including Ridgeland) with 42.9% to Gingrich’s 26.6%. He also won Rankin County (Jackson’s eastern suburbs) with 33.9% to Gingrich’s 32%.
Along the Gulf Coast, Romney carried Harrison County (Gulfport-Biloxi) with 32% to Santorum’s 30.8% and also won Jackson County (Pascagoula) with 33.8% to Santorum’s 32.5%. The Gulfport-Biloxi includes wealthier retirement communities, wealthy seaside residents and a significant military presence. It is also more moderate than the rest of the state, in part because of casinos along the coast (or is it the other way around?). Still, Romney would have needed stronger margins in Harrison and Jackson counties to win statewide, to match his big margins in Madison and Hinds counties.
The other two Romney counties which are less than 40% black are Lafayette County (Oxford) and Oktibbeha County (Starkville), home to Ole Miss in Oxford and Mississippi State in Starkville, both of which are not as liberal as other American college towns. College towns would seem like a place where Romney should do well, but he lost the liberal college towns of Gainesville (Alachua County, Florida) and Athens (Athens County, Ohio) by fairly big margins and he lost Lee County (Auburn, Alabama) 29.6 to 32.9% for Santorum.
If Mitt Romney did best in counties with the largest black populations, Newt Gingrich did well in the counties with a significant but not particularly large black population – that is to say, most of the coastal Lowlands (Pine Belt region) and other counties bordering Alabama or the Mississippi Delta region. Gingrich won Hattiesburg (Forrest County) with 35.8% to Santorum’s 29%. As to why Gingrich (and not, say, Santorum) performed best in these types of counties and whether the size of the black population has something to do with it is anyone’s guess.
Rick Santorum did best in the counties which have the lowest proportions of blacks in the state, regions which usually tend to be fairly working-class because of the lack of old plantation agriculture. Santorum clearly dominated in northeastern Mississippi, which is the only Uplandish region of the state (it is clearly distinct from the rest of the state if you look at recent and older election maps) and the region with the smallest black population. He won big in Lee County, the major urban area of the region (Tupelo), taking 41.6% to Gingrich’s 29.8%.
Santorum, in no small part, owes his victory and Romney his defeat to the results in DeSoto County, a booming heavily white county located just south of Memphis, TN. Based solely on income – it is the wealthiest county in the state – then it should be natural Romney country and certainly a place Romney needed to win if he was to win statewide. But DeSoto, like other heavily white, upper middle-class high-growth counties in the South, is less moderate, affluent older suburbs and more rather affluent but white flight exurbia/suburbia. As I pointed out in Georgia and Tennessee on March 6, Romney did poorly in those types of counties. No different in Mississippi. He lost DeSoto by a wide margin to Santorum: 28.8% against 37% for Santorum.
A world away in Hawaii, Mitt Romney won a comfortable victory in the state’s first GOP nominating contest either in a long time or ever. In 2008, the Hawaii caucuses held no presidential straw poll. Mitt Romney’s victory, which ended up narrower than many had thought, was won in large part on the back of a big win in Honolulu County, which is also the state’s most populous county. He took 51.9% in the county, against 25.9% for Santorum. Honolulu County mixes a bunch of demographics favourable to Mitt Romney: Mormons (in Laie), seniors, defense-driven communities and affluent suburbs/urban areas.
I sadly don’t know much at all about voting patterns in Hawaii, and even less about the few Republicans on the island. Asians actually tend to be slightly more Republicans than whites in Hawaii. Mitt Romney won two of the other insular counties by smaller margins (36.2-28.4 in Kauai and 30.7-29.8 in Maui). Ron Paul won the Big Island (Hawaii County) with 32.1% to Romney’s 30.7%. Your guess about the GOP electorate on the Big Island is as good as mine.
Following these races, the next major race is the Illinois primary on March 20. Before that, Missouri begins its binding caucuses on March 17 but no presidential straw poll is being held at those caucuses. Santorum, who won the state’s non-binding primary in early February, should win the plurality of delegates out of the state unless the rules are weird. Following that, Puerto Rico holds a GOP primary on March 18. This is the first Republican nominating contest in Puerto Rico which is seriously contested, and the first GOP primary. It is largely an unknown quantity, given that the island’s demographics are a world away from anything we’ve seen. The electorate will be made up in overwhelming majority of Catholic “Hispanics”, and the only thing we know about GOP Hispanics in this contest is that Mitt Romney won huge with Cubans in Florida. Romney should win Puerto Rico easily, with the backing of the state’s pro-statehood Republican-PNP Governor Luis Fortuño, and with Santorum’s comment about Puerto Ricans needing to learn English if they wanted to become a state.
The Illinois primary favours Mitt Romney. A lot of votes are stored in Chicago’s ring of white-collar, affluent and moderate suburbs which is Romney country if I’ve ever seen it. Rick Santorum should perform strongly in southern Illinois, which is rather Southern in its politics and culture, and perhaps also the more rural parts of “Midwesternish” Illinois. A Gingrich withdrawal between now and then would surely help Santorum and give him a fighting chance even in Illinois, but it’s tough seeing Gingrich drop out just yet.
The good news about the increasing likelihood of a rather protracted contest like this is that it will make for some beautiful maps and a great opportunity to learn about the different “types” of Republican voters and their presidential preferences.