USA GOP 2012: Wrapping up?
The Republican primary season will now be entering its final stretch, following a primary in Louisiana on March 24 and primaries in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Wisconsin on April 3. At this stage, it seems like the race is start to wrap up. I don’t think there’s any question about the fact that Mitt Romney will eventually be the nominee, but beyond that it seems as if he could come close to officially sealing the deal by the end of this month. The chances of a brokered convention or Romney going into Tampa with less than the absolute majority of delegates seem increasingly distant now.
The reason is that most Republicans are rallying to Mitt Romney as their party’s nominee and moving on to the question of beating Obama in November. Following Romney’s big win in Illinois, he was dealt a big but expected blow in conservative Louisiana, but few people in the GOP establishment seem to have noticed that. Romney’s support has become locked in and he has been gathering new supporters at a rapid pace according to Gallup’s national tracking poll which now has him up to 40%, up about 15 points on Rick Santorum, which remains his main rival. The days of the “flavour of the months” which continued up until late February are definitely over. Romney has taken the lead and is running away with it. A nice portion of the base remains uneasy with him, and he does not have the amount of approval from the wider GOP electorate that John McCain had when he was wrapping it up in 2008. But it is too late, at this point, to block Romney bar a major event which would turn the campaign on its head.
The four most recent primaries were, as aforementioned, Louisiana (April 24), Maryland-DC and Wisconsin (April 3).
Louisiana is a Deep South state, very conservative and solidly Republican (at least at a presidential level). But its demographics are a bit different from those found in Alabama or Mississippi. Louisiana has an added French Catholic (Cajun) element which contributes at least 35% or so of the GOP primary electorate, obviously way bigger than the Catholic vote in either Alabama or Mississippi. Mike Huckabee had narrowly won Louisiana in 2008, but it was entirely on the back of his strong base of support with fellow non-Cajun Protestant Evangelicals in northern Louisiana, because John McCain swept Acadiana and won the Catholic vote by a whooping 27-point margin. Santorum has performed poorly with Catholic GOP voters thus far, despite being a (very conservative) Catholic himself. That being said, the Cajun element in Louisiana is definitely not the same type of Catholicism than that found in, say, Ohio’s Catholic working-class urban areas, which favoured Romney.
Romney did not put much of an effort into Louisiana, while Santorum did put some effort. Newt Gingrich will run for President until he drops dead a few years from now, so Louisiana wasn’t a “last stand” for him, because Gingrich is just trolling by now.
Rick Santorum 48.99%
Mitt Romney 26.69%
Newt Gingrich 15.91%
Ron Paul 6.15%
Buddy Roemer 1.18%
Looking through exit polls, Santorum’s support broke most income, age, sex and demographic categories. He won all age groups, doing best with young and middle-aged voters. He won all income levels except the top 11% (!) making $200k or more – Romney’s core group of support in any state which went for Mitt 43-24. Santorum did best (65%) with the bottom 11% who make less than $30k. In religious terms, 61% of voters were Evangelicals, and they broke heavily for Santorum (55-20) who lost the non-Evangelicals by one point. Santorum won Protestants convincingly (53-25) and won Catholics, who made up 36% of the electorate, albeit by a narrower 16 point margin (46-30).
Those who were ‘very conservative’ (49% of voters) chose Santorum by 30 point spread (53-23) over Romney, who still lost his core ‘somewhat conservative’ base and moderates (23%). Romney still dominated with those voters who feel that a candidate’s ability to beat Obama is the top quality – he won them by 20 (50-30). These voters, always a plurality in almost every state with about 40% or so voters, have become a solid demographic for Romney.
Romney won only a single parish in Louisiana – heavily Democratic and largely black Orleans Parish, which covers New Orleans and some of its more affluent white suburbs. He won 43.6% to Santorum’s 28.5% there, but Orleans Parish only contributed 7.8k voters to the GOP primary, compared to 18.7k and 17.4k in suburban/exurban Jefferson and St. Tammany Parishes. Romney ran fairly decently in East Baton Rouge, taking 29.5% to Santorum’s 45.6% but also in the pro-establishment lowland counties along the Mississippi River (which have large black populations, but wealthy white business owners). He lost Caddo Parish (Shreveport) 28% to 50.5%.
Louisiana does not really have lots of affluent suburban voters, and what it does have in suburbs – although fairly well-off and heavily white – are of the Southern, white-flight influenced suburban/exurban variety. Predictably, Romney was a poor fit for these areas in Louisiana. He lost Jefferson Parish, home to most of New Orleans’ conservative white suburbanites, with 31.7% to Santorum’s 44%. He lost St. Tammany Parish, home to some very conservative New Orleans exurbia across the lake with 27.7% against 47% for Santorum.
Rick Santorum won by fairly strong margins in southern Louisiana’s Cajun country (Acadiana) though Romney pulled a few respectable showings in a handful of parishes (as did Newt Gingrich). However, in heavily Evangelical and conservative rural northern Louisiana, Romney was swept out of the water by Santorum. Romney didn’t even break 20% in a handful of these parishes, which had been David Duke’s strongest base of support in that famous 1991 gubernatorial runoff against Edwin Edwards. Santorum won 61% to Romney’s 18% in La Salle Parish, (in)famous for the city of Jena.
Newt Gingrich did extremely badly in Louisiana, winning only 16% in a state which should naturally have given him a bit more support. It definitely appears as if most of Gingrich’s “potential” support coalesced around Santorum, as is happening with most anti-Romney conservatives in other states.
Maryland and D.C.
Maryland (and D.C. which has like no Republicans) was always favourable territory for Mitt Romney. The Republicans in Maryland, save those on the Eastern Shore and the Panhandle, tend to affluent white suburbanites and overall quite moderate. Santorum did not put much effort in the state. As for Washington DC, the few Republicans (when I say few, I mean really few) it has are moderate, white and wealthy. Rick Santorum wasn’t even on the ballot in DC.
Mitt Romney 49.18%
Rick Santorum 28.88%
Newt Gingrich 10.92%
Ron Paul 9.5%
Mitt Romney 70.20%
Ron Paul 12.01%
Newt Gingrich 10.77%
Jon Huntsman 7.02%
Maryland was, as predicted, a huge Romney win though he ultimately fell just a bit short of winning over 50% of the vote. In terms of exit polls, Romney won big with all those aged over 45, and lost more narrowly to Santorum with the voters aged below 45. Naturally, he found his strongest support from the wealthiest 11% who make over $200k, where he won a staggering 64% to Santorum’s 16%. He did well with other middle and upper-middle class voters. The reasons for Romney’s landslide in Maryland are apparent looking only at exit poll crosstabs: only 7% of voters earned under $30k, but a full 48% of voters made over $100k which is, I believe, their largest share in any state which has voted thus far (though New York and New Jersey might beat that). Evangelicals made up only 38% of the electorate, and Romney even won those voters (although by only 2, 41-39).
30% of voters were “very conservative”, and though those guys favoured Santorum 42-39 over Romney (a strong performance by Romney, still), Romney owned (58%) with “somewhat conservative” voters and with moderates (48%). 41% felt that a candidate’s ability to defeat Obama was the most important candidate quality, with these voters Romney took 72% to Santorum’s tiny 13%.
Rick Santorum won only two counties: Garrett County, deep in the conservative Panhandle (and closer to WV or than to the bulk of Maryland) and Somerset County, a rural county on the fairly conservative Eastern Shore. He did not even do all that well in the conservative blue-collar areas of the Panhandle, losing Allegany County (41.6-35.9), and in good part performed fairly atrociously on the Eastern Shore which, at least in the past, had some culturally Southern elements to it. It has likely come under Baltimore’s exurban influence in parts, while other areas have grown affluent with wealthy residents moving in to coastal properties.
Mitt Romney’s base was, naturally, the moderate, suburban and affluent corridor between DC and Baltimore. Though he took ‘only’ 44.5% and 45.8% in Baltimore City and Prince George County (both of which are heavily Democratic), Romney won by much larger margin in the truly suburban affluent counties. He won 50.4% in Baltimore County, 54% in Anne Arundel County (Annapolis), 54.6% in Howard County and 59.8% in Montgomery County (suburban DC) – all four of them tend to be fairly moderate but extremely affluent suburban counties (though Baltimore County has lower-income areas and exurbs). He also won 59.9% in Talbot County, on the Eastern Shore. Rick Santorum raked in more respectable performances, however, in the more conservative exurban counties surrounding Baltimore including Carroll County (41.9-34.3), Harford County (46.4-28.7) and Frederick County (44.2-32.4).
In the District of Columbia, only a bit over 4000 Republicans came out (against 53,000 Democrats) in this black-majority and solidly Democratic city. The Republicans in DC being largely white and affluent (in wealthy neighborhoods such as Spring Valley), they voted overwhelmingly for Romney. Nonetheless, sign perhaps of the very moderate-to-liberal nature of DC Republicans, 7% of DC Republicans cast their ballots for Jon Huntsman – who has been out of the race for over two months now.
Wisconsin was the big fight on April 3. Polls there pre-Illinois had shown Santorum leading Romney by large margins in the state, but Illinois seems to have been a pretty decisive moment as it convinced a lot of voters of Romney’s inevitability. Wisconsin is not quite identical to Illinois or Ohio, but generally fairly similar. Its suburbs are not as moderate or affluent as Chicagoland and its rural areas largely lack a culturally Southern element (obviously). It does have a sizable Evangelical minority which turns out in Republican primaries, but unlike in the South they do not form anywhere near a majority of voters. Wisconsin is thus more pro-Santorum than Illinois ever was, but slightly less pro-Santorum than Ohio. Romney took the lead in Wisconsin post-IL, leading by fairly comfortable margins in every poll.
Mitt Romney 44.08%
Rick Santorum 36.85%
Ron Paul 11.18%
Newt Gingrich 5.84%
Romney dominated almost all demographics in Wisconsin. He won all age groups save those aged 40-49, once again performing best with the quarter or so of voters aged over 65% (53% for Mitt). He won all income categories except for the poorest 13% of voters making under $30k – they voted for Santorum 39-36. He won those making over $200k with 59%, and won those making between $100k and $200k with 52%. 38% of voters were Evangelical, but Santorum won them by only 5 percentage points while losing the non-Evangelical majority by a much wider 47-33 margin. Once again, Santorum also lost his correligionists (Catholics, 37% of the electorate) taking 35% to Romney’s 48%. He even lost Catholics who attend church weekly, although by only one point. He did better with Protestants overall, losing them by 5.
Wisconsin’s GOP electorate was unusually moderate or liberal in their self-identification: 39% were moderates or liberals. That might be because Democrats made up 11% of the GOP primary electorate in this open primary, and obviously they went overwhelmingly for Santorum (44-24). Santorum lost independents, 30% of the electorate, by four points. As a result, he only lost moderates by three points (33 vs. 36). Most surprisingly, he lost the 32% identifying as ‘very conservative’ by one point to Mitt (43 vs. 44) who dominated with somewhat conservative voters (55 vs. 36). 38% of voters identified the ability to beat Obama as the most important candidate quality. Unsurprisingly, they went big for Romney: 68-22. A margin, when complemented with his traditional domination in the ‘right experience’ category more than makes up for his terrible showings in the ‘true conservative’ and ‘strong moral character’ categories. 80% of voters think Romney will win the nomination. Though 43% feel that Romney’s political positions are not conservative enough, only 31% would not be satisfied if he wins the nomination.
Mitt Romney’s core base of support in Wisconsin, was, like in every other state, the suburbs – which cast a bit over half of the votes in this primary. Milwaukee’s suburbs, a lot of which lie in Waukesha County, tend to be much more conservative than Chicagoland’s affluent moderate centrist suburbia. The suburban belt around Milwaukee, save for Racine and Kenosha (two blue-collar Democratic strongholds) tend to be the most solidly Republican area in the state, voting for McCain over Obama in 2008 (or preferring McCarthy over LaFolette in that famous 1946 GOP primary). Milwaukee’s suburbia, with a few exceptions, is also not as wealthy as some of Chicagoland’s affluent suburbs in Lake and DuPage counties or Detroit’s Oakland County suburbs. In a general election, they certainly form a stark contrast with poor inner-city areas of Milwaukee County or liberal Dane County (Madison). A more religious population and a large German Catholic population are the main causes for the conservatism of Milwaukee suburbs, similar to the conservatism of Minneapolis’ suburbs in Minnesota.
Despite their conservatism, Milwaukee’s suburbs largely prefered Romney over Santorum. Santorum has not performed extremely well in upper middle-class suburbs, even if they are conservative, in primary states north of the Mason-Dixon line. His base is far more rural, blue-collar and Evangelical. At any rate, Romney won the Milwaukee suburbs with results even more impressive than his results in Chicagoland or his native Oakland County. He won 51.9% to Santorum’s 31.9% in Milwaukee County, but in Waukesha County (almost as important as Milwaukee County in raw vote terms) he won a staggering 61.5% to Santorum’s 28.6%. He also won other suburban counties in southeastern Wisconsin by large margins: Ozaukee County (61-27.3), Washington County (54.7-34.7), Walworth County (51.7-30.4), Racine County (54.1-31.7) and Kenosha County (49.8-31.1). These counties were by far Romney’s strongest performances, though he won big in remote rural Vilas County (48.6-29.6) – probably because of the cottages and lake homes on the lakes (Romney loves the lakes, remember) – and did well in the Door Peninsula (Door County, 43.7-36.2).
Mitt Romney narrowly won very liberal Dane County (Madison), with 37.5% to Santorum’s 36.2%, which is a much narrower margin than we could have expected. On the other hand, however, liberal white-collar Dane County is likely filled with those Democrats who voted in the GOP primary to fool around as part of the infamous ‘Operation Backdoor’. Romney and Santorum both performed fairly well, though Santorum a tad better, in the largely Democratic areas of southwestern Wisconsin which are largely Scandinavian in ancestry.
Romney did poorly in most mid-sized cities in the state, besides Winnebago County (Oshkosh) which he won with 39.7%. Rick Santorum surprisingly performed well in the largely Belgian (and Catholic) city of Green Bay (Brown County, 43.7-36.8 for Santorum) and neighboring5 heavily Belgian Kewaunee County (52-31). Santorum otherwise won Outagamie County (Appleton, 40.7-31.7), Fond du Lac County (Fond du Lac, 42.2-41.2), Chippewa County (Eau Claire, 39.4-36.1), La Crosse County (37.9-35.9), St. Croix County (Twin Cities exurbia, 42.2-35.8) and working-class Douglas County (Superior, 44.9-33.4). A lot of these areas are fairly working-class, and a lot tend to be fairly conservative.
Santorum performed best in a string of inland couties in northern Wisconsin, between Lake Michigan and the Minnesota border, a region which is quite Evangelical, fairly low-income and working-class (the Fox River Valley’s mills) and which had given Mike Huckabee a few solid wins in 2008 when he had lost the WI primary by nearly 18 points to John McCain.
As in Illinois, it appears as if Romney owes his victory more to the fact that he mobilized his voters very well rather than any major breakthrough in categories where he was particularly weak (though his victory with ‘very conservative’ voters is surprising and interesting). Despite the inevitability which surrounds his eventual nomination, he still won the state with a fairly anemic 44% (McCain had won it with 55%, despite, it is true, the race being almost over and two-man contest with Huckabee). A good portion of voters, who probably have resigned themselves to Romney’s victory, still voted for Santorum or the the two other also-rans.
The next contests are on April 24 in delegate-rich New York, Santorum’s home turf of Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Delaware. New York, which has 95 total delegates, will be a very big prize for Romney who will win New York in a landslide. Connecticut and Rhode Island will probably go in his direction by a large margin as well. Pennsylvania will be the most seriously contested state, and could prove to be Santorum’s final stand if he loses his home state. Santorum is going to fight to the last man in Pennsylvania, where he has a clear favourite-son advantage but one which is getting eaten into by Romney’s momentum and the Mittens treasury which will likely shower the state with ads. If Santorum wins his home state, it will not be a game-changer for him as it will not be enough for him to miraculously regain viability, but it would guarantee that he stays in the race for a while longer. If he loses his home state, he could be forced to withdraw earlier than he would wish to. Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich will not be a significant presence in any of these five states.