Category Archives: Primaries, leadership contests or internal party votes

Italy and Italian politics in 2013

2013 was another momentous year in politics and elections around the world, and my usual Top 10 post reviewing the year’s ten most significant election while offer a retrospective on the political and electoral year which passed. If there is one country, however, where 2013 has proven to be an exceptionally consequential and memorable year as far as politics are concerned, that would need to be Italy. At this time last year, it was clear that 2013 would be a memorable year in Italian politics. But, in true Italian style, what has transpired politically in Italy in the past twelve months has been incredible and obviously of deep consequence for the future of Italian politics.

It all began with legislative elections on February 24-25. The expectation prior to the vote was that the centre-left coalition by Pier Luigi Bersani, the colourless leader of the Democratic Party (Partito Democratico, PD) – Italy’s largest centre-left party – would be able to form a relatively stable government, probably with the added support of a centrist/centre-right coalition led by Mario Monti, the economist and former EU Commissioner who was serving as Italy’s technocratic Prime Minister for a year. Things, however, didn’t quite play out that way. Silvio Berlusconi, the histrionic business magnate at the centre of Italian politics since 1994, did better than anybody expected, coming within 0.3% of winning the election (in the lower house). To make matters even worse, the Five Star Movement (MoVimento Cinque Stelle, M5S), a virulently anti-establishment party led by charismatic (demagogic?) comedian Beppe Grillo, won 25.6% of the vote and became the single largest party. Because of Italy’s notoriously horrible electoral law, Bersani’s coalition won an absolute majority in the lower house – the Chamber of Deputies – by virtue of having won the most votes nationally and being entitled to a majority bonus granting the largest coalition an absolute majority. But since the Senate has such bonuses apply only regionally, Bersani’s coalition fell short of an absolute majority in the upper house – with 123 seats to Berlusconi’s 117 and Grillo’s 54.

Italy is a parliamentary republic with ‘perfect bicameralism’, which means that a government needs the confidence of both houses to remain in power. Therefore, it became clear that Bersani wouldn’t be able to form government (with the confidence of the Senate) lest he either swallowed the left’s entire raison-d’etre since 1994 by forming a coalition with Berlusconi or convincing parts of Grillo’s ragtag and inexperienced caucus of allying with him in a short-term minority government. Bersani was principled enough to choose the latter option, desperately trying to convince the Grillists to back him in a stopgap coalition committed to constitutional, electoral and political reform.

By March, however, it had become clear that Bersani had failed. Beppe Grillo, the fiery and demagogic comedian who leads the very theatrical M5S from his blog rather than Parliament, is an uncompromising foe of the entire Italian political system, institutions and politicians – they’re all rotten to the bone, he insists. Grillo and his éminence grise Gianroberto Casaleggio also understand that agreeing to collaboration with an old timer like Bersani and the traditional parties would be suicidal for a new and fragile movement whose support lies heavily on Grillo’s populist rhetoric against a corrupt political elite (it’s often hard to take issue with what he rants on, given the legendary corruption, incompetence and vanity of the Italian political elite). Therefore, Grillo effectively blocked his 109 deputies and 54 senators from giving in to the temptation of siding with Bersani.

In April, to complicate matters further, parliamentarians and regional delegates were called to elect the President – a largely ceremonial role, but one of significance in the government formation process. Bersani, who had up until that point done the best he could in a nightmarish situation, did like the Italian left usually does – shoot itself in the foot. Bersani reached an agreement with Berlusconi and the centre on a common candidate for the first ballot, on April 18 – Franco Marini, an 80-year old former Christian democratic trade unionist. The deal with Berlusconi, which seemed to be reneging all of the PD’s campaign and post-electoral behaviour, incensed many on the left and within the PD. Left Ecology Freedom (Sinistra Ecologia Libertà, SEL), a small ecosocialist leftist party led by Nichi Vendola and Bersani’s junior ally in February, broke with the PD and backed Stefano Rodotà, a respected former jurist and Communist nominated by Grillo’s M5S. Within the PD itself, Bersani’s strongest rival, the young and centrist mayor of Florence Matteo Renzi, who had been defeated by Bersani in a 2012 primary for the prime ministerial candidacy, decried Marini’s pick.

Marini fell far short of the 672 votes required to win on the first ballot, largely due to defections on the left from Renzi’s supporters. After two more inconclusive ballots, the PD (including Renzi) and the SEL agreed to support Romano Prodi, a respected former centre-left Prime Minister. Prodi only required an absolute rather than two-thirds majority to win by this point, but he won only 395 votes – short of the 504 needed to win. It is largely believed that Prodi’s nomination was part of a dirty ploy engineered by Massimo D’Alema, a former Prime Minister and a leading factional leader on the PD’s left (who had backed Bersani in 2009 and 2012). D’Alema comes from the party’s ‘left’ (former members of the Italian Communist Party), like Bersani, but in reality he is a centrist who has long been willing to compromise with Berlusconi and the centrist parties (with disastrous consequences for the party). Renzi might also have been behind the Prodi ploy. In any event, the trick worked, and Bersani resigned the leadership.

On April 20, the leading politicians from all parties (except the M5S) agreed on an unprecedented last-ditch exit route from the crisis. The incumbent President, 88-year old Giorgio Napolitano, who was due to retire as all of his predecessors had done after one term, agreed to run for reelection as a solution to the crisis. Napolitano was reelected on the sixth ballot with a huge majority.

Palazzo Chigi, the seat and residence of the Prime Minister (own picture)

Palazzo Chigi, the seat and residence of the Prime Minister (own picture)

Napolitano’s condition in exchange for agreeing to serve a second term was the formation of a grand coalition government between the left and right. On April 24, Napolitano nominated Enrico Letta, a relatively youthful (47) politician from the PD’s centrist (ex-Christian Democrat, DC) wing but a former Bersani ally. Letta formed a government backed by his own PD, Berlusconi’s PdL, Mario Monti’s Civic Choice (Scelta Civica, SC) and independents. On April 28, he was sworn in with his ministers. Angelino Alfano, still seen as Berlusconi’s dauphin, became Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior and the PdL had four other ministers (Infrastructure and Transports; Health; Agriculture, Food and Forestry; Constitutional Reforms). The PD was well represented, but like with the PdL few – if any – leading party figures joined the cabinet. Major portfolios went to fairly independent personalities – the former EU Commissioner and Radical politician Emma Bonino as foreign minister, the director general of the Bank of Italy Fabrizio Saccomanni as finance minister, Monti’s former interior minister Annamaria Cancellieri as justice minister and Mario Mauro, a PdL dissident who joined Monti’s party, as defense minister.

On the right, the Lega Nord – Berlusconi’s ally in the elections – went into opposition, as did the SEL. The most vocal opposition came from the M5S, with Grillo as fiery as ever in opposition to Letta’s government. Grillo denounced the creation of the government as a coup d’état and kept calling Parliament a degenerate institution.

Berlusconi had little commitment to Letta’s cabinet from the get-go, being largely preoccupied with his own political and personal interests. He understood that he was holding Letta’s government by the balls; as long as the government served his interests, he would grudgingly tolerate it (but wanting to have the cake and eat it, criticize it at the same time) but if the government started being inconvenient, Berlusconi would start huffing and puffing. Even the PD had little deep commitment to Letta’s government. Renzi was hardly enamoured by Letta’s government, and most of the party was busily preparing for the leadership elections in which Renzi was the runaway favourite. In June, even the mild-mannered and gentlemanly Monti threatened to pull his (weak) party out of the coalition unless it became bolder and more unified.

Letta’s objective, for the time being, was largely restoring investor and foreign confidence in Italy and managing the economy – mired in recession for months on end. On this front, he was relatively successfully, although vulnerable to Berlusconi’s huffing and puffing. Italy has been badly hurt by the economic recession, the result of a variety of structural and political factors among which is years of economic mismanagement by Berlusconi’s governments.

After the emergency austerity measures adopted by Monti’s technocratic government between 2011 and 2012, Italian policy-makers have tried to reorient economic and fiscal policies in a ‘pro-growth’ and ‘pro-jobs’ direction. The public’s mood, with the economy in recession since the fourth quarter of 2011 and unemployment at 12.5% in October 2013, is obviously quite testy and tired of austerity policies. The economic crisis also created a new wave of deep-seated anger at the political elites (la casta), described by populists with Grillo – often with good reason – as parasites of no use who leech on hardworking taxpayers to serve their narrow personal interests. Monti’s reformist government began taking on vested interests and lobbies in ‘closed’ economic sectors (pharmacists, taxies), Grillo’s campaign focused much of its fire and vitriol on ‘parasitical’ politicians (all rotten, he insisted). Even Berlusconi, the political chameleon he is, was able – with some success – to recycle populist rhetoric aimed at politicians and judges.

The government promised to cut employers’ welfare contributions, tax breaks for energy-saving home improvements, expand a guarantee fund for small and medium enterprises and it said it would consider benefits for families and children. Once in office, the government sped up payments of €40 billion in public administration debts, approved tax incentives for employers to employ young workers and began working on a privatization program. For some, Letta’s government has been insufficiently bold in tackling vested interests and promoting competition, largely because both the PdL and PD are tied to special interests and have little interest in disturbing that.

Berlusconi’s main interest as far as economics went was to get the IMU, an unpopular property tax introduced by Monti (with PdL support), scrapped as he had flamboyantly promised in the election. Letta’s government gave in, knowing that Berlusconi would bring down the government if he didn’t. The IMU on primary residences will be abolished.

The government faced its first major test in May-July. In late May, a police operation unceremoniously arrested Alma Shalabayeva, the wife of an exiled Kazakh political dissident (who lives in the UK) and her six-year old daughter. 72 hours later, the Italian authorities handed them over to Kazakh government, who had a plane waiting in Rome to take her to face an uncertain fate in Kazakhstan. Alfano, as interior minister, denied knowledge of the operation. His denial might have been more plausible if Berlusconi didn’t entertain a close and friendly relation with Kazakhstan’s authoritarian president, Nursultan Nazarbayev and if Italy’s main oil firm (ENI) didn’t have a 17% stake in a Kazakh oil field. On May 28, the Kazakh ambassador had apparently met with Alfano’s chief of staff at the interior ministry to demand Alma Shalabayeva’s arrest and deportation.

The Kazakh expulsion created a political firestorm in Rome which threatened to bring down the government. Berlusconi and his party made it clear that the government would fall if Alfano got into any sort of trouble. The M5S and SEL, along with renziani PD parliamentarians demanded Alfano’s resignation. In July, the M5S and SEL senatorial caucuses tabled a motion of no-confidence in the interior minister, which was rejected by the Senate a few days later. Berlusconi’s threats paid off – the PD, minus a few renziani senators who excused themselves, joined the PdL, SC and minor right-wing groups in voting against the M5S-SEL motion.

Alfano ultimately got a slap on the wrist. Letta was hardly any tougher on other politicians who got caught up in nasty business. Roberto Calderoli, a Lega Nord senator (and one of the vice presidents of the Senate), said that Congolese-born integration minister Cécile Kyenge made him think of an orangutan. Calderoli, who has a knack for comments of the kind, defended himself saying that he intended no racism and only said it because ‘he loves animals’ (and apparently sees animals in all cabinet ministers!); many called on him to resign, but the government seemingly let the matter slide away without a ruckus, although Calderoli may face charges. Annamaria Cancellieri, the non-partisan justice minister, was accused in November 2013 of intervening on the correctional services office to release the daughter of Salvatore Ligresti, a corrupt entrepreneur who is a friend of the minister. The government reiterated its confidence in Cancellieri, and the governing parties all voted against a M5S no-confidence motion in the Chamber of Deputies.

In the meantime, attention turned to Berlusconi’s judicial travails. Il cavaliere‘s innumerable run-ins with the law is nothing new; the business magnate has been indicted on charges of tax fraud, embezzlement, tax evasion, bribery, false accounting, violation of antitrust laws, libel, defamation and under-age prostitution. However, until August 2013, Berlusconi had never been convicted of anything – he was acquitted, cases dragged on exceeding the statute of limitations, he saved his own skin by aptly passing amnesty laws or he changed the law to legalize the alleged offences. The French newspaper Le Monde has an excellent infographic detailing Berlusconi’s various cases.

Il cavaliere‘s luck with the Italian judicial process, often derided for its lengthiness, ran out this year. In October 2012, an appeals court in Milan confirmed a lower court judgement in late 2012 which had found Berlusconi guilty in the ‘Mediaset’ case, where he and his media giant company (Mediaset; the haven of badly-dubbed Extreme Makeover Home Edition reruns) were accused of tax evasion and tax fraud for illicit trade (and false accounting) of movie rights between Mediaset and secret fictive foreign companies in tax havens. The appeals court sentenced him to four years in prison and a five-year ban from holding public office. Berlusconi appealed the case to the Court of Cassation, Italy’s highest appeals court. Much to Berlusconi’s chagrin, the Court of Cassation proved exceptionally quick at issuing a decision on the case – on August 1. The court confirmed the lower courts’ verdict, with a four year prison sentence but asked the Milanese appeals court to review the length of the ban from public office. A 2006 amnesty law, ironically voted by the left to reduce prison overcrowding, automatically reduced Berlusconi’s jail sentence to one year and since he is over 70 and not a repeat offender, he will not serve any jail time: he was given a choice between house arrest or community service, opting for the former.

On June 24, a penal court in Milan had found Berlusconi guilty of child prostitution and abuse of power in the world-famous Rubygate case, where Berlusconi is accused of paying for sex with nightclub dancer Karima El Mahroug, who was a minor at the time (in 2010) and abusing his powers to have her released from police detention in 2010 (on the pretext that she was Hosni Mubarak’s niece). The court sentenced Berlusconi to seven years in prison and a lifetime ban from public office, but he will appeal the decision.

Berlusconi is still involved in three other ongoing cases. A trial on the bribery of a centre-left senator in 2006 to topple Prodi’s government will open next year; in March 2013, he was sentenced to a year in jail in the ‘Unipol’ case (confidential wiretaps by Il Giornale, a newspaper owned by Berlusconi’s brother, on conversations between a former Governor of the Bank of Italy and a centre-left politician); the Constitutional Court is set to rule on a defamation case concerning Antonio Di Pietro, a former magistrate (famous for his corruption-busting work during the 1990s Mani Pulite operations) and the former leader of the Italia dei Valori (IdV) party. Berlusconi, in 2008, had accused Di Pietro of obtaining his degree only with the complicity of the secret services. In 2010, a court in Viterbo acquitted Berlusconi because parliamentary immunity bans any prosecution against words spoken in the exercise of a parliamentary mandate; however, a higher court overturned the decision in 2012.

The Legge Severino, adopted in December 2012 by the Monti government with the support of all major parties (including the PdL), bans any politician convicted to over two years’ imprisonment from holding or running for public office for six years. This law superseded the October 2013 judgement of the Milanese appeals court, which has shortened Berlusconi’s ban from public office to two years. With the prospect of Berlusconi being expelled by the Senate (but his colleagues would need to vote on the matter first), Italian politics for all of August and September were largely dominated by Berlusconi’s fate.

Undeterred, Berlusconi and his camarilla argued that he was the target of a political witch-hunt – in which the culprits were the same as in the past: left-wing ‘red’ judges. In a country where decades of Red Scare rhetoric by the Democrazia Cristiana (DC) have created a right-wing base receptive to anticommunism and allegations of communist plots against a tireless defender of Italy, Berlusconi still appeals to a large number of Italians (but, we shouldn’t fall into the usual trap of deriding the bulk of Italian voters as ‘dumb’ – the Berlusconian right won less than 30% in 2013). In his usual theatrical (and often comedic) style, Berlusconi complained that he was unable to sleep, that he had lost 11kg, that he was psychologically tormented and that his children felt like Jews under Hitler.

Berlusconi’s supporters pleaded that their leader be granted agilità politica (‘political freedom’). President Napolitano and Prime Minister Letta were faced with the hot potato issue of pardoning Berlusconi. While Letta knew that he was taking a political risk in holding firm, he – and the PD – also knew that doing so would be political suicide for the centre-left. Berlusconi challenged the Legge Severino, arguing that it was not retroactive (and, by extension, he couldn’t be expelled by the law since his crimes were committed before 2012) and is challenging the issue to the European Court of Human Rights.

Politically undeterred, Berlusconi simultaneously announced that the PdL, the party which he had founded in 2008, would be folding and that Forza Italia, his original party when he entered politics in 1994, would return. Rome, Milan and some other Italian cities were plastered with posters of Berlusconi rallies reading ancora in campo per l’Italia (‘still in the field for Italy’); while planes with ‘Forza Italia Forza Silvio’ banners flew over beaches during Ferragosto, Italy’s second most popular holiday in which the swelteringly hot cities are emptied by Italians heading to the beach.

Some of Berlusconi’s closest supporters began floating the possibility of a dynastic succession, in the person of Marina Berlusconi, the cavaliere‘s eldest daughter  and chairman of her father’s Fininvest holding firm. She showed little interest, and the dynastic implications annoyed some politicians in Berlusconi’s party.

Hitherto united in public, the PdL/Forza Italia began showing public cracks in September 2013. While a Senate committee, in which the PD and M5S held a majority of the seats, began debating Berlusconi’s expulsion (decadenza in Italian, because Italian is such an awesome language) under the Legge Severino, Berlusconi started huffing and puffing again. On September 28, Berlusconi ordered his cabinet ministers to resign from Letta’s cabinet. The pretext was the government’s decision to raise the VAT (IVA) by 1%, but nearly everybody saw through that – the real reason was that Berlusconi was threatening to pull the plug on Letta (and plunge Italy into another political crisis) over his judicial travails and Napolitano/Letta’s unwillingness to pardon him or delay the expulsion debate. Feeling that Berlusconi might be bluffing, Letta asked for a confidence vote on October 2.

Berlusconi had been breathing fire in the run-up to the vote, threatening to vote against the government. However, on October 2 in the Senate, Berlusconi gave a speech critical of the government but one which ended by announcing he would vote confidence (fiducia), such a astonishing twist that many initially taught he misspoke (the word for distrust or no confidence is one letter away, sfiducia). The PdL joined the PD, SC, Union of the Centre (UDC) and minor government allies in voting for Letta, who won the Senate’s confidence easily 235 to 70 (M5S, SEL, Lega).

Was Berlusconi bluffing all along? It appears he twisted and turned in agonizing indecision, facing an extremely rare internal revolt. Indeed, all but one of the PdL ministers – who obeyed Berlusconi’s original order – shortly thereafter said it was perhaps a bad decision. One of them was Alfano, who led the doves (colombes) in the PdL – moderates (ex-DC and ex-Socialists) and ministers who placed political stability over Berlusconi’s personal interests. The doves faced the hawks (falchi) and loyalists (lealisti), hardline supporters of Berlusconi who came from the party’s right-wing liberals (Giancarlo Galan, Daniele Capezzone), hard-right (Daniela Santanchè) or camarilla (Raffaele Fitto, Mara Carfagna, Renata Polverini). The hawks-loyalists lost, the doves won and Berlusconi, to save face at the last minute, went with them. It was a shocking twist from Alfano, a Sicilian Christian democrat who had been a subservient justice minister between 2008 and 2011 (passing laws to save his boss from prosecution) and been groomed as Berlusconi’s loyal successor and political ‘son’ (despite Berlusconi publicly insulting him).

On October 4, the Senate committee voted to recommend Berlusconi’s expulsion, sending the matter to the Senate as a whole. The PdL demanded that the vote be held with a secret ballot, a prospect which worried Berlusconi’s opponents – given that it would probably mean that he would try to secretly bribe centre-left lawmakers as he had in the past, but there was also a rumour that the M5S would like a secret vote to secretly vote against Berlusconi’s expulsion to reinforce their ‘plague on both your houses’ rhetoric. On October 30, the rules committee asked for a public vote.

Still undeterred, Berlusconi pressed on with the transformation of the PdL into Forza Italia. On November 16, Berlusconi dissolved the PdL into a new Forza Italia. However, one day prior, the ‘doves’ led by Angelino Alfano announced that they would not dissolve into Forza Italia and formed their own party, the New Centre-Right (Nuovo Centrodestra, NCD). The NCD includes all five centre-right ministers in the Letta government, the former Lombardian regional president Roberto Formigoni and his allies, members of the Catholic lay movement Comunione e Liberazione, former members of the DC who joined the centre-right from various post-DC Christian democratic parties (Carlo Giovannardi, in the UDC until 2008), former members of the Italian Socialist Party (PSI), Renato Schifani – the former President of the Senate and architect of an unconstitutional immunity law in 2004 and the incumbent regional president of Calabria Giuseppe Scopelliti.

All in all, Berlusconi’s Forza Italia – reduced to the hawks, loyalists and ‘mediators’ (moderates such as Renato Brunetta, supporters of party unity) – has 67 deputies and 60 deputies, against 29 and 31 respectively for the NCD.

Palazzo Madama, the seat of the Italian Senate in Rome (own picture)

Palazzo Madama, the seat of the Italian Senate in Rome (own picture)

On November 26, as the government was preparing to pass the 2014 budget, Forza Italia withdrew its support from the government and, the next day, voted against the budget which nevertheless passed the Senate 162 to 115, with the NCD’s support. That same day, the Senate finally voted on Berlusconi’s decadenza under the Legge Severino by public ballot. Berlusconi’s supporters, symbolically dressed in black in the Senate or rallied in front of Berlusconi’s Roman residence, desperately tried to delay the vote or have it held by secret ballot. Berlusconi warned the PD and M5S senators from voting against him, so that they were not later “ashamed in front of their children”, he also insisted on a re-trial, claiming new evidence and witnesses. All to no avail, as the Senate voted 192 to 113 to expel Berlusconi from their ranks. The PD, M5S, SEL, SC, UDC and two small centre-left groups voted in favour, while Forza Italia, the Lega Nord, the NCD and a centre-right autonomist group voted against. The NCD in doing so signaled that their split was not as much against Berlusconi himself as against Berlusconi’s political strategy, which makes the Alfano dissidence different from Gianfranco Fini’s very public split with his former ally in 2010. Indeed, Alfano said that he was still Berlusconian – but “in a different way”.

To top off a year of shocking twists and turns, the Constitutional Court ruled, on December 4, that two key parts of the electoral law were unconstitutional. The Italian electoral law (known as the Legge Calderoli, or unofficially the legge porcellum – piglet law – or porcata – literally ‘shit’, as described by its own sponsor, Roberto Calderoli) was passed by Berlusconi’s government in 2005 in an unsuccessful attempt to save the right in the 2006 elections. The law, whose effects we witnessed in the February election, guarantee an absolute majority in the Chamber to whichever coalition wins the most votes nationally by granting them 340 seats (55%), even if said coalition wins only 29% as in 2013! In the Senate, however, the majority bonus is applied regionally (but three regions have no majority bonus) so there is no guarantee that the winning coalition will have an absolute majority in the Senate. This means that the winning coalition either lacks a majority in the Senate (2013), has so tenuous of a majority that it makes it vulnerable to any dissent within the often-fractious coalitions (2006) or the majority is strong but still vulnerable to large blocs of dissent within the coalition (in a landslide election like 2008).

The Constitutional Court declared that the majority bonuses in both houses were unconstitutional and also ruled against the closed party lists, which prevent voters from indicating preferences for candidates on a party list. A new electoral law was already one of the government’s priorities, along with constitutional reform (to end with ‘perfect bicameralism’ and reduce the Senate’s powers); it will now need to actually deliver on a new electoral law. This will hardly be a cakewalk given that there is no agreement on what form the new system should take, and it is obvious that the parties will likely engage in horsetrading and concessions amongst themselves before agreeing on constitutional and electoral reform. It is likely that the new electoral system will include a large number of seats won in single-member districts. Many, like Matteo Renzi (but not Alfano), like a French electoral system, with two round voting and the propensity to create a two-party (or two-coalition?) system. However, in the absence of a political agreement, the most likely option might be a return to the Mattarellum in place between 1993 and 2005, in which 75% of members of both houses were elected by FPTP in single-member districts and the remaining 25% by forms of proportional representation, either compensatory or party-list votes. The system had led to backroom deals, horsetrading, small parties selling themselves to the highest bidder (and holding great power) and corrupt abuses of the obscure clauses of the law (decoy lists in 2001 to work around the party-list PR rules).

What are voters thinking?

The short answer: nobody knows, and politicians are in no hurry to find out. In national polls, the centre-right coalition (PdL/FI+Lega Nord+allies+NCD) have generally held small leads, confusingly ranging from statistically insignificant/tied to narrow but significant (4-6 pts) depending on the pollster (who, it must be pointed out, generally are terrible). The right opened up a narrow but significant lead from April to June-July, at which point the left closed the gap and it has, on the whole, been more or less tied between the right and left since.

Within the coalitions, the PD has improved on its February result (25%) and now stands at 28-29% while Forza Italia, hurt by the NCD split, stands where the PdL stood in February – or a bit below (19-21%). The Lega Nord is stable at low levels of support (4-5%), the SEL peaked at nearly 6% (3% in February) between May and September but has since fallen to 3.5%.

A grand coalition between left and right should have been a godsend for the M5S, but it hasn’t really been so. A new party in Parliament, with a caucus heavily made up of first-time, inexperienced novice politicians drawn from different social horizons and drawing on different political traditions and ideologies, it has had a tough time adapting to Parliament – especially how their leadership and many of the parliamentarians themselves consider the Parliament to be a corrupt and illegitimate institution which should, in a perfect world, be abolished and replaced by internet-based direct democracy. Despite the commitment to direct democracy and political revolution, the M5S isn’t a shining example of internal democracy. Beppe Grillo is an autocratic leader, who is rather intolerant of any dissent or criticism, and doesn’t hesitate to insult any critics – internal or external, politicians or journalists – with crude ad hominem attacks. Grillo just recently allowed his followers to go on TV, which he had until then boycotted. His angry followers often enthusiastically join Grillo’s countless attacks on his ‘enemies’ launched from his blogs.

Two deputies and five senators have been expelled or voluntarily left the M5S caucus. In April, senator Marino Mastrangeli was expelled by members (in an internet vote) for having appeared on TV shows. In June, senator Adele Gambaro, who had held Grillo responsible for the M5S’ poor results in local elections, was expelled from the caucus after an internet vote. Gambaro, Mastrangeli and two other dissident M5S senators voted in favour of Letta’s cabinet in the Senate on October 2. Still, considering how diverse and inexperienced the M5S caucuses are, losing so few parliamentarians is a big feat. I compared the M5S to the Canadian Progressive Party from the 1920s in February, and while I still argue that the two parties share some similar traits (some of Grillo’s ideas remind me of the Ginger Group), the difference so far is that the M5S has been far more cohesive than the Progressives. The reason might be that the Progressives lacked a Beppe Grillo, a rabble-rousing populist politician who is also able to hold his crowd together.

In polls, the M5S saw their support fall from 25-30% in the immediate aftermath of the election to 15-17% in July and since then back up to 20-23%. Basically, while some February voters are reconsidering their vote and may not vote for Grillo again, he remains a hugely influential player.

The centre, which won 10.6% in February (Chamber of Deputies), has collapsed. Mario Monti lost control of his own party, the hastily-assembled and fractious SC, ended his short-lived political career in October and resigned from the SC. The SC has broken up, divided between liberals and Catholics. The liberals have taken control of the party, which led the Catholic/Christian democratic wing to split off and join forces with the Christian democratic party, the UDC. The SC group has 26 deputies and 8 senators left, down from 47 and 21 at the outset. The Catholics and UDC have formed their own group, Per l’Italia, with 20 deputies and 12 senators. In the polls, the SC has sunk from 8% in February to 1-2%, and the UDC has been stuck at 1.8%, what it won in the election.

There were local elections in late May (earlier or later in two regions), the most significant race for mayor being in Rome. The centre-left won 19 out of 21 major cities, with an independent list winning one and the M5S only winning one city (Ragusa). The centre-right was defeated in Rome but also other historically right-wing places: Brescia, Treviso or Viterbo. In Rome, incumbent mayor Gianni Alemanno, a former neo-fascist who won a surprise victory in a traditionally left-leaning city (but one with a long history of high support for neo-fascist/post-fascist parties) in 2008, was defeated. His term had been marred by some patronage scandals and policy mishaps, and he was handily defeated by Ignazio Marino (PD), a centre-left senator and esteemed transplant surgeon. Marino won 42.6% against 30.3% for Alemanno in the first round, with the M5S candidate polling only 12.4% (Grillo had won 27% in Rome in February). In the second round, Marino won 63.9%. The centre-right – Lega included – usually did poorly, even in their northern and Sicilian bases. They lost cities such as Viterbo in the Lazio (which elected its first leftist mayor, the incumbent right-wing mayor winning only 37.1% in the runoff), Catania in Sicily (a former centre-left mayor returned by the first round) and Messina (where the PdL was out by the first round, with only 18.5%, and a narrow victory for a pacifist, environmentalist and anti-mafia activist against the PD in the runoff). In Treviso, held by the Lega Nord since 1994, the centre-left defeated Lega Nord candidate Giancarlo Gentilini, a two-term mayor between 1994 and 2003 known for his provocative xenophobic and homophobic stances. The left won 42.6% in the first round against 34.8% for Gentilini, and won with 55.5% in the runoff.

The M5S did very poorly compared to its showing a few short months earlier, winning less than 10% in most cities and winning, at most, 15% of the vote. The party’s only success was in Ragusa, where the Grillo candidate placed second behind the PD in the first round, with 15.6%, and went on to win with 69.4% in the runoff.

A regional election was held in Friuli-Venezia Giulia in April, one day after Napolitano’s reelection. Debora Serracchiani, a young PD MEP close to Renzi, narrowly defeated the centre-right incumbent, Renzo Tondo, with 39.4% against 39% in the presidential vote. The M5S won 19.2% when it had won 27% in February. In May, the special (French-speaking) autonomous region of the Aosta Valley held a regional election. Although Aostan politics form their own little world separate from Italian politics, there is some overlap. The M5S, which had still won 18.5% in February won only 6.5% while the PdL lost all four seats it held and won only 4.2%.

The Trentino-Alto Adige region is its own unique world as well, because of the German-speaking majority in Alto Adige/Südtirol/South Tyrol and the strength of the autonomist centre-left, a regional election was held on October 27. The election in Alto Adige/Südtirol was interesting in its own right but of little relevance to Italy: the Südtiroler Volkspartei (SVP), the catch-all German party which has dominated the province since 1948, finally lost its 65-year old absolute majority on the provincial council, winning an all-time low of 45.7% of the vote. The main winners were the German right, in the form of Die Freiheitlichen (often described as a local variant of the FPÖ and separatist) who won 17.9% but also the Süd-Tiroler Freiheit (separatists demanding reunification with Austria) which increased its support from 5% to 7%. The Greens, one of the few (only?) pan-linguistic parties in the province, increased their support to 8.7%. The PD won 6.7%, roughly holding its ground, but the Italian right lost heavily – an alliance between Lega Nord and Forza Italia (competing as Forza Alto Adige) won only 2.5% and 1 seat, down from 10.4% in 2008. The M5S eked out one seat. In the Trentino province, the centre-left coalition led by Ugo Rossi from the Trentino Tyrolean Autonomist Party (PATT) won handily, taking 58.1% of the direct presidential vote against 19.3% for Diego Mosna, an independent businessman backed by centrists, liberals, centre-right and centre-left dissidents. Running separately, it was a massive disaster for Forza Italia/Forza Trentino, which won 4.3% in the presidential vote and 4.4% in the list vote, losing all 5 seats won by the PdL in 2008. They were surpassed by the Lega Nord, which won 6.6%, but also the M5S – whose 5.7% were still a far cry from the 21% it had won in February.

A special regional election was held in Basilicata, a region in southern Italy, on November 17-18 after the PD president resigned following a corruption bust which saw members of his government and the leader of the opposition arrested for embezzlement. The PD candidate easily held the regional presidency, which has been held by the centre-left since 1995 (often in alliance with the centre), winning 59.6% of the presidential vote. SC senator Salvatore Di Maggio, in coalition with the PdL and UDC, won only 19.4% while the M5S won 13.2% (24.3% in February). In the list vote, the PdL suffered sharp loses, losing five seats and winning only 12.3% of the vote (19.4% in 2010) although the PD also lost ground, from 27.1% to 24.8%.

Why are Italian voters handing the left large victories at the local level, but are still torn between the left and right nationally? Similarly, if the M5S is holding up relatively well from the general election, why are they being trounced in local elections? The most likely answer for the first question is that the centre-right is heavily dependent on Berlusconi, for better or for worse. Berlusconi is the right’s most famous, charismatic and likely popular leader and remains the glue which may hold a very fractious coalition together, although younger leaders such as Alfano or the Lega Nord mayor of Verona Flavio Tosi are knocking at the door. Berlusconi has little interest in local/regional elections and campaigned little for ‘his’ candidates in this year’s local elections. A similar explanation goes for Grillo, who is by far the M5S’ most charismatic and notable leader. His movement, however, still lacks grassroots at the local level and most of its candidates are no-namers who struggle to make an impact if Grillo is not playing an active role in their campaign.

PD leadership

The PD held a much-awaited leadership election on December 8, capping off a fascinating year in Italian politics.

The obvious favourite was Matteo Renzi, the 38-year old reformist mayor of Florence, who had lost the 2012 prime ministerial primaries to Bersani. After the near-loss in February and Bersani’s disastrous handling of the presidential election, the PD elite and rank-and-file began reconsidering Renzi, who had cemented himself as Bersani’s heir apparent and strongest public critic.

Matteo Renzi, unlike Bersani, comes from the Christian democratic tradition – while too young to have been in the First Republic’s DC, he began his political career in the centre-left Italian People’s Party (PPI), one of the DC’s successor and joined the PD from the Democracy is Freedom – The Daisy. Renzi made in name in politics, as president of the province of Florence between 2005 and 2009 and as mayor of Florence since 2009, as a ‘scrapper’ (rottamatore) who took on the political elites (within his own party) and reducing waste, mismanagement and the size of the local public administrations. Despite being only in his first time as mayor and fairly new to politics, like Barack Obama (to whom he is often compared, alongside Tony Blair), he has made a name for himself largely by being a competent municipal administrator and his populist/anti-establishment persona which is popular in Italy.

The Palazzo Vecchio, Florence's town hall (own picture)

The Palazzo Vecchio, Florence’s town hall (own picture)

In 2010, Renzi made a name for himself nationally by launching a reformist anti-elite movement within the PD (rottamazione senza incentivi) alongside two other young leaders, MEP Debora Serracchiani and Pippo Civati – who are more left-wing than the centrist Renzi. In November 2012, he ran against Bersani and SEL leader Nichi Vendola (and two minor candidates) for the prime ministerial candidacy of the centre-left, PD-led coalition in the 2013 elections. Renzi won 35.5% in the first round, about 10 points behind Bersani, and only won 39.1% in the runoff against Bersani, who received the backing of Nichi Vendola. Renzi was popular with some PD members, but his anti-establishment/anti-elite creed and his reformist ‘Third Way’ policy proposals challenging the centre-left’s traditional values worried some left-wing voters. As did, among others, a December 2010 meeting with Berlusconi and Berlusconi commenting that Renzi was adopting his ideas under the PD’s banner. Bersani, the establishment pick and more orthodox, was the safe bet at that time.

Ideologically, Renzi is on the party’s right and challenges the traditional ‘dogma’ of the centre-left (which is nevertheless very moderate in practice). In 2012, Renzi proposed tax cuts for employees, a €100 increase in employees’ net salary paid for by a 15% cut in the costs of public administration, financial support and credit for SMEs, labour market flexibility (flexicurity) along the Scandinavian/Danish model, financial incentives for foreign investors, cracking down on tax evasion and civil unions for homosexual couples. A ‘straight-talker’, he also took strong stances against corruption – abolishing public subsidies to parties (abolished recently by Letta, responding to a M5S demand), reducing the number of parliamentarians, greater accountability of public officials to their constituent (he favours a French electoral system) and constitutional reform to reduce the Senate’s powers. He is often compared to (and accepts such comparisons himself) to Tony Blair and his New Labour.

A good article by Spain’s El País newspaper emphasizes Renzi’s frankness, ‘what you see is what you get’ style – noting his public criticisms of the PD’s old guard, a public admission by Renzi himself that he doesn’t have an excellent relation with the unions, stinging criticism of Italy’s inefficient or mismanaged bureaucracy and a burning desire to promote entrepreneurship. Asked about his age, Renzi points out that ‘only in Italy is 38 still young’.

He justifies his identification with the centre-left by saying that he’s a centre-leftist who “wants to do things”, and not one of those who don’t act and limit themselves to theories and internecine factional warfare. He promotes his record as mayor as his definition of ‘left-wing’ – environmentalist policies (limiting new buildings and preserving green spaces), gender parity in his administration (which now has more women than men), investments in new technologies, privatization of the public transit company, cutting the costs of public administration and promoting culture (late-night opening hours for museums).

He is very critical of the old centre-left leadership for their ‘obsession’ with Berlusconi, saying that his objective is to get him to retire rather than send him to jail (that should be up to the courts, he says) and opposing him by doing the reforms which he (and the centre-left) failed to do. Although both he and Letta shared Christian democratic roots, both men have been on separate sides of recent factional battles (Letta was pro-Bersani) and Renzi is fairly critical of Letta’s government – not openly opposed to it, but less supportive than the outgoing PD leadership. Renzi has little interest in having Letta stay on for longer than is necessary, and can be expected to pressure Letta into doing what he promised to do but hasn’t done (yet) – tax cuts for working classes, fighting corruption and la casta and political reform.

The PD’s members chose between four candidates in a preliminary vote in early November, with the top three moving on to the open primary on December 8. The open primary was free for PD members and non-members needed to contribute €2 to be able to vote. Besides Renzi, two other candidates qualified for the open primary: Gianni Cuperlo and Pippo Civati.

Cuperlo, the oldest of the candidates (52), comes from the other tradition represented in the PD. He was the last national secretary of the Italian Communist Youth Federation between 1988 and 1990 and joined the post-communist/social democratic Democratic Party of the Left (PDS) and Democrats of the Left (DS). He has member a member of the Chamber of Deputies since 2006. Cuperlo was very much the ‘establishment’ or ‘old guard’ candidate, endorsed by the party’s so-called ‘left’ or ‘centre’ – mostly made up, like Bersani or D’Alema – of former Communists. That being said, considering the PD’s establishment to be particularly left-wing despite their opposition to Renzi’s heterodox views is erroneous. In reality, they remain moderate, inoffensive centre-leftists – as Prime Minister, D’Alema governed as a centrist, and Bersani’s 2013 had nothing radical or markedly leftist to it.

Pippo Civati, 38 like Renzi, also comes from the party’s left, but representative of a newer generation opposed to the old guard (and sharing some of Renzi’s criticisms of the old guard) and with some liberal positions on economic issues. Civati, elected to the Chamber of Deputies only in February, stood out by emphasizing the need for a more left-wing oriented party, with close ties to Vendola’s SEL and openly supportive of an alliance with the M5S. Civati represented the PD in the ill-fated negotiations with the M5S, supported the M5S’ presidential candidate Stefano Rodotà and opposed the Letta government.

Renzi was supported by his own core backers (renziani) and most of the liberal and Christian democratic factions of the party. As in 2012, he was supported by Walter Veltroni, the PD’s inaugural leader and 2008 PM candidate, who despite coming from the PCI is considered to be an ‘American liberal’ in the party and supports a big-tent party like the US Democrats. This year, Renzi was joined by ‘Areadem’, a centrist faction led by former PD leader Dario Franceschini (2009), who was defeated for the leadership by Bersani in 2009 but later joined forces with Bersani in 2010, breaking with Veltroni and the Christian democrats (I Popolari). Some supporters of Prime Minister Letta also backed Renzi.

Cuperlo was supported by the traditional social democratic old guard of the party, made up of Bersani and D’Alema’s supporters (Cuperlo himself is a dalemiani) but also the so-called ‘Young Turks’, a faction of younger members (whose most famous name is Stefano Fassina) on the economic left of the party.

Civati, a minor leader in the PD’s factional games, had little institutional or factional support. He was backed, among other names, by Laura Puppato, a new senator and environmentalist from Veneto, who had run in the 2012 primaries.

According to YouTrend, the Bersaniani, Areadem and renziani are the three largest factions in the Parliament, and about 35% of the PD’s parliamentarians were considered to be bersaniani.

In the vote for PD members, Renzi won only 45.34% against 39.44% for Cuperlo and 9.43% for Civati (another candidate, who was eliminated, won 5.8%). On December 8, 2.8 million voters turned out to vote in the open primaries – down from 3.1 million in the centre-left primaries in 2012 (first round) and also from the 2009 PD primaries in which 3.1 million had participated. The PD won 8.6 million votes in February.

Matteo Renzi 67.55%
Gianni Cuperlo 18.21%
Pippo Civati 14.24%

Results of the PD members vote and open primary (own map)

Results of the PD members vote and open primary (own map)

Without much suspense or surprise, Renzi handily won the open primaries against his two lesser-known opponents. While the members’ vote in November showed that a significant section of the PD’s rank-and-file membership was still fairly sceptical of Renzi, when the vote was opened to non-member sympathizers, Renzi won by a predictably massive margin. His support clearly broke through traditional factional strengths, and traditional ‘centrist’ or ‘rightist’ support within the PD. After the near-defeat of February 2013 (which was basically a defeat), the hot mess of April 2013, the humiliation of allying with the Berlusconian right in a grand coalition and the unpopularity of such an unnatural alliance of necessity with the PD’s rank-and-file, there was certainly widespread desire within the PD for a new leader, regardless of his ideological purity, who would give the PD some pride and shake up the political system.

Renzi is expected to take a more critical stance vis-a-vis the Letta government, although it seems unlikely that he would precipitate its collapse in the short term.

Geographically, Renzi won every region and – according to YouTrend – all but one province, losing only the inland Sicilian province of Enna to Cuperlo. Generally, Renzi’s lowest results came from southern Italy, including Sicily and much of Sardinia, while his best results – fairly naturally – came from his native Tuscany, although he was also strong throughout much of northern Italy. Renzi won 78.5% in Tuscany, and 79.6% in his province of Florence. His worst results were in Sardinia (56.4%), Basilicata (57.2%) and Calabria (57.8%). Southern Italian centre-left voters could be expected, I guess, to be more favourable to the establishment pick.

Unnoticed by most, the Lega Nord held a leadership election on December 7. The historic leader of the party, Umberto Bossi, had been forced to resign from his leadership positions in April 2012 following a crazy scandal in which Bossi and his ‘magic circle’ were accused of embezzling the party’s public financing funds and using the money to pay Bossi’s son. The scandal badly hurt the party, which suffered major loses in the February election, and led to Bossi’s replacement by his rival and one-time deputy, Roberto Maroni. Although the Lega still allied (reluctantly and in return for juicy concessions) with Berlusconi in the last election, Maroni and his followers have tended to be far less supportive of the Lega’s traditional ties to the centre-right (Bossi strongly supported the alliance with Berlusconi in the last few years). The leadership battle opposed Umberto Bossi to Matteo Salvini, a MEP. Salvini was supported by Maroni.

Salvini won in a landslide, 81.7% to Bossi’s mere 18.3%. The Łiga Vèneta, the Lega Nord’s branch in Veneto – the party’s second strongest region alongside Lombardy (where the national leadership is drawn from), is controlled by Flavio Tosi, the ambitious mayor of Verona and an ally of Maroni/Salvini’s line against Bossi, although more traditionally conservative. Tosi interpreted the Lega/LV’s poor result in February as the result of the alliance with the PdL. Salvini’s election signals a return to fundamentals for the Lega Nord: more independence from the centre-right, hardened ‘Padanian’ nationalism/separatism, strong anti-immigration stances and Euroscepticism (Salvini once decried the euro as a crime against humanity).

2013 will undoubtedly have been a significant year for Italian politics, which will have major repercussions on the future of Italian politics in the coming months and years.

Merry Christmas to all readers!

The disintegration of the French right? – UMP Congress 2012

What is happening to the French parliamentary right? The party congress of the main party of the right in France, Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), organized to elect a new leadership after Nicolas Sarkozy’s defeat in May, has triggered the first open internal conflict in the UMP since its foundation ten years ago and may yet lead to its disintegration in the near future.

The foreign press has touched on these events and the crisis of the right in France, but this post aims to provide a much more thorough analysis of the lead-up and background to the crisis, the chronology of the crisis and the future of the French right.

Background: The ‘Families’ of the Right

The Union for a Popular Movement (Union pour un mouvement populaire, UMP) was founded in 2002 with the aim of uniting the disparate forces of the right and centre-right in French politics and to provide then-President Jacques Chirac with a solid party machine. Until the creation of the UMP, the French right had been divided between various “families”.

Chirac, since 1976, had been the dominant figure of the neo-Gaullist family, organized in the Rally for the Republic (Rassemblement pour la République, RPR). The Gaullist movement, founded by General Charles de Gaulle, has seen its ideological direction change over the years as its self-proclaimed leaders reinvented Gaullism to their advantage and their liking  The original Gaullist movement had hoped to transcend the left-right cleavage, and to some extent it did because it attracted a fair number of left-wing Gaullists (Gaullistes de gauche) who came from the social-Christian tradition, the Radical Party or even the socialist tradition. However, by and large, Gaullism quickly became an ideology of the right; though it represented a brand of right-wing politics which is unique to France and rather different from the dominant conservative or liberal-conservative ideologies of other major right-wing parties in Europe. At its heart, Gaullism believes in the ‘greatness of France’ and from this observation stemmed its attachment to the independence of France – refusing its subordination to supranational organizations (EU, NATO), superpowers (the US and the USSR) and global economic powerhouses. Domestically, Gaullism supports a strong state, with a strong and stable executive branch playing a central role. Economically, traditional Gaullist dogma rejected economic liberalism and preferred an interventionist (dirigiste) state. It claimed to represent a third way to liberal capitalism and Marxist revolutionary socialism.

Gaullism retained its influence after de Gaulle’s resignation in 1969 and his death the following year, originally due to the leadership of his movement by his allies and lieutenants (Georges Pompidou, Pierre Messmer, Jacques Chaban-Delmas). In 1976, Chirac, a young Gaullist who had sunk Chaban-Delmas’ 1974 presidential candidacy in Giscard’s favour, managed to seize control of the Gaullist movement, create the RPR and transform the new RPR into his own personal machine. In the process, he sidelined the old guard. Chirac reinvented Gaullism several times, moving from his 70s reformist social democracy (the so-called travaillisme à la française) towards Chicago School monetarism (imitating Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher) and euroscepticism in the 1980s before shifting back leftwards after 1995, with his campaign theme of fracture sociale.

The Gaullist movement was never a homogeneous family. Internal divisions increased in the late 80s and throughout the 1990s, and while ideological direction differentiated some of the emergent factions, personality played a large role. In 1990, Chirac’s leadership (like that of Giscard in the UDF) faced challenges from a young generation of “renewers” (les rénovateurs) and then faced an organized opposition led by Philippe Séguin and Charles Pasqua – representing more orthodox and eurosceptic Gaullism – at a 1990 congress (the opposition won around 31%). In 1995, the RPR split between Chirac and Prime Minister Édouard Balladur ahead of the presidential election, and if Balladur’s unsuccessful presidential candidacy received most of its support from the UDF it also received support from certain non-aligned figures of the RPR, notably Sarkozy. In 1999, the first and only direct elections for the leadership of the RPR, Chirac’s candidate (Jean-Paul Delevoye) was defeated by Michèle Alliot-Marie, nowadays seen as one of the last standing chiraquiennes but in 1999 a non-aligned contender opposed to Chirac’s inner circle. In the first round, two other candidates had stood: François Fillon, a protégé of Séguin and the candidate of “social Gaullism” (a more centre-left faction hostile to neoliberalism and supranationalism and supportive of a stronger government defending the welfare state); and Patrick Devedjian (backed by Jean-François Copé), a balladurien from 1995 who represented the liberal and pro-European centre-right within the RPR.

Against Gaullism, the dominant family after 1981, stood other families: the Christian democrats or démocrates sociaux, the liberal “Orléaniste” right and the right-wing radical tradition. In 1978, these families united to form a broad decentralized party, the Union for French Democracy (Union pour la démocratie française, UDF), which included the Christian democratic CDS, the liberal PR and the right-wing Radical Party (PRV), among others.

The Christian democratic family finds its roots in the Catholic Church’s social teachings and it is the direct heir of the post-war Popular Republican Movement (MRP) and the distant heir of the pre-war social Christian tradition of Albert de Mun or the interwar PDP. The Christian democratic tradition actively supports European federalism. Leaders of this family included, at the outset, Jean Lecanuet, who was progressively replaced by a young generation led, most notably, by François Bayrou.

The liberal family, whose most notable leader was Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, finds its roots in the so-called Orleanist tradition of the right. As such, it represents an internationalist and pro-European brand of liberal-conservatism which actively supports economic liberalism, while also being fairly liberal on moral issues.

In his seminal work on the French right, René Rémond differentiated between the three main families of the right: the Bonapartist tradition, the Orleanist tradition and the legitimst tradition. The remnants of the legitimist tradition – ultra-conservative – are found outside the parliamentary right. Gaullism, with its populist appeal (notably through the active use of referendums to legitimate its power and policies) and authoritarian undertones (favouring a strong, centralized and executive-dominated state), represented the Bonapartist family. Liberalism, on the other hand, with its internationalist and economically liberal orientation, is the pure avatar of the Orleanist family. Furthermore, the liberals/Orleanists represent a more ‘elitist’ faction of the right, more reticent towards populist and plebiscitary appeals and more supportive of parliamentary government, a less centralized state and less dominant executive.

The right-wing radical tradition stems from the majority faction of the old Radical Party which did not support the Common Programme of the left in 1972. Born on the far-left in the 1870s, the Radical Party shifted towards the centre throughout the course of the Third and Fourth Republics. Within the right, the radical tradition is a fervent supporter of key radical principles such as separation of church and state and secularism, but also humanism and internationalism. The right-wing radical tradition supports economic liberalism, but less passionately than the liberals. They are the most liberal on moral issues, and they are strong supporters of European federalism.

Bayrou’s CDS, transformed into the ‘FD’ in 1995, took the leadership of the UDF in 1998. His centralist tendencies within the new party and his desire to create a UDF more independent vis-a-vis the RPR led to split in 1998, following the regional elections. Several liberal UDF regional presidents were reelected with the support of the far-right, which Bayrou refused. This event triggered the division of the UDF between Bayrou’s independent and centrist New UDF, and the liberal centre-right known as Démocratie libérale (DL). Bayrou’s aim of pushing the UDF away from the RPR was met with the disapproval of certain factions of the UDF, which remained true to the ‘presidential majority’ and supported closer cooperation with the RPR. In 2002, a minority of the UDF endorsed Chirac’s reelection bid by the first round over Bayrou’s candidacy (which took 6.8%). For the DL, Alain Madelin, the party’s leader, also ran (and won 3.9%); but a majority of the DL caucus endorsed Chirac by the first round.

Chirac’s reelection in special circumstances (against the far-right) and the need for him to win a majority in the legislative elections led to the creation of the UMP. Following the UMP’s success in the June 2002 legislative elections, the UMP was created as a formal political party. The RPR and DL dissolved into the UMP, while a majority of the UDF joined the new party, leaving Bayrou with a rump of 30 or so deputies loyal to his independent centrist strategy.

The Right’s Leadership

Despite its ideological diversity, the French right lacks a tradition of institutionalized/organized ideological debate and has always been marked by the leadership of strong personalities, all quite fond of ‘democratic centralism’. This differentiates the right from the left (particularly the Socialist Party, PS) which has a long tradition of organized internal debate in party congresses (through the votes on ‘motions’) and a reputation for open factionalism and consistent leadership intrigues. The French right is naturally inclined to a strong leader and in turn reticent towards any institutionalized or organized internal factions or movements, fearing that they could lead to internal conflict and factionalism like within the PS.

The neo-Gaullist/ex-RPR family, predominant within the UMP at the expense of the centrists or liberals, have the strongest tradition of strong leadership. Charles de Gaulle did not tolerate dissent and had the remarkable ability to play his potential rivals off one another and checking their individual ambitions. He was the uncontested leader of his movement, and the Gaullist parties – the UNR and UDR – were notorious for being empty shells which served as his personal vehicles. UNR/UDR deputies, under de Gaulle, had little autonomy and many of them were merely loyal party stalwarts. In 1976, when Chirac seized control of the Gaullist movement and created the RPR, he sidelined the old guard and quickly built up the RPR as a formidable political machine and personal political vehicle. Until the challenges from the rénovateurs and Pasqua-Séguin in 1990, the RPR’s sole raison-d’être was to advance its leaders political career and lifelong goal (winning the presidency). Jacques Chirac tolerated little organized dissent and he was quite vindictive towards those who crossed his path, often excluding them from power while rewarding loyal allies. The best example is, of course, Chirac’s relations with Sarkozy after Sarkozy endorsed Balladur in 1995. Even if he did keep some balladuriens within his cabinet after 1995, Sarkozy himself was pushed out and forced into the political wilderness until 1999 (and, following the rout of the Sarkozy-Madelin list in the Euros that year, until 2002). Even if he was forced to place Sarkozy, popular with the electorate and within the UMP, into senior cabinet positions, Chirac always refused to name Sarkozy as Prime Minister (which is what Mitterrand, finer that Chirac when it came to personal political vendettas, would have done to sink a rival).

The UDF, until 1998, was a decentralized coalition of separate, independent parties (CDS, PR etc) and thus lacked the RPR’s political strength. Yet, the UDF was also marked by strong leaders, even they were not as dominant as Chirac within the RPR or were more prone to internal squabbles. Giscard and later François Léotard predominated the PR, while Bayrou slowly asserted his control of the CDS/FD/New UDF beginning in 1994. The rénovateurs experience was not unique to the RPR: the original team, composed of 12 young ‘rising stars’, included 6 members of the RPR and 6 members of the UDF. The UDF’s six members opposed Giscard and the old guard’s leadership of the party.

As a parti de notables (a party of elected officials rather than a mass party), however, the UDF’s strong leaders most often came in the form of local ‘barons’ (the name given in France to local/regional party bosses, both on the left and right) in departments or regions: Méhaignerie, Gaudin, Barrot, Barre, Monory or Millon. The UDR/RPR also had a strong network of local party bosses, from the earliest days of the Gaullist movement in the 1960s.

At its foundation, Jacques Chirac had envisioned the UMP to be subservient to his own political schemes. Chirac sought to place his longtime ally and protégé, Alain Juppé, as his heir apparent for 2007. Juppé was the first president of the UMP, elected in November 2002 at a party congress with 79.4% of the vote. However, Juppé was found guilty in a chiraquien corruption scandal in 2004 and he was declared ineligible for elected office for a year. This temporarily halted his political career and destroyed both his and Chirac’s plans for 2007. Sarkozy maneuvered to seize control of the UMP, similar to how Chirac had seized control of the UDR in 1976. Chirac was unable to stop Sarkozy’s takeover of ‘his’ party. Sarkozy was elected president of the UMP in November 2004, with 85.1%. Sarkozy quickly transformed Chirac’s party into Sarkozy’s party, with everything centered around the 2007 presidential election.

The UMP statutes allowed for the organization of ‘movements’, representing various ideological factions within the party, which would receive funding in proportion to the votes they received at the congresses. Fearing factionalism, these movements were never put in place.

Even if Sarkozy’s election to the presidency in 2007 vacated the presidency of the UMP for the duration of his term, Sarkozy remained the de facto leader of the UMP, running it from behind. He named the ‘secretary-general’ of the UMP to ensure  the official leadership of the party. In 2009 he named Xavier Bertrand, but Bertrand is not fit for the leadership of a party. In late 2010, he was replaced as secretary-general by Jean-François Copé, who had been the leader of the UMP caucus in the National Assembly.

The 2012 UMP Congress

Nicolas Sarkozy’s defeat at the hands of now-President François Hollande on May 6, 2012 placed the UMP in a funny situation. After his defeat, Sarkozy bowed out of active politics – but he did not indicate that he intended to retire permanently from active public life in France. In doing so, he closed the 2007-2012 era in the UMP’s history, where he served as the party’s de facto leader despite being President of France. However, Sarkozy did not leave office reviled by his own party’s base. The UMP rank-and-file, by and large, remains fondly Sarkozyst. Furthermore, Sarkozy is still relatively young and given that French politicians rarely bow out entirely after one defeat, it is quite possible (though not a certainty) that he could seek to return in 2017.

The UMP needed to choose a new leader, while learning to live in opposition (for the first time in its history) and settling on a political and electoral strategy which could allow it to regain power by 2017. However, the UMP was quite keen on making clear that this congress would not double-up as an early presidential primary (the president elected at the congress would only serve until 2015). Pushed by the success of the PS’ open primaries in 2011, the UMP has signaled numerous times that they will organize an open primary in 2016 to choose its presidential candidate for 2017.

As I had noted right after the legislative elections, the UMP had two options to choose from in terms of political strategy. The French right must now live with a revitalized far-right (FN), stronger than ever and steaming full-steam ahead through clear waters following the presidential election; but at the same time some of the UMP’s troubles since Sarkozy’s ascent comes from its gradual loss of moderate and centrist voters. Therefore, the question is whether the UMP will seek power on a centre-right platform or if it will seek power on a more right-populist/droite décomplexée/Patrick Buisson type of platform, similar to that adopted by Sarkozy in his reelection campaign. The centre-right strategy aims at appealing to moderate centre-right voters which Jean-Louis Borloo now seeks to attract with his new independent centre-right confederation (the UDI); the right-populist strategy aims at reassembling Sarkozy’s 2007 coalition which included a fair number of old FN voters.

The UMP thus needed to choose a new leader and decide on its political future, while remaining – at least the party’s rank-and-file – very loyal to and fond of the ‘outgoing leader’ (Sarkozy), who may yet decide to return to electoral politics in 2017. The most ambitious UMP elites all praise Sarkozy’s presidency and seek to attach themselves to his legacy, but in reality most of them are quite happy that he is gone and they probably would not be too happy if he came back (because he would break their own presidential ambitions). As a result, very few leaders within the UMP dare to publicly signal their disapproval of Sarkozy’s term or their desire to move the party away from his legacy. Whether this is good or bad for the party is a matter of debate, Sarkozy left office rather unpopular with part of the electorate (but not with his own electorate) but French voters are notorious at falling in love with their ex-presidents once they have left office (but Sarkozy’s continuing legal problems and the judicial investigations surrounding old scandals will come back to haunt him). Furthermore, as President Hollande is already very unpopular (with disapprovals over 60%, especially with non-leftists) and his presidency is off to a ominously bad start, some voters might start to reminisce Sarkozy.

This congress was a decentralized congress, with no large partisan rally in a single location. Instead, each departmental federation organized and supervised the election of the president.

The vote was open to party members, those who had joined in 2012 before June 30, 2012 or those who had joined in 2011 and paid their updated membership fees up till election day. The party reported that 324,945 members were eligible to vote in the congress, or about 0.5% of the French population. The largest federation in terms of voters was Paris, which had 26,457 registered members. The Hauts-de-Seine had 17,919 registered members, the Alpes-Maritimes had 15,436 members and the Bouches-du-Rhône had 12,964 members. My friend, on his French blog Sondages 2012, put together a map showing the percentage of UMP members in each department (compared to the total population). The largest proportions are found in Paris’ affluent western suburbs (Paris, Hauts-de-Seine, Yvelines) or the Mediterranean riviera. In good part, the UMP’s membership is made up of politicized right-leaning suburban professionals in the Parisian region on the one hand, and retirees or notoriously conservative small business owners and entrepreneurs (petite bourgeoisie) along the Mediterranean riviera.

Presidential candidates needed to gather support from at least 3% of UMP members (as of June 30) – or 7924 endorsements from members – coming from at least 10 departmental federations. Three prominent candidates (Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, Bruno Le Maire and Henri Guaino tried and failed to gather these 7.9k signatures). Ultimately, only two candidates managed to run: Jean-François Copé and François Fillon.

Jean-François Copé, aged 48, was the incumbent party boss (secretary-general). Copé has been mayor of Meaux, a fairly low-income suburban town in the Seine-et-Marne, since 1995 and deputy for the Seine-et-Marne’s 6th constituency since 2002 (and between 1995 and 1997). Copé is a cunning, ambitious and crafty politician. He made his first steps in politics as a close young ally of Jacques Chirac, and gained a reputation as a chiraquien which allowed him to rapidly gain notoriety under Chirac’s second term (serving as the government’s spokesperson for five years and as junior minister). His relations with Sarkozy, however, were frosty at best. He never served in cabinet under Sarkozy, but he managed to gain the leadership of the UMP’s parliamentary group in the National Assembly. In 2010, Sarkozy named him to the party’s leadership, in return for his support in the 2012 presidential election – Copé’s very public presidential ambitions are for 2017.

Traditionally seen as a chiraquien liberal within the RPR, Copé had backed Patrick Devedjian’s candidacy for the presidency of the RPR in 1999 (Devedjian won 8.9%). During Sarkozy’s term, despite the frosty nature of the relations between the presidency and Copé, he publicly claimed to be a Sarkozyst. Freed by Sarkozy’s departure, the ambitious Copé eyes the 2017 election and has defined himself as the leader of the “droite décomplexée” (a right freed of its taboos and ‘leftist’ political correctness), and he has a straight-shooting and straight-talking political style.

François Fillon, aged 58, was Sarkozy’s Prime Minister for the duration of his five-year term and was elected as deputy for Paris’ 2nd constituency in June. Fillon’s political career, as a parliamentarian, began in 1981 when he succeeded his political mentor, Joël Le Theule, following his sudden death. Fillon’s original political base was the Sarthe – specifically the department’s fourth constituency and the city of Sablé-sur-Sarthe. He served as mayor of Sablé-sur-Sarthe between 1983 and 2008, and served in the department’s general council between 1981 and 1998, including six years as president of the general council between 1992 and 1998. In contrast to Copé who began his political ascension in the shadows of the RPR’s patriarch, Fillon was never a loyal chiraquien. He was a protégé of Philippe Séguin, the leader of the “social Gaullist” and eurosceptic faction of the RPR, which joined with Charles Pasqua to oppose Chirac’s leadership at the Bourget congress in 1990. That same year, Fillon, alongside other young politicians (Michel Noir, Alain Carignon, Michel Barnier, François Bayrou or Philippe de Villiers) was one of the twelve rénovateurs who opposed Chirac-Giscard’s leadership of the right. In 1992, Fillon opposed the ratification of the Maastricht treaty. In 1995, with Sarkozy, he backed Balladur over Chirac. Unlike Sarkozy, however, Fillon managed to save his seat in cabinet (thanks to Séguin’s backing).

Fillon ran for the presidency of the RPR in 1999, as the séguiniste/gaulliste social candidate. Placing third with 24.6% in the first round, he was eliminated from the runoff. Following this defeat, Fillon slowly mended bridges with Chirac and regained the President’s confidence. In 2002, he became minister of social affairs and spearheaded a controversial pension reform. However, Fillon found himself excluded from Dominique de Villepin’s new cabinet in 2005, which deeply angered him. He rushed towards Nicolas Sarkozy, the new president of the UMP, who had previously opposed. By 2007, he had become one of Sarkozy’s closest allies, and he was named Prime Minister. Staying in office for five years, he became one of the longest-serving Prime Ministers in a position which is usually politically fatal to its holder. However, relations between Sarkozy and Fillon soured during the course of Sarkozy’s term. Sarkozy centralized decision making and political leadership in his office, relegating Fillon to the lower position of a “collaborator”.

Leaving behind him his home turf in the Sarthe, Fillon sought and won a new seat in downtown Paris in June.

There are ideological differences between both candidates, but they should not be overstated. The major differences are in terms of personality and political style. The difference is indeed largely stylistic, between on the one hand Copé’s décomplexée populist rhetoric, which targets right-wing/far-right voters; and Fillon’s more consensual and centre-right rhetoric of rassemblement (rally) on the other hand. On issues such as immigration, the economy or labour laws both candidates have broadly similar political positions, their differences again are predominantly stylistic. Copé’s right-populism is bold and muscular – with rhetoric such as “anti-white racism” or the voyous (thugs) who steal the French kid’s pain au chocolat outside the school. In contrast, Fillon’s discourse was more measured.

Copé was boosted by his control of the party apparatus, and his tireless ambitious and political talent. However, Copé is a polarizing figure, widely disliked by left-wing voters and more moderate voters, who perceive him as being too right-wing, too liberal or too rash. Fillon’s advantage was his  stronger standing in political opinion and electability. Fillon remained fairly popular throughout his tenure as Prime Minister, largely because he was more in the background while the flamboyant Sarkozy stole the limelight (hence eroding his political capital). Moderate voters prefer him, they like his calm, measured and reserved personality, which is reassuring and moderate. However, Fillon doesn’t have Copé’s political drive. His image is more that of a “good family man”, calm and reserved, and he has not shown ambition or political skill similar to Copé.

Both candidates ran with two running-mates, forming a presidential ‘ticket’ with candidates for vice-president and secretary-general. Copé’s vice-presidential nominee was Luc Chatel, the former education minister and a liberal within the UMP. His candidacy for secretary-general was Michèle Tabarot, the mayor and deputy for Le Cannet in the crucial Alpes-Maritimes fed. Fillon’s vice-presidential nominee was Laurent Wauquiez, the former higher education minister and leader of the moderate ‘droite sociale‘ (social right) faction; his candidate for secretary-general was Valérie Pécresse, the former budget minister and a former chiraquienne.

Copé’s prominent supporters included leaders of the UMP’s right-wing faction including Lionnel Luca, Thierry Mariani, Éric Raoult or Guillaume Peltier; some leaders of the UMP’s centrist faction including former Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin (for reasons largely related to a long-standing spat with Fillon), Marc-Philippe Daubresse, Marc Laffineur or liberal standard-bearer Hervé Novelli; his inner circle including Christian Jacob (the UMP’s parliamentary leader), Roger Karoutchi and Franck Riester; local barons including Jean-Claude Gaudin (mayor of Marseille, along with other bigwigs from the local UMP including  Bernard Deflesselles, Dominique Tian or Renaud Muselier); Valérie Rosso-Debord and Nadine Morano, the party’s top two media-savvy ‘attack dogs’; or again Sarkozysts such as Patrick Balkany (one of the leaders of the Sarkozyst clan in the Hauts-de-Seine’s fractious right-wing politics), Rachida Dati, Brice Hortefeux or even Jean Sarkozy (Sarkozy’s politically ambitious son).

Fillon’s prominent supporters some other members of the UMP’s centrist faction including Gérard Longuet, Jean Leonetti (leader of the anti-borlooiste wing of the PRV),  Pierre Méhaignerie or the party’s Senate leader Gérard Larcher; local barons including – most crucially – the boss of the Alpes-Maritimes fed, Christian Estrosi (mayor of Nice) and his close ally Éric Ciotti, the mayor of Toulon Hubert Falco or Dominique Bussereau; the surprise support of former chiraquiens such as Valérie Pécresse, Patrick Ollier or even François Baroin (the latter especially thought to be more pro-Copé); the late endorsement of Xavier Bertrand (though largely because he hates Copé) or the juppéiste Benoist Apparu; some members of the party’s right including Claude Guéant (though largely for reasons related to the 92 right’s clan politics), Valérie Boyer or Jacques Myard; or the ‘rebel’ Patrick Devedjian, the main rival of the Sarkozy-Balkany clan in the Hauts-de-Seine (92).

At the same time, UMP members were also called to vote on “declarations of principles” (often called ‘motions’ by the media, like in the PS) which would organize movements. ‘Declarations of principles’ needed to gain the support of at least ten parliamentarians from ten departments in order to be put on the ballot, those motions who got over 10% of the votes at the congress would become recognized ‘movements’ and be eligible for funding. Six motions were placed on the ballot: France moderne et humaniste (Modern and humanist France), La Boîte à idées, la motion anti divisions ! (The ‘box of ideas’ – the anti-division motion), La Droite forte – Génération France Forte 2017 (Strong Right), La Droite populaire (Popular Right), La Droite sociale (Social Right) and Le Gaullisme, une voie d’avenir pour la France (Gaullism – a way forward for France).

The France moderne et humaniste was a centrist and liberal motion signed, notably, by Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Luc Chatel, Hervé Novelli, Jean Leonetti and Marc Laffineur. The motion’s aim was to create a sort of UDF faction within the UMP, representing the various political families of the old UDF including the liberals and the Christian democrats (though much more of the former). Despite its centrist platform, the motion was dominated by the copéistes – Raffarin, Chatel, Novelli, Laffineur but also Daubresse, Tabarot, Riester, Claude Goasguen and Sébastien Huyghe. This motion received the most endorsements from UMP parliamentarians.

The Boîte à idées was a fairly vague motion led by, among others, Benoist Apparu, Chantal Jouanno, Bruno Le Maire or Hervé Gaymard and endorsed by Xavier Bertrand and Alain Juppé. The motion did not appear to have any clear-cut ideological direction, though most of its leaders are moderates. Instead, it placed emphasis on internal democracy and debates.

The Droite forte motion was spearheaded by two thirty-something rising stars – Guillaume Peltier, a former young frontiste and a villieriste (MPF) until he joined the UMP in 2009 (because that’s where you go when you’re really ambitious) and Geoffroy Didier, a young UMP regional councillor who had defined himself as a ‘left-wing Sarkozyst’. The Droite forte defined itself as the ‘Sarkozyst’ motion, and as a more socially acceptable and tamer version of the very right-wing Droite pop. Its proposals included getting the public media to hire “right-wing journalists”, cutting legal immigration by half, restoring the 40-hour workweek, constitutional recognition of France as a secular country with ‘Christian tradition’ or the old vague idea of European protectionism. The motion was backed by Sarkozysts including Bernard Accoyer, Brice Hortefeux, Édouard Courtial, Pierre Charon and Jean Sarkozy; and it was largely copéiste.

The Droite populaire was organized as a parliamentary caucus within the UMP in 2010, representing the most right-wing, populist and nationalist faction of the UMP (often accused by the left of being FN lite). The Droite pop was the most well known (and also controversial) of all the main UMP factions, but it lost a good number of its members in the June legislative elections and it was weakened by the creation of the Droite forte, which, again, has that novel ‘young’ and slightly less tainted twist to it. The Droite pop’s leaders include Thierry Mariani and Lionnel Luca, two copéiste.

The Droite sociale is also an older faction, led by Laurent Wauquiez, a former cabinet minister and the new right-wing baron in the small Haute-Loire department. Wauquiez has built his faction and his political ambitions on the ‘defense of middle-classes’ and ‘la lutte contre l’assistanat‘ (basically a right-wing catchphrase which is roughly translated to ‘fighting welfare dependency’). Thought the ‘anti-welfare’ rhetoric might associate it with the party’s right, Wauquiez’s faction is often defined as being one of the party’s moderate factions, following in the tradition of social Gaullism and Christian democracy. The motion emerged as a catch-all filloniste motion, led by Wauquiez (who holds presidential ambitions for 2017 and is a talented young politician who can go places) and backed by a lot of fillonistes, including more right-wing members backing Fillon such as Brigitte Barèges or Valérie Boyer.

The Gaullist motion is led by Michèle Alliot-Marie (MAM), Henri Guaino, Roger Karoutchi and Patrick Ollier (MAM’s husband). Alliot-Marie and Ollier are former chiraquiens (despite MAM’s 1999 candidacy as the non-aligned anti-Chirac candidate), while Guaino and Karoutchi – who both backed Copé – are both former séguinistes. 

Polling these type of internal party primaries is notoriously difficult, because of the limited size of the electorate. However, polling – which targeted all UMP “sympathizers” rather than only UMP “members” (which would be very difficult for any pollster to accurately poll) – consistently showed Fillon with a large lead over Copé, most often over 20 points with polling averages most often over 60%. Every one knew that they needed to take these polls with a truckload of salt, but nobody expected what came on November 18.

The Civil War

Turnout was reported to be about 54% of the party’s 324,945 members – roughly 176.6k voters participated. On November 18, both the Copé and Fillon campaigns claimed victory and both candidates later proclaimed that they had won, the Copé camp claimed a 1000 vote edge while Fillon’s supporters claimed a narrow 224-vote margin. Throughout the evening, both sides exchanged accusations of fraud and vote rigging.

The next day, late in the evening of November 19, the UMP’s internal commission in charge of organizing the vote (the Commission d’organisation et de contrôle des opérations électorales or COCOE) declared Copé the winner by 98 votes:

Jean-François Copé (UMP) 50.03% (87,388 votes)
François Fillon (UMP) 49.97% (87,290 votes)

Copé +98 votes

A glacial Fillon recognized his defeat and conceded victory to Copé, even if he denounced irregularities in the election and talked of a ‘political and moral fracture’ within the party. The next day, Copé offered Fillon the party’s vice-presidency, an offer which Fillon immediately refused. However, Fillon urged his supporters to recognize his defeat and move forward with grudges to maintain the party’s unity. He did not close doors on a presidential candidacy in 2016-2017, but most assumed, on November 20, that the kerfuffle had been resolved and that Copé was accepted as the legitimate winner by the whole of the party.

The situation took an explosive turn on November 21, when the fillonistes took the offensive and proclaimed that they had won. Their claim was that the COCOE had “forgotten” to include 1,304 votes cast in three overseas federations (New Caledonia, Fillon won 643-535; Mayotte, Fillon won 68-41 and Wallis-et-Futuna, Copé won 14-3) in their official results. Their numbers, with the three federations included had Fillon as the winner by 26 votes.

François Fillon (UMP) 50.01% (88,004 votes)
Jean-François Copé (UMP) 49.99% (87,978 votes)

Fillon +26 votes

At the same time, however, Fillon announced that he was renouncing the presidency of the UMP but calling on the ‘truth’ to be established. He called on Alain Juppé, a non-aligned party founder, to become the interim leader of the party and negotiate a way out of the crisis with the Copé faction. On his side, Copé dared Fillon to bring the case to an internal party commission in charge of hearing complaints (commission nationale des recours, known officially as CNR or commonly as CONARE – which sounds like the French word for ‘idiot’ or ‘moron’ or even worse…) and noted that they would need to re-examine all results, including contested results in Nice where the Copé faction accused the Fillon faction of fraud.

But the next day (November 22), seeking to regain the initiative, Copé announced that he would be going to the CNR, alleging fraud by the Fillonistes in Nice and New Caledonia. At the same time, however, he accepted the idea of a Juppé-led mediation in the conflict. However, Fillon’s faction rejected the legitimacy of the CNR, which they deemed to be controlled by the copéistes (indeed, the president of the CNR, Yannick Paternotte, endorsed Copé) while the copéistes insisted that Juppé associate his work to that of the CNR, which they deemed the sole body with the power to handle such issues. Copé’s response thus meant that Juppé would not be able to mediate the dispute. On November 25, Juppé announced that he was giving up while the CNR began its meetings, in the absence of the Fillon camp whose leader announced that he would be taking the matter to court to “reestablish the truth”.

On November 26, Sarkozy intervened in the matter, discretely meeting with Fillon. From the lunch between the former President and his old Prime Minister it was revealed that Sarkozy would not be against the organization of another election, which henceforth became a major issue in the crisis.

The same day, the CNR announced its own, revised, results of the November 18 vote. The CNR invalidated the election in New Caledonia, which they deemed was marred by irregularities in the process which affected the fairness of the vote; they also invalidated some polling stations in Nice (Alpes-Maritimes), where the Copé faction had accused their opponents of fraud. As a result, Copé was proclaimed the winner – again – but with a 952 vote majority.

Jean-François Copé (UMP) 50.28% (86,911 votes)
François Fillon (UMP) 49.97% (85,959 votes)

Copé +952 votes

Party congresses in France, both within the UMP this year and within the PS (in 2008, at the Reims Congress), are prone to manipulation and fraud. The votes are organized by departmental federations, and these federations are often led by powerful local parliamentarians or local barons who endorse a particular candidate. For example, the Alpes-Maritimes fed is led by Christian Estrosi, the mayor of Nice and one of Fillon’s most prominent backers. The Bouches-du-Rhône fed on the other hand is led by Jean-Claude Gaudin, one of Copé’s biggest backers.

As the leader of their own federations, these local party bosses are often able to organize the vote as to benefit their chosen candidate and often provide their chosen candidate with the backing of their departmental federation. Some kind of manipulation, fraud or even intimidation or vote rigging is prevalent within both the UMP and PS, and it is silently accepted by the national party leaders who could not do without the backing of these powerful party bosses and their big federations.

But when, as was the case for the PS in Reims in 2008, the vote ends up extremely close, then both sides accuse one another of having ‘stolen’ the election. In the 2008 PS vote for first-secretary between Aubry and Royal, it is quite clear that there was flagrant fraud and rigging on both sides: manipulation and fraud organized by local boss Jean-Noël Guérini allowed Royal to win 72.5% in the Bouches-du-Rhône, while similar irregularities in Aubry’s native department (Nord) allowed her to win 76% of the vote there.

If anything, the UMP’s vote this year seems a bit cleaner than the Reims Congress, if judging by the disparities in the results from one neighboring department to another. However, there were irregularities on the UMP vote on November 18 and both sides are guilty. The Copé faction and the CNR might have had a point about Nice, where Estrosi and Ciotti controlled the organization of the votes and probably organized it in a fairly unholy way which favoured their candidate. But the Copé faction is also guilty of irregularities, as the fillonistes allege. The wide use of ‘proxy votes’ (vote par procuration) in some departments was muddy and likely stacked in Copé’s favour, the Fillon faction claimed that Copé had rigged the vote with over 30,000 proxy votes. Furthermore, I’m certain that looking through the results in some of those departments where the Copé faction controlled the vote would also reveal interesting thing.

The CNR, in proclaiming Copé the winner by 952 votes after invalidating the results in three places where Fillon had won (even if not fair-and-square in some cases), lost all legitimacy. You can’t pick-and-choose cases of fraud in such a way. It is clear, again, that there was fraud on both sides, but if you’re going to start quashing results for fraud, then you can’t stop with two polling stations in Nice. However, the CNR was presided by a man who had attended Copé’s campaign announcement in August and it had no filloniste representatives present when it took a decision.

Things became crazy on November 27. In the morning, Fillon and Copé met – apparently at Sarkozy’s insistence – and both sides discussed the organization of a “referendum” where UMP members would be asked if they wanted to vote again. The same day, Fillon announced that he would be creating his own parliamentary group in the National Assembly. A parliamentary group in the National Assembly holds seats in the parliamentary commission and the rules of the legislature give it certain advantages, notably an allocated time for questions and interventions. The UMP parliamentary group is controlled by the Copé faction – led by Christian Jacob, another Seine-et-Marne deputy and one of Copé’s closest allies. Fillon hence created his own group, the Rassemblement-UMP (R-UMP or RUMP) – the same name as the local section of the UMP in New Caledonia, and took 68 of the UMP group’s 196 members.

The creation of the R-UMP complicated the situation and killed the debate on the ‘referendum’ option. Fillon accepted a referendum if Copé stood down and the party was led by an independent interim leadership until the new election, an unpalatable option for the copéistes because it would be a tacit recognition that Copé lacked the legitimacy to remain as the party’s leader. Copé’s faction agreed to a referendum but they set an ultimatum to Fillon: withdraw your group before 3pm on November 28 or there is no referendum. The ultimatum expired, Fillon maintained the R-UMP and the copéistes announced that they would be ending negotiations.

The same day, a group of “non-aligned” UMP deputies led by Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet and Bruno Le Maire launched a petition which called on the dissolution of the R-UMP as per Copé’s ultimatum but also the creation of some kind of Comité des Sages (wise men/elders committee) at the UMP to organize the referendum before January 31, 2013. 72 parliamentarians signed the non-aligned petition, but 27 of them were copéistes (judging that the status-quo favours Copé) and 12 of them were fillonistes, including 3 who had actually joined the R-UMP! (two of those three signatories later unsigned, apparently, because their names no longer appear on the petition). On November 29, everybody and their grandmother in the UMP seemed interested in setting up a commission to organize a vote, an election, a referendum or something: a working group, an independent commission, a commission of elders and so forth. Sarkozy re-intervened  meeting both rivals and demanding that they come to an agreement before December 4.

Both candidates signaled that they favoured the organization of a new vote, but the Copé faction said that a new vote would not be held until after the 2014 municipal elections while the Fillon faction demanded a new vote as rapidly as possible. Today, the crisis remains unresolved and blocked. Both factions are sticking to their guns. Fillon still threatens to take the matter to court, but it is unclear how the courts would rule on an internal partisan matter and how the lengthy judicial process would affect the party’s situation.

The UMP is stuck in a weird and confusing situation as things currently stands. It remains united as a political party, but only half or so of the party recognizes the party’s de facto leader as the legitimate leader. The other half of the party remains in the party, but still does not recognize the legitimacy of the party’s de facto leader. What is the way forward?

Many will ask why the fillonistes, who already have their own caucus in the lower house, don’t just pack their bags and create their own party. The creation of a new political party is a tricky matter in France because of public financing (state funding of political parties) laws. This public funding is based on two ‘fractions’. The first fraction is given to parties who have obtained over 1% in at least 50 constituencies (the law is less rigid for purely overseas parties, they need 1% in all constituencies they ran in). Candidates choose to affiliate with a particular party or funding entity (not necessarily their own political party!) for the first fraction, and parties meeting these conditions receive €1.68 per vote. In 2012, the UMP received about 11-12 million euros, but they also received a 5 million euro penalty for not respecting gender parity laws which means they will receive about 7 million euros from the first fraction. For the second fraction, parliamentarians affiliate themselves with one of the parties/funding structures eligible under the first fraction, who then receive about €42,000 by parliamentarian.

This law makes it difficult for new parties keen to receive public funding to be created. Fillon’s hypothetical party cannot receive funding under the first fraction, but there is an ingenious and commonly-used way around the second fraction. Parliamentarians can affiliate with another party, most often an overseas party, which then transfers the entirety of its public funding to the new party. The New Centre (NC) deputies and senators used this method in 2007, when they had not been eligible for funding under the first fraction. They affiliated with a friendly party in French Polynesia, Fetia Api, which received funding equivalent to the size of the NC’s caucus and then gave it back to the NC.

The name of the R-UMP is perhaps not a random coincidence. If they chose to do so, Fillon’s parliamentarians could affiliate themselves to the New Caledonian section of the UMP, also named the R-UMP, and receive their public funding through the intermediary of that party (which is eligible for funding under the first fraction. However, the second fraction affiliations were due on November 30. As this article explains, only one of the R-UMP deputies (Jean-Pierre Decool, who is only divers droite and not officially UMP) did not affiliate with the UMP under the second fraction. The UMP will thus receive its 20 million euros from the state, crucial for a party deep in debt.

Fillon did not seem willing to signal that he was breaking all bridges with his party. But, in the long-term, the option remains on the table. These affiliations are only valid for a year, so by next year, if nothing has changed, Fillon still has the option of going forward with a split.

It is hard to envision either side changing their positions as things currently stand. Short of a party split, which would be a major thing, one of the only realistic option is that both sides agree to disagree, and find some kind of temporary arrangement whereby Copé can retain the presidency but Fillon saves face by remaining in a prominent position. A solution which would probably last until after the 2014 local elections or the potential 2016 presidential primary. Fillon is in a more difficult position, because Copé retains control of the apparatus and as such he has wider access to the medias in his role as the leader of the main opposition party. The current status-quo favours Copé, and Fillon risks losing the initiative (if he has not lost it already) in the situation and could slowly see the crisis fade away (as is already slowly the case), which would weaken his standing.

Will the UMP’s crisis benefit other parties? Observers have said that the main winners of the crisis are the PS (and the government), Borloo’s new centrist confederation (the UDI) and Marine Le Pen’s FN. Both the UDI and FN have claimed that their membership numbers have increased a lot because of the UMP crisis, though there is always a big difference between what parties say about their membership numbers and the actual reality.

As a sort of indicator, three legislative by-elections were held on November 9 – one of them in the Hérault where the PS had defeated a UMP incumbent (pro-Copé) in June by only 10 votes in a triangulaire with the FN; another in the Hauts-de-Seine where Patrick Devedjian (UMP pro-Fillon) had narrowly defeated a left-wing candidate in the runoff. The results do not seem to indicate that either the PS or the FN benefited from the UMP crisis. In the Hérault, the former UMP deputy is far ahead with 42.6% against 27.7% for the PS incumbent, while the FN – which had been in a position to benefit from the UMP crisis and the unpopularity of the government – fell flat on its face, winning 23.4%, barely up since June. In the Hauts-de-Seine, where the PS and Greens united behind a single candidate (in June, they had been divided in the first round, hurting them in the runoff) and had hoped of toppling Devedjian, they won only 32.5% (when their two candidates had won over 40% in June by the first round) against a big 49.82% for him. In the Val-de-Marne, the runoff will oppose the UDI/UMP incumbent and a UMP dissident with the PS eliminated by the first round (only 19%). Turnout was low, making it hard to draw conclusions, but the left appeared demobilized while the right was more successful in mobilizing its voters. Neither the FN nor the FG were able to profit from the political situation, which should – one assumes – benefit them.

Internal Geography of the UMP

After all, one of this blog’s purpose is to look at the geographic structure of the vote in elections. Given the crisis which ensued, the geographic analysis of both the presidential vote and the motions vote was largely forgotten. Yet it does reveal many interesting things about the “internal geography” of the UMP and the mindset of its members.

The map of the presidential results below  is based on the work of two journalists who compiled national results based on unofficial public sources (including local UMP federations, UMP parliamentarians or the local print media), available here, and the COCOE results. None of the colours or the shades on the map, however, would change if I used solely the COCOE or even the CNR’s official results. However, at a national level, it is interesting to point out that the compilation of results from local sources (including the 3 ‘forgotten’ overseas feds) has Fillon ahead by 248 votes. And indeed, the COCOE’s first results (Copé +98) ‘forgot’ the three overseas feds (1,304 votes total) and their inclusion does indeed bring Fillon ahead by 26 votes.

UMP P2012

Many had tried to summarize the Fillon/Copé battle to a straight fight between the UMP’s moderate wing (Fillon) and the UMP’s right-wing (Copé). There is some truth to this, but again the actual ideological differences between both candidates were fairly sparse and both candidates attracted prominent endorsements from the ‘opposite side’ of the party (some of the UMP’s right for Fillon, a good number of UMP moderates and ex-UDF/DL for Copé). The map confirms that the battle was not purely a moderate vs right-wingers affair.

The internal geography of political parties in France, at least the UMP and the PS, has long been structured by the “favourite son”/”friends and neighbors” effect and the influence of local barons – rather than any sociological or demographic factors. This election was no different, but unlike with the PS, the support of local barons cannot explain the entire map. They can still explain a good deal of it, however.

Both candidates did best in their home turf, their political bases (even if Fillon has now ‘abandoned’ his original political turf in the Sarthe). Fillon won 81.9% in the Sarthe and Copé won 78.4% in the Seine-et-Marne. Fillon also won Paris, his adopted political base since June, with a far more modest (but still hefty) 58.5%. To a certain extent, Fillon’s old favourite son appeal in the Sarthe might have carried over to neighboring departments: he won 69.7% in the Orne and 62.4% in the Mayenne.

The impact of ‘local barons’ was quite important to both candidates in a number of departments. The Alpes-Maritimes, one of the biggest UMP feds and one of the most disputed federations on November 18, gave Fillon about 59.9% (including the polls invalidated by the CNR). Even though Copé’s second running-mate, Michèle Tabarot, is the departmental secretary of the federation; the department’s federation is largely dominated and led by Christian Estrosi, the mayor of Nice, and his sidekick Eric Ciotti (both of whom, of course, were part of Fillon’s inner circle during the campaign). Fillon was also endorsed by all but two (Tabarot and Lionnel Luca) of the department’s parliamentarians. In the Haute-Loire, Laurent Wauquiez’s support and presence of the Fillon ticket allowed Fillon to win 65.6%. In the Yvelines, Valérie Pécresse’s federation, Fillon won decisively with 59.3%. In the Aube, François Baroin’s backing certainly helped Fillon to win 63.9% in the department. Xavier Bertrand likely swung the Aisne (54.6%) and might even have had an impact in the Somme and the Ardennes.

For Copé, Luc Chatel brought the Haute-Marne to the fold, with 62.9% for Copé. In the big Bouches-du-Rhône federation, led by Gaudin and dominated by the copéistes, Copé won 62.1%. In the Vienne, former Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin’s native department, Copé won 61.2%. It is likely that Raffarin’s regional influence also swung the Charente (61.6%), the Deux-Sèvres (52.9%) but also the Charente-Maritime (57%) where the UMP barons split between Copé (Didier Quentin) and Fillon (Dominique Bussereau). In the Oise, Olivier Dassault/Edouard Courtial (pro-Copé) prevailed over Eric Woerth and Caroline Cayeux (pro-Fillon), giving Copé 57.8% in the department. In the Nord, Marc-Philippe Daubresse’s support certainly played a major role in Copé’s victory, with 53.2%.

Other departmental results can also be explained by the backing of the local party establishment. In Brittany, for example, Copé carried only the Côtes-d’Armor, where he was endorsed by local bigwig Marc Le Fur. In Ille-et-Vilaine and Loire-Atlantique, where Fillon had the backing of all local parliamentarians, Fillon won over 55% of the vote. In the Finistère and Morbihan, ‘neutral’ federations held by neither candidate, the vote was closer (52.7% and 50.9% for Fillon respectively). The Meuse, where Fillon took 57.1%, is the home turf of Gérard Longuet, one of Fillon’s backers. In the Marne, Benoist Apparu’s supported boosted Fillon to a narrow win with 51.5%.

The Hauts-de-Seine was disputed between the pro-Fillon clan (led by Devedjian, Ollier, Guéant) and the old Sarkozyst-Balkany clan which backed Copé (Balkany, Jean Sarkozy, Solère, Karoutchi). The former prevailed, with 54.9%. In Paris, Fillon’s adopted political base since June, the former Prime Minister benefited from a strong base of support with the local establishment (Goujon, Lamour, Lellouche) and a weaker local pro-Copé bench (Dati, Charon, Goasguen).

However, local barons cannot explain everything. The Lozère, where local deputy Pierre Morel-à-L’Huissier endorsed Copé, Fillon was victorious with 51.1%. In the Var, the backing of all but three of the department’s 11 parliamentarians including Toulon mayor Hubert Falco was not enough for Fillon: Copé was victorious with 51.5%. In the Manche, both deputies endorsed Copé but Fillon won by a hair (51%). In the Bas-Rhin, 8 of the department’s 10 parliamentarians including André Reichardt (plus regional president Philippe Richert) backed Fillon, but Copé won narrowly with 50.5%; on the other hand, Fillon won 60.1% down the road in the Haut-Rhin.

Generally, local barons prevailed over local sociological/demographic considerations. However, some sociological lessons can be drawn from the map. Copé did very well on the Mediterranean coast, besides the Estrosian Alpes-Maritimes, with over 60% in the Bouches-du-Rhône, Gard, Vaucluse or the Aude and nearly 60% in the Hérault (plus a surprise win despite local barons in the Var). This region, where the UMP draws the bulk of its support from ‘heliotropic’ coastal retirees, small business owners, the petite bourgeoisie or conservative entrepreneurs, is also one of the FN’s original bases since the 1980 (and it is a region where the FN’s electorate is fundamentally right-wing rather than apolitical/protest-driven) and it is a region where immigration is a major issue. The UMP base in this region, demographically and ideologically, is naturally inclined to Copé’s tough right-populist/résistance/décomplexée rhetoric over Fillon’s more moderate and reserved style.

On the other hand, in Paris’ western suburbs – affluent, white-collar, professional and politically moderate – Fillon’s victory owes in part to this favourable demographic makeup (as well as establishment backing). On the other hand, in the Seine-Saint-Denis or the Val-de-Marne, where the UMP’s membership base is likely more concerned by issues such as immigration or public safety, Copé played well: 54.8% in the Seine-Saint-Denis (where the UMP establishment is also very rightist), about 52% in the Val-de-Marne and the Val-d’Oise. Copé’s victory in the Oise but also the Yonne, Eure-et-Loir and Eure also owes a bit to local sociology: in these more distant and less affluent outer exurban conservative regions, the local UMP membership is probably naturally inclined to Copé’s muscular right-populist message (the backing of Orléans mayor Serge Grouard for Fillon explains the Loiret).

In the inner west (Pays-de-la-Loire, Orne, Manche) and Brittany, the region’s historically moderate and Christian democratic political bent likely explains – at least in part (most of the local establishments, except for Laffineur in the Maine-et-Loire backed Fillon) – why Fillon did well. In the southern Massif Central, centered around Wauquiez’s Haute-Loire and Marleix’s Cantal, also has a similar Catholic/centrist political history, and might explain – in part – why Fillon did well (including a surprising win in the Lozère). In the Savoie, local establishment support (Dord, Gaymard, Accoyer) for Fillon added to a favourable sociology: affluent and more politically moderate retirees, ski bunnies or suburbanites.

One surprise was the solidly left-wing Southwest, where Copé did very well: over 60% in the Haute-Garonne, Gers, Lot and over 55% in the Gironde or the Aveyron. The UMP’s local establishment in these departments is generally quite weak, and the UMP was in good part decimated there in June. The only exceptions to the rule are the Pyrénées-Atlantiques (historically Catholic and centrist), Ariège, the Tarn-et-Garonne (Brigitte Barèges, mayor of Montauban, was backing Fillon) and the Dordogne. In his article on the geography of the presidential vote, my friend over at Sondages2012 mentions a few interesting factors: Fillon did not campaign much in the region; the local right-wing electorate, a minority in a sea of red, perhaps being more aggressive (hence pro-Copé) because they are keen on resisting the left. To these interesting hypothesis, I might add another one: the right-wing electorate, and probably UMP membership, in these secular and small-town departments, draws heavily from small business owners/petite bourgeoisie and is, in some aspects, fairly exurban and lower middle-class (in the Garonne valley) – demographic realities favourable to Copé.

The Lorraine was fairly interesting, especially with Fillon’s huge win in the Vosges (65.1%) and Moselle (60.8%). This is a region where the FN is strong, and where the FN’s electorate is also fairly structurally right-wing/conservative rather than apolitical. It is true that the local establishment, outside of the copéiste Meurthe-et-Moselle (Morano, Rosso-Debord), largely backed Fillon. This is also a historically social Gaullist/séguiniste region where the 1999 ‘social Gaullist’ Fillon had done very well (45% in Séguin’s Vosges, wins in Haute-Marne – the General’s historical turf with Colombey, Moselle and a tie in the Meuse); some of Fillon’s 1999 social Gaullist/rénovateur (Isère, Rhône) support evaporated this year, but he seems to have retained the séguiniste/Gaullist base in Lorraine, with the exception of the Haute-Marne where Luc Chatel swung the department heavily to Copé.

The R-UMP Caucus

The R-UMP group in the National Assembly now includes 73 members. The map below shows the current composition of the National Assembly by parliamentary group:

Groupes AN


The R-UMP rallied the majority of the filloniste deputies within the UMP caucus in the lower house. Prior to November 18, Le Monde‘s investigation with UMP parliamentarians had revealed that 155 of the 194 UMP deputies had taken position in the presidential race and 83 of them had backed Fillon (against 73 for Copé). UMP Senators were far more filloniste, the UMP’s senate group did not split and it is led and dominated by fillonistes.

It is interesting to quickly point out those filloniste UMP deputies who did not join the R-UMP group, led by Fillon himself. They include Xavier Bertrand, Benoist Apparu, Bernard Accoyer, David Douillet, Gérald Darmanin and Jacques Myard. Bertrand, Apparu, Accoyer and Douillet could be called ‘soft’ fillonistes, they only endorsed Fillon fairly late in the campaign and were less connected to the Fillon team than, say, Estrosi/Ciotti but also Baroin. Bertrand probably backed Fillon only because of his deep personal enimity with Copé, rather than any personal connections with Fillon. The juppéiste Benoist Apparu was also a late endorser. Accoyer, the former president of the National Assembly, was very reticent to the idea of forming a dissident parliamentary group, probably because a loyal party man and old Sarkozyst, he is attached to the unity of the UMP. Gérald Darmanin and Jacques Myard are two members of the UMP’s right-wing who endorsed Fillon, it would seem that Fillon’s weak support with the right-wingers of the party was also pretty soft. Guy Teissier and Valérie Boyer, two marseillais deputies who joined the R-UMP after its initial creation are both seen as being on the party’s right, though perhaps their membership in the R-UMP as more to do with their personal enmity with the city’s copéiste patriarch, mayor Jean-Claude Gaudin (Boyer is a potential mayoral candidate). Naturally, the UMP’s non-aligned members stayed with the UMP group led by Jacob.

The filloniste inner guard – Pécresse, Wauquiez, Chartier, Baroin but also Estrosi/Ciotti who despite their reputation as Sarkozysts on the right of the party have become very closely tied to the filloniste faction. The Estrosian bench of UMP deputies in the Alpes-Maritimes (all but Luca and Tabarot) joined the R-UMP, as did all Fillon supporters in the Var, Paris or Hauts-de-Seine (Devedjian, after his victory next week, will certainly join the R-UMP too).

Prominent members of the R-UMP caucus include, in addition to the aforementioned names: Dominique Bussereau, Bernard Debré, Dominique Dord, Hervé Gaymard, Philippe Goujon, Serge Grouard, Jean-François Lamour, Pierre Lellouche, Jean Leonetti, Alain Marleix, Patrick Ollier, Camille de Rocca Serra, Lionel Tardy and Éric Woerth.


The Motions Vote: a Sarkozyst party

The motions vote did not interest many people during the Fillon/Copé campaign, and they were forgotten in the aftermath because of the crisis. But they too provide interesting numbers and lessons about the UMP’s 2012 membership base.

Members had the option of not choosing any motion, but only 4% or so of voters did not choose a motion (but altogether, 11% of members either chose a blank ballot choosing no motions or cast an invalid/blank vote). The results were as follows, on the 89% of valid votes:

Droite forte 27.77%
Droite sociale 21.69%
France moderne et humaniste 18.17%
Gaullisme 12.31%
Droite populaire 10.87%
Boîte à idées 9.19%

UMP M2012

The big winner of the motions vote was Guillaume Peltier and Geoffroy Didier’s La Droite forte motion, which won 27.8% of the motions vote. This is a remarkable victory for a young motion led by two thirty-something aspiring politicians who do not hold any major elective office and whose motion was backed by only a select few prominent UMP parliamentarians or national leaders. Their victory and success is the product of a well-orchestrated campaign which seized on the strong appeal of ‘Sarkozysm’ and Sarkozy’s legacy with the UMP’s base. To compensate for their weak establishment support, the motion’s leaders ran a media-savvy campaign with controversial proposals prone to receive attention and a large number of public meetings throughout the campaign.

The motion, although led by copéistes, had a fairly homogeneously appeal which transcended the Fillon/Copé battle. While the motion performed slightly better in those departments where Copé did best (30%), it also did almost just as well in those departments where Fillon won (25.5%). It was the only motion which managed to get over 10% of the vote in every single department. 37 of the departments it won went for Copé, and 23 went for Fillon.

The Droite forte did best in departments which were not ‘held’ by the national leaders of the other motions. Peltier did have a friends and neighbors effect in the Indre-et-Loire (44.9%) which might have spilled over to the Loir-et-Cher (36.5%); but otherwise their map is remarkable by the weak incidence of any friends and neighbors/favourite son effect on its support. Along the Mediterranean coast, again, the very right-wing and Sarkozyst nature of the motion appealed to a UMP electorate made up of retirees, conservative small business owners and the petite bourgeoisie; a region where Sarkozy had done particularly well for a right-wing candidate in both 2007 and 2012. The Droite forte got 50.4% in the Aude, 41.8% in the Gard, 37.5% in the Hérault and 31.9% in the big Bouches-du-Rhône fed. Like Copé, it also did well in the left-wing southwest, where the UMP’s base is demographically similar. In both regions, the Droite forte short circuited the Droite pop.

Slightly more surprising is the motion’s appeal in Mayenne (39%), Manche (36.7%) but also parts of Brittany; all in departments which Fillon carried over Copé and where the right has historically had a moderate and centrist reputation. None of these departments are ‘held’ by the national leaders of the other motions, which appears, again, to be one of the commonalities between all the departments where it did well.

Laurent Wauquiez’s Droite sociale, with 21.7%, was the other good performer. In contrast to the Droite forte, however, the motion’s success was far more localized. It did best in Wauquiez’s home turf, the Haute-Loire (66.2%), where his native son appealed carried over to other departments in the Auvergne – notably the Cantal (44.5%) but also the Allier (37%), the Puy-de-Dôme (34%) but also some neighboring departments outside the region: the Ardèche (55.6%) or the Creuse (43.8%). In internal party votes where ideological differences are present but fairly sparse compared to normal elections, a local leader’s friends and neighbors appeal is very important – not only in his/her native region, but also in neighboring departments. Given the reduced electorate, the proximity of a candidate or a candidate’s strong local implantation is a major factor.

The Droite sociale‘s ranks were heavily dominated by the fillonistes with barely any copéiste parliamentarians backing the motion. Unsurprisingly, the motion did markedly better in departments carried by Fillon (32% in those departments where Fillon took over 60%; 13.7% in those departments where Copé took over 60%). This heavily filloniste appeal is visible in the inner west, where the motion also did very well. It won 34.5% in Fillon’s native Sarthe, 35.8% in the Vendée, 32.5% in the Ille-et-Vilaine and 29.2% in the Loire-Atlantique. It also did rather well in the Moselle (33%), Vosges (29.9%) and the Indre (33.6%) – all three departments where Fillon did very well in the presidential vote. The motion’s vote, with some exceptions, follows the traditional implantation of the Christian democratic and centrist tradition fairly well.

More disappointing for its leader, however, was the performance of Raffarin/Chatel/Leonetti/Daubresse’s France moderne et humaniste (FMH) motion, which sought to represent the old liberal and Christian democratic traditions of the former UDF, DL and parts of the RPR. The FMH motion had received strong support from UMP parliamentarians, totalling 39% support within the ranks of the party’s parliamentarians (against only 8% for the Droite forte motion), but only 18.2% from member. The FMH, with its weak result, did not profit from its strong backing by the party’s parliamentarian elites, but its map heavily reflects the local appeal of its main signatories.

It dominated the Poitou-Charentes, Raffarin’s native region, taking 39.2% in the Vienne (his department) and doing even better in the Deux-Sèvres with 44.4%. Its best result, however, came from the Haute-Marne (it won 48.4%), which is Luc Chatel’s department. Backed by Leonetti but also Copé’s second running-mate Michèle Tabarot, the FMH carried the Alpes-Maritimes with 26.8%. In the Drôme, the support of local parliamentarian Hervé Mariton pushed it over the top, taking 30.1%. In the Meuse, Gérard Longuet’s department, the FMH won 30.4% thanks to his support. In the Aveyron, backed by Yves Censi, it won 30.3%. In Copé’s native turf, the Seine-et-Marne, where it was backed by loyal Copé stalwart Franck Riester, it won 32.6%. Its performance in the Nord (22.7%), Daubresse’s fed, was more disappointing. The FMH’s map reflects no political traditions, rather it is a mish-mash of favourite son effects for its main leaders in their own departments.

Also in the disappointments category, the Gaullist motion’s weak result (12.3%), again despite some strong support with UMP parliamentarians (about 18%) with some big name backers (MAM, Larcher, Accoyer). The Gaullist or neo-Gaullist family had been one of the founding families of the UMP in 2002, the dominant stream within the RPR at the moment of the UMP’s foundation. Once again, the motion’s map is largely a collection of favourite sons/daughters effects. It carried only two departments, the Pyrénées-Atlantiques (26.4%) and the Territoire de Belfort (29.6%) and in both cases these victories owe to the backing of a local leader: Alliot-Marie in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques and Damien Meslot (a deputy) in Belfort.

It did well in the Hautes-Alpes (25.1%), which was Patrick Ollier’s (who is MAM’s husband) department before he moved politically to the Hauts-de-Seine in 2002; it seems as if he might have retained some local influence in a department which otherwise has no major national leaders. In the Vaucluse, where it took 21.1%, its support is due to Julien Aubert, a young deputy who endorsed the motion. In the Marne, where it took 20.8%, it is again due to local support (Catherine Vautrin). Slightly more interesting in the Dordogne (20.6%) and the Lot-et-Garonne (21.4%). The Dordogne is the old stronghold of Yves Guéna, an old Gaullist baron, and the department had an anti-Sarkozyst and fairly Gaullist/villepiniste deputy, Daniel Garrigue until June but Garrigue left the UMP a few years ago on bad terms with Sarkozy. The Lot-et-Garonne is a mystery.

Once again, a map reflecting contemporary personalities and barons rather than any historical traditions. The motion won only 9.8% in Chirac’s Corrèze, and the old Gaullist strongholds of Lorraine (notably Haute-Marne), northern France or the Atlantic seaboard are basically absent or unremarkable.

The Droite populaire, the representative of the party’s right-wing since 2010, did poorly, with only 10.9% of the vote, barely qualifying for recognition as a movement and financial autonomy. The Droite pop, born in 2010 as a very vocal parliamentary caucus within the UMP for the party’s most nationalist and populist right-wing deputies, had been severely weakened after the legislative elections in June when a good number of its members lost reelection (going from 42 to 19 members). As a result, the motion received the support of only 18 parliamentarians. Furthermore, the Droite pop was the main victim of the Droite forte‘s success, which is ideologically broadly similar to the Droite pop and shares with it a knack for provocation, but it also had the added advantages of novelty, charismatic and media-savvy young ambitious leaders and the big appeal of ‘Sarkozysm’ as a brand name within the UMP.

The Droite pop carried a single department, the Vaucluse (30.7%) – a very right-wing (if not far-right) department where the demographics of the UMP membership lean heavily to the right, but also the base of one of the motion’s leaders – Thierry Mariani (even if he is now elected for French citizens in Asia/Oceania). It also did well in the Tarn (26.3%), a federation led by former Droite pop deputy Bernard Carayon. The motion also had some success in the Bouches-du-Rhône (18.5%) where it has a strong bench of current and former deputies (Reynès, Deflesselles, Tian, Diard, Joissains-Masini, Mallié); the Pyrénées-Orientales (18.3%) where it had two parliamentarians until June; the Gard (17%) where it also had parliamentarians until June; the Alpes-Maritimes (15.9%) backed by Lionnel Luca; the Aube (19.4%) backed by Nicolas Dhuicq and the Rhône (16.5%) where it has a few parliamentarians.

Only one motion did not break the 10% threshold to qualify as a motion, the vague ‘Boîte à idées‘ led by some non-aligned and moderate UMP parliamentarians (Le Maire, Apparu) and with some prominent supporters (Juppé, Balladur, Bertrand). The motion had taken a strong stance against the Droite forte. With 9.2% however, it does not qualify as a movement.

The motion won a single department, Bruno Le Maire’s Eure with 26.9%. It won 22.1% in the Haute-Marne, likely due to the support of the department’s other UMP deputy, François Cornut-Gentille. In the Marne, where it was backed by Benoist Apparu, it won 14.3%. It performed well in the Vienne (20%), Saône-et-Loire (19.2%), Seine-Maritime (17.4%), Loiret (17.4%) and Jura (15.3%). In the Jura, Loiret, Seine-Maritime and Saône-et-Loire it was backed by local UMP parliamentarians.

The results of the motions vote carries an important lesson. Nicolas Sarkozy has left a profound mark on the party, and was able to successfully shape it to his liking. Most notably, he shifted the UMP to the right. From a party which at its foundations was dominated by the fairly moderate and ‘Orleanist’ traditions of liberalism, Christian democracy or late-90s chiraquien neo-Gaullism (whose nature as some kind of RadSoc pragmatism and moderation makes it more Orleanist than Bonapartist) from the UDF and RPR, it has become a far more right-wing party, more inclined towards populism or the ‘Bonapartist’ tradition of the right. The membership of the party even appears to be the right of its leaders.

The UMP’s rightward shift at the expense of the old dominant ideologies of the UDF, DL and RPR is visible in the failure of the two motions which had aimed to represent the historical tradition of the UDF, DL and RPR – the FMH and Gaullists, who won only 30.5% together against 38.7% for the Droite forte and Droite pop, two byproducts of the Sarkozyst transformation of the UMP into a far more right-wing ‘Bonapartist’ party. Even the party’s moderate wing preferred the newer Droite sociale led by Laurent Wauquiez to the more traditional and old-style FMH; and it is notable that Wauquiez’s motion, although clearly representing the moderate wing of the party, carries certain right-wing undertones (lutte contre l’assistanat) which are not reflective of the old social Christian tradition and are instead closer to the New Right’s emphasis on personal responsibility and individual initiative.

The acrimonious battle for Sarkozy’s succession has opened a deep crisis, if not civil war, within the UMP which could yet lead to the party’s explosion. With the party’s rank-and-file but also elites shifting to the right since Sarkozy seized control of the UMP from Chirac in 2004, the UMP leadership is finding it increasingly tough to create a synthesis between the different families of the right which have coexisted within the big-tent UMP. Particularly, the party’s ex-UDF centrist wing which finds its roots in the CDS is feeling more and more out of place in the UMP, and are increasingly attracted back towards their traditional home on the centre-right, a home which Borloo, Lagarde and others are trying to recreate in the form of the UDI. Pierre Méhaignerie, a former leader of the CDS and one of the prominent ex-UDF centrists within the UMP (he was Sarkozy’s secretary-general between 2004 and 2007), joined the UDI in the aftermath of the UMP crisis. Others of his political affiliation may follow in his footsteps. The UMP faces difficult days ahead, even if the rapidly growing unpopularity of the PS government provides it with an opening to regain the initiative and recover lost strength.

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%
Others 1.07%

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.

Results of the LA primary (source: uselectionatlas)

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%
Others 1.54%

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%.

Results of the MD primary (source: uselectionatlas)

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%
Others 2.05%

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.

Results of the WI primary (source: uselectionatlas)

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.

Canada: NDP leadership convention 2012

Canada’s official opposition party, the New Democratic Party (NDP) held its leadership convention on March 24, 2012 in Toronto, Ontario. Seven candidates lined up for a chance to become leader of the official opposition in addition to leader of the NDP.

The centre-left NDP has usually been Canada’s perennial third-party, perceived as the idealistic social democratic which always sought to overtake either the Liberals or Conservatives to establish themselves as the official opposition. In 2008, the NDP won 18.2% of the vote and 37 out of 308 seats. The most seats it had ever won was in 1988, when it took 43 seats and 20.4% of the vote. Under the leadership of Jack Layton, the NDP certainly grew back from the party’s near-death state of the 1990s and the NDP kept benefiting from the Liberal Party’s slow state of decrepitude following its 2006 electoral defeat. However, nothing could really prepare the NDP for the results of the historic 2011 election, when the party surged into second taking 103 seats and 30.6% of the vote.

The NDP’s success in May 2011, allowing it to form the official opposition to Stephen Harper’s Conservative majority government, came on the back of two factors: the collapse of the Liberal Party and an NDP ‘orange wave’ in Quebec. The Liberals, with 18.9% of the vote won only 34 seats – it worst result in its existence. The Liberals bled votes left and right, with more right-leaning ‘blue Liberals’ voting for the political stability and sound economic management promised by Harper’s Tories; and left-leaning Liberals voting for the NDP and its charismatic, engaging and iconic leader Jack Layton. Even more crucial, however, was the NDP’s ‘orange wave’ in Quebec where the party surged from 12% and 1 seat to 43% and 59 seats. Quebec’s electorate is fickle, but since 1993 it had been fairly loyal to the nationalist Bloc Québécois. The NDP’s orange wave clearly came largely at the BQ’s expense, which won only 23% and a mere 4 seats – down from 49 only three years prior. With the cause of Quebec nationalism increasingly falling on deaf ears and the BQ entering the campaign with no clear message, many of the BQ’s soft nationalist and left-leaning voters were attracted to Jack Layton’s party. The NDP thus entered the official opposition with a caucus which was made up, in majority, of rookie Quebec MPs. A fact made even more shocking by the fact that the NDP had until that point never won more than a single seat in the province and indeed Quebec had usually been a dead-zone for the predominantly Anglophone, Prairie-born NDP.

The NDP also entered official opposition with a popular leader, Jack Layton, taken ill with cancer. He died on August 22, sending Canada into mourning and his party into a leadership contest in which the potential candidates must seek to live up to Jack Layton’s record popularity and cross-partisan appeal. The main issues in the contest and indeed for the NDP at this point were the potential new leader’s ability to hold the NDP’s fledgling gains in the land of fickle voters, Quebec; but also expanding the NDP’s support outside Quebec to win government in 2015. This would mean, in good part, appealing to Liberal and Green supporters. The questions which mostly divided the candidates were the desirability of a “shift to the centre” in order to appeal to a broader “progressive” base but also the tough issue of cooperation with the Liberal Party as part of an anti-Harper “progressive coalition”.

Seven candidates made it all the way to the convention. Unlike in 2003, the NDP convention now uses a “one member, one vote” system with no 25% block reserved for the NDP’s allies in organized labour. All members could vote, either by absentee preferential ballot or at the convention. The convention uses exhaustive balloting with IRV, candidates needed to win 50%+1 of the votes.

The NDP came out of nowhere to score its “orange wave” in Quebec, the party had no grassroots infrastructure and a very limited membership base in the province. The issue of Quebec, so crucial to the NDP’s electoral strategy now, having a minimal role in the entire convention was a concern. There was a rather successful membership drive in Quebec, giving the party a final count of 13,987 members in the province – 11% of the party’s membership. British Columbia (39,859 members) and Ontario (36,965 members), however, remained the main NDP provinces in terms of membership, with a pretty significant base in Saskatchewan (11,243) and Manitoba (11,991) as well.

Thomas Mulcair, “the frontrunner” was also the “Quebec candidate”. Mulcair has a long political career, he was provincial Liberal cabinet minister (environment) in Jean Charest’s first government between 2003 and 2006 before he resigned to run for the NDP in the Outremont by-election in 2007, which he won, sending a first shock to the Liberal Party. Mulcair remained the party’s sole Quebec MP in the 2008 election, but he certainly played a key role as a major architect of the party’s “orange wave” in the province in 2011. He has close relations with most of the party’s rookie MPs, especially the lower-profile ‘paper candidates’ who won by surprise. Mulcair certainly argued that he was the best candidate to consolidate the NDP’s gains in Quebec and made the case for himself as the candidate who has a natural appeal to Quebec.

Mulcair has been regarded with suspicion in establishment NDP circles, both for personal reasons (his hot temper) and his alleged opportunism mixed in with ambition. His position on the party’s right, advocating a shift to the centre or something akin to a Blairite transformation of the party (despite the NDP under Layton already being a fairly moderate party) to expand the party’s base, has not been received all that well by the party’s old guard. However, Mulcair managed to build up significant caucus support, especially from Quebec’s rookies, but also in Ontario and BC. He was endorsed by Quebec MP and former 2012 leadership candidate Romeo Saganash (a Cree), former 2003 leadership candidate Lorne Nystrom, former ONDP leader Howard Hampton, former MB Premier Ed Schreyer and some more high-profile sitting MPs including David Christopherson, Jack Harris, Glenn Thibeault and John Rafferty. Though organized labour was lukewarm towards him, he did get some minor union endorsements including the UFCW Canada and SEIU.

Brian Topp, “the establishment” candidate was a nobody to most voters and even most NDP members. Topp, raised in Quebec, is fluently bilingual but has served most of his political career in party back-rooms as chief of staff to former SK Premier Roy Romanow, senior adviser to Layton in the federal election and president of the NDP since 2011. His candidacy was announced early, pushed from behind by the old guard and establishment circles wary of Mulcair. He was apparently the favourite of Layton’s old inner circle, which is deeply distrustful of Mulcair. Topp received the endorsement of party grandees including former leader Ed Broadbent (whose backing of Layton in 2003 had been crucial), SK Premiers Roy Romanow and Lorne Calvert. One of Topp’s main weakness, besides the backroom image, is that he lacks a seat in the House of Commons. He has pledged to run for a seat in Quebec.

Topp positioned himself as something of a soft left candidate, more in line with the ideological orientations of the party’s old guard which is not radically left-wing but not as open to a shift to the centre as Mulcair is. He advocated, most significantly, a “tax the rich” platform with a new 35% tax bracket for those earning over $250k a year. In the run-up to the convention, he clearly placed himself to the left of Mulcair by warning members against a Blairite transformation of the NDP. Despite old guard backing, his caucus support was weaker but he did receive the endorsement of deputy leader Libby Davies (who is on the party’s left), NB MP Yvon Godin, BC MP Jean Crowder and some prominent Quebec MPs including Françoise Boivin (a former Liberal MP, elected for the NDP in Gatineau in 2011) and Alexandre Boulerice (one of the most nationalist members of the Quebec caucus). He received the support of the United Steelworkers.

Nathan Cullen was most famous for his much discussed and rather controversial idea of a progressive front, which meant joint nominations between the NDP, Liberals and Greens to oppose Harper’s Conservatives in the next election. The idea of cooperation or outright merger with the Liberals is quite unpopular with the NDP base, which is historically distrustful of the Liberals and carries an old history of mutual hostility between both parties. Cullen was the sole candidate from British Columbia, a powerhouse in terms of NDP members. He has represented the poor northern BC riding of Skeena—Bulkley Valley since 2004. Cullen cast himself as a fairly moderate but ‘urban progressive’ type of candidate (moderate on economic matters, but quite pro-environment), emphasizing his youth and the idea of change or ‘new politics’. His strong performance in debates and strong fundraising propelled him into contention with the top of the pack.

Cullen’s caucus support was limited. He received support from two BC MPs, Fin Donnelly and Alex Atamanenko but also the more prominent Ontario MP and NDP trade critic, Brian Masse.

Peggy Nash was the “labour candidate”, strong from her footing in organized labour as a CAW negotiator in the past. Nash won the downtown Toronto riding of Parkdale—High Park in the 2011 election, after having held it for a first stint between 2006 and 2008. She was one of the NDP’s high profile frontbench MPs as the party’s finance critic until she announced her candidacy. While speaking in ideological terms is not entirely accurate, she generally is perceived as being on the party’s left and closely associated with the NDP’s traditional allies in organized labour.

Her political support was not particularly remarkable, besides the backing of BC MP Denise Savoie and that of former NDP leader Alexa McDonough. Her main strength was with organized labour: she raked in the endorsements of CAW, CUPE, the Ontario Federation of Labour and other CLC provincial federations in Alberta, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and the NWT.

Paul Dewar was not quite at the top of the pack but not quite an “also-ran” candidate. Dewar, the son of a former Ottawa mayor, has been MP for Ottawa Centre since 2006 and has built a strong reputation as a competent constituency MP and foreign affair critic. It is hard to pin down his candidacy ideologically, but he gives the image of being somewhere in the middle in terms of the NDP’s ideological scale and gives the impression of proximity with traditional NDP supporters in the public sector including teachers. Dewar’s weakness in French was seen as a major roadblock.

His caucus supports included well-known northern Ontario MP Charlie Angus, NWT MP Dennis Bevington, Alberta MP Linda Duncan and Quebec MP Hélène Laverdière, famous for having defeating Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe in his own seat in the 2011 election. Because of his family roots in Manitoba, he also raked in a surprising number of endorsements from Manitoba MLAs.

Niki Ashton was the youngest candidate in the race at age 29. Ashton, whose father is a cabinet minister in the provincial NDP government in Manitoba, has served as MP for the northern Manitoba riding of Churchill since 2008. Despite her youth, she has gained some notoriety as a talented and ambitious member. Her run was likely to build up her profile and place her into the big leagues, because her youth and inexperience were seen as significant stumbling blocks. Ashton ran a clearly left-wing campaign, which emphasized her youth and overemphasized the vague term “new politics”. She was perhaps the most left-wing candidate in the race, and was endorsed unofficially by the NDP’s Socialist Caucus.

On the endorsement front, she did surprisingly well in getting endorsements not only from MLAs in her native province but also some MPs including Ontario MP Carol Hughes and a few new Quebec MPs (for whatever reason).

Martin Singh, a ‘white convert’ to Sikhism, was the surprise candidate in the race who has never run for any elected office and who was a total nobody to almost all observers. He ran a fairly pro-business campaign and announced that Mulcair was his second choice. He did not receive any notable endorsements – even BC’s South Asian NDP establishment lined up in favour of Brian Topp.

The first ballot results were (italicized candidates dropped out or dropped if placing last on any ballot):

Thomas Mulcair (QC) 30.30%
Brian Topp (ON) 21.37%
Nathan Cullen (BC) 16.39%
Peggy Nash (ON) 12.83%
Paul Dewar (ON) 7.5%
Martin Singh (NS) 5.87%
Niki Ashton (MB) 5.74%

Mulcair emerged on top but with a rather anemic 30% of first preferences. The positively surprised were Brian Topp, who placed second (the few polls on the race had him doing very poorly) and especially Nathan Cullen who placed a strong third. The negatively surprised were Peggy Nash and Paul Dewar, whose results were below expectations. While it is unlikely that we will ever get the results broken down by province, my hunch is that Mulcair swept Quebec, the “three Ontarians” tied in Ontario with a strong Mulcair showing, Ashton and Dewar did well in Manitoba, Topp won Saskatchewan and Cullen got a favourite son vote as the only BCer in the race. In addition, Cullen’s general image as non-Mulcair/non-Topp type of urban progressive, green candidate may have won him support from younger members in large urban areas.

Ashton was dropped after placing last, while Singh and Dewar withdrew. Singh immediately endorsed Mulcair, while Dewar freed his delegates. Dewar backer Charlie Angus moved his support to Mulcair, and likely spoke for many MPs who felt the need to have a strong leader in the House by Monday to take on the Conservative government’s federal budget (expected to feature major spending cuts and public sector job cuts) in the coming week. After the announcement of the first results at 10:00, the second ballot results were announced at 13:45.

Thomas Mulcair (QC) 38.10%
Brian Topp (ON) 25.00%
Nathan Cullen (BC) 19.92%
Peggy Nash (ON) 16.83%

Mulcair was the main benefactor of the second ballot, gaining the most support of any candidate. He likely took the vast majority of Martin Singh’s first ballot support, nearly 6% while also doing well with some of Paul Dewar’s supporters. Peggy Nash was forced to drop out after the second ballot where she failed to move out of fourth, but she gained the second most votes of any candidates. Nash did not endorse any candidate. She perhaps took considerable support from Ashton and Dewar. Cullen had an underwhelming performance, as did Topp.

The third ballot voting was disturbed by attacks on the party’s internet voting system, which turned the e-voting experiment into something between a joke and a disaster. Results were only announced at 18:00.

Thomas Mulcair (QC) 43.81%
Brian Topp (ON) 31.59%
Nathan Cullen (BC) 24.59%

Mulcair’s growth was less impressive on the third ballot, but he still did fairly well considering the bulk of new votes came from Peggy Nash voters, who, based on left-wing affiliations, could be seen as benefiting Topp rather than Mulcair. In the end, Nash’s voters split fairly evenly between the three candidates, with a slight bias towards left-wing contender Brian Topp. Cullen got good transfers but ultimately failed to overtake Topp for second place. He did not endorse any candidate, but his moderate positioning made his voters possibly closer to Mulcair than to Topp. Mulcair was the heads-on favourite heading into the fourth ballot, which, after more e-voting disasters, was only announced at 21:15.

Thomas Mulcair (QC) 57.22%
Brian Topp (ON) 42.78%

Mulcair and Topp likely split the Cullen voters about 54-46 in Mulcair’s favour, on balance a surprisingly strong showing for Topp with those voters, perhaps benefiting from some Topp institutional support in Cullen’s home province. Brian Topp’s performance at the convention was stronger than most had expected, which in a way shows the backing by some of the members of the party’s “old guard” and older backrooms establishment. In the end, however, not much could stop Mulcair and his perhaps unstoppable mix of Quebec appeal/support, caucus backing and a strong fundraising base. Not even the reluctance of the party’s core base towards the “shift to the centre” idea of Mulcair could stop him. Of course, he did get 43% voting against him, but 57% is still a comfortable majority of support. Mulcair has made moves towards party unity, including keeping left-wing Topp backer Libby Davies as deputy leader of the party.

The NDP likely made the best choice in Mulcair. He was the only candidate certain of keeping the party’s fledgling base in Quebec, and his general ‘Quebec appeal’ likely played a major role for Anglophone NDP supporters outside Quebec who strategically considered Mulcair as the best possible pick for leader. Quebec’s electorate is, of course, extremely fickle and could change political allegiances dramatically come the 2015 election (indeed, the NDP has already started shedding some support in the province since May according to most polls), but Mulcair has the benefit of being the leader best able to “speak to Quebec” and hold the party’s gains there. The other main task he faces ahead of 2015, when the NDP will obviously target power as it stands today, is to expand the party’s base in Anglophone Canada. The NDP, despite the orange wave, did not do all that well in Ontario (where the Tories won their majority), lost a seat in Manitoba, was still shut out in the NDP heartland of Saskatchewan and did not take all it could in BC. The NDP needs to win not only most of the 30-some Liberal seats but also some Tory-held ridings, especially in the West. Mulcair’s shift to the centre idea could possibly be the best route for the NDP to take to score these gains. 2015 is still a long way away, and neither the Tories nor the Liberals have said their last word on the topic. Mulcair is, at it currently stands, the best possible choice for the NDP. Whether or not he can become Prime Minister Thomas Mulcair, the first NDP Prime Minister of Canada, remains to be seen.

USA 2012: Puerto Rico and Illinois primary

The race for the Republican nomination moved to Puerto Rico on March 18 and then Illinois on March 20 following last week’s primaries in Alabama, Mississippi and Hawaii. The race is now entering a slower period after the half-way mark, as the rhythm of primaries slows down a bit. Four states vote on April 3, but then the next five primaries are only on April 24. The race is also in a kind of weird situation, where there is a clear frontrunner – Mitt Romney – who is quasi-certain to win the nomination – but who does not yet have the 1144 delegates needed to grasp the nomination (he has over 550 or s0) and faces resilient rivals who will not back out of the race until it is mathematically impossible for them to deny Romney 50%+1 of the delegates. Romney could only be shaken off his pedestal at this point by game-changing loses to Rick Santorum – who is clearly his only serious rival at this point – in big states such as Illinois.

Rick Santorum did not get much of a boost out of Alabama and Mississippi. It seems as if the race has stabilized at a point where the allegiances of GOP primary voters are becoming locked in, with a net plurality of voters solidly behind Romney and a sizable minority backing Santorum with Gingrich and Paul reduced their rump of supporters in the 8-12% range nationally. Illinois would have been one of those game-changers that Santorum needed in order to shake Romney off the top spot, but instead he chose to quixotically chase votes around in Puerto Rico. Of course, it seems as if Santorum’s point of going to PR was more to rest a bit on a beach, but in the process he hurt his chances in Illinois and got nowhere in PR itself after suggesting that Puerto Ricans seeking statehood should learn English (he later backpedaled on that statement a bit). The results in Puerto Rico certainly proves that Santorum wasted his time on the island:

Puerto Rico

Mitt Romney 82.88%
Rick Santorum 8.02%
Buddy Roemer 2.21%
Newt Gingrich 2.05%
Fred Karger 1.43%
Ron Paul 1.22%
Others 2.18%

Results of the PR primary (source: uselectionatlas)

Mitt Romney won a blowout in Puerto Rico, which netted him 20 delegates and cost his rival, who chased around 8% of the vote, precious campaign time in Illinois. It is hard to know much about Puerto Rico’s Republican primaries, given that there is no real Republican party on the island but rather politicians and members from the main pro-statehood party, the PNP – such as Governor Luis Fortuño – who affiliate nationally with the Republican Party. Turnout was only 118k votes, about 5.8% of the island’s electorate and way below the turnout in the 2008 Democratic primary. The main political debate in Puerto Rico is that of statehood, which is up for a vote this November, and the PR Republicans usually tend to be heavily pro-statehood (the Democrats are split, given that some PNP members are Democrats). Rick Santorum of course injected himself into that debate, while Romney aptly avoided getting into it too much and relied heavily on the backing of the island’s Republican/PNP Governor, Luis Fortuño.

Puerto Rican GOP primaries have tended to be biased hugely in favour of the establishment candidates in the past, who have usually taken in 85-90% of the vote. Based on that record, it should have been clear that Romney was headed for a blowout win in Puerto Rico. It has also been said that some Puerto Ricans voted for Romney as a proxy for statehood, believing that their best hope for statehood lies with a President Romney and a re-elected Governor Fortuño in November.

Rick Santorum did not double-down on Illinois has he had on Michigan and Ohio. He kind of conceded defeat to Romney there, realizing that the state was favourable to Romney, that Romney would outspend him by a landslide margin and that he did not really have the time to campaign there in a way to destroy Romney’s natural advantage there. Illinois is a Midwestern state, but it is quite unlike Michigan and Ohio which were both more favourable to Santorum than Illinois. Most importantly, Illinois – especially Chicagoland – has way more affluent suburbs than either of those two states. Chicagoland’s moderate, white-collar and very affluent suburbs lock in a majority of the state’s votes and electoral powerhouses like Cook, Lake or DuPage counties would be Romney strongholds just like Oakland County in Michigan. On the other hand, Illinois does have a pretty sizable conservative, Evangelical voting bloc which is more Southern than Midwestern but despite forming, geographically, a good part of the state those regions of Southern Illinois only account for a much smaller minority of the GOP primary electorate. The results in Illinois were:


Mitt Romney 46.71%
Rick Santorum 35.02%
Ron Paul 9.32%
Newt Gingrich 7.96%
Others 1%

Mitt Romney won a decisive victory in Illinois, probably the first time in a long time where we can clearly say that Romney unambiguously had a good night. He won Illinois by nearly 12 percentage points over Rick Santorum. This nets him a good 40 or so delegates, and the Romney campaign is all about piling up delegates at this point. His delegate edge at this point is pretty unsurmountable and the only way in which Romney could still be stopped was if his rivals accumulated enough wins to hold him below the magic 1144 number. Of course, doing that would require denying Romney a win in his final firewall states – the big states using WTA (or WTA-by-CD) allocation which will grant him big margins near the end of the nominating contest. At the same time, the states which are less favourable to Romney – including the big state of Texas – use proportional allocation rules which would still give Romney a nice catch even if he loses, in a scenario resembling what happened last week in Alabama and Mississippi where Santorum’s popular vote wins only gave him a miniscule boost in total delegate percentage.

Some have said that Illinois might be a game-changer for Romney, the victory which gives him a burst of momentum and which rallies the remainder of the party to his ship as that of the eventual nominee. However, Romney’s core weakness with a vocal and sizable minority of the conservative base has certainly not been erased by Illinois and it is doubtful that they can be convinced to rally around the Mitt flag just because he won Illinois. On top of that, Romney’s rival(s) are resilient. Ron Paul is quietly accumulating his fabled ‘ninja delegates’ through his organization’s unmatchable knowledge and manipulation of the arcane state nominating rules. Newt Gingrich is a dictionary definition of quixotic persistence in face of tremendous odds and at this point it is hard to see him drop out despite his campaign being totally irrelevant. At this point Gingrich will not drop out until the 2016 election. Finally, Rick Santorum – Romney’s only serious opponent at this juncture – is determined to fight this fight until to the last man, the last state. He has shown no exhaustion or eagerness to drop out and hand Romney the nomination on a silver platter. His underdog campaign against Mitt’s money machine still speaks to the conservative base of the GOP which harbours a deep-seated suspicion of the former Massachussetts governor as a moderate who cannot be trusted. He maintains that Romney’s delegate lead is not as big as the media outlets report, which is probably true, but at the same time Santorum’s campaign is not really strong enough to toy around the arcane delegate rules like the Paul team is.

Exit Poll Analysis

The usual patterns showed up clearly in Illinois. Older voters were the most likely to back Romney, though he won all age groups. He took 41% to Santorum’s 36% with those aged 18 to 29 but trounced Santorum 49-32 with those who are aged over 65, a ground which constituted 24% of the electorate against only 8% for the 18-29 group. Income, of course, proved the other top indicator of Romney strength following a graduated scale. While Romney lost the bottom 10% (those who earn less than $30k) 37 against 45 to Santorum, he won the 28% earning between $100 and $200k with 55% to Santorum’s 30% and carried the wealthiest 10% (those earning over $200k) with 57% against only 27% for Santorum.

Evangelicals accounted for 42% of the electorate, and they backed Santorum with 46% to Romney’s 39%. Those who were not Evangelicals backed Romney by a huge 54-26 margin over Santorum. Once again, the Catholic Santorum lost the Catholic vote (35%) to Santorum by a 53-30 margin and did better with Protestants – losing 38 to 45. Interestingly, Santorum also lost weekly church-attending Catholics to Romney by a whole 9 points (48-39) while winning weekly church-attending Protestants 42-39. He lost Catholics who do not attend church weekly 57-21 to Romney. Catholic Republicans, as previously mentioned in our discussion of Ohio on Super Tuesday, nowadays tend to be rather moderate conservatives who live predominantly middle-class lifestyles in urban or suburban areas (this is especially true in Illinois) and usually support the establishment candidate. They don’t attach any particular political significance to their faith and they don’t have anything against Romney and probably don’t care much for a social conservative insurgent candidate like Santorum.

64% of voters were conservatives against 36% who were moderates or liberals. Conservatives overall backed Romney 47-39, while moderates backed him by a much wider 48-27 margin over Santorum. Mitt Romney still lost the 29% who were ‘very conservative’ by 11 points, 48-37 in Santorum’s favour.

Romney trounced 52-31 with the 59% who said the economy was their top preoccupation and won the 25% who said the budget deficit was their top preoccupation 53-29 over Santorum. His lead over his rivals with the 36% who said the ability to beat Obama was the top candidate quality was larger than anything we’ve seen before. He won them 74-17 over Santorum. At the same time, however, he only took 11% with those who said being a true conservative was the top quality and 18% with those who thought a candidate with a strong moral character was the top quality.

Geographical Analysis

Results of the IL primary (source: uselectionatlas)

As previously noted, Cook County and the Chicagoland suburban ‘Collar Counties’ (Lake, DuPage, Will, McHenry, Kane, Kanakee and Kendall counties) contribute over half of the total statewide vote. According to the CNN exit poll, Chicago (5%), the Cook County suburbs (16%) and the Collar Counties (34%) combined for 55% of the GOP primary vote on March 20. Cook County is less important in GOP primaries than in either Democratic primaries or the general election, because Chicago is so heavily Democratic and contributes so little to the total GOP base in the state. Cook County does include some Republican-voting suburban areas such as Kenilworth or Winnetka, which tend to be much more affluent than the county as a whole. However, Chicagoland’s Collar Counties, historical Republican strongholds but increasingly purple swing areas, are affluent (especially Lake and DuPage counties) and more socially moderate than the rural Illinoian GOP counties. In the 2010 gubernatorial primary, the eventual winner of the extremely fragmented field, the ultra-conservative Bill Brady, did extremely poorly in the Collar Counties (5-8%) while winning statewide with 20.3%. It is a naturally favourable base for Mitt Romney and the main explanation for his built-in advantage in the state.

Romney easily carried Cook County (Chicago) with 56.9% to Santorum’s 26.5%. In inner suburban Lake and DuPage counties, home to some very affluent suburbs (some of which are rather liberal, like Highland Park), Romney won by similarly huge margins. He took Lake County 56-28 and won DuPage 54-28. He carried Will County, taking in the less affluent Chicago Southland white suburbs, with 49.3% against 33% for Santorum. Decisively, Mitt Romney also carried the fairly affluent but more high-growth exurban and socially conservative outer collar counties including Kane County (49-32.5), McHenry County (47-32), Kendall County (44.5-36) and Kanakee County (43-39). He even carried the more further out northern Illinois counties including DeKalb, LaSalle and Livingstone counties which are more rural but rapidly evolving counties. Mitt Romney certainly did exceed  expectations in exurban conservative Kane and McHenry counties, and that explains why he won by the margin he did – given that, as we’ll see, his downstate performance wasn’t anything to write home about.

Mitt Romney also pulled off some fairly key wins in some of the more industrial towns in central Illinois which should have voted for Santorum if he had been to win the state. Mitt Romney does well in urban areas, but some of central Illinois’ urban areas are more blue-collar and fairly conservative, thus one would imagine more inclined towards Rick Santorum. Romney carried Peoria County (Peoria) with a decisive 46.6% to 37.5%. He also prevailed in Winnebago County (Rockford, in northern IL) 42-37, Macon County (Decatur) 45-32, McLean County (Bloomington) 42-38 and Sangamon County (Springfield) 48-33. He did, quite interestingly, lose working-class Rock Island County (Moline) 46-38 to Santorum. In 2008, Romney had carried two counties in the whole state against McCain: Rock Island and next-door Henry County – perhaps because they are in the Davenport, IA media market. He lost both this year. Romney carried the college town of Champaign (Champaign County) 43-34 with Ron Paul taking 13%. The university likely contributed little votes if any given the spring break.

If the primary had been fought in 1852, Rick Santorum would have prevailed. Indeed, he won most of rural small-town Illinois and won by huge margins in Southern Illinois. Santorum won the Midwestern-like and less Evangelical rural counties of northern Illinois, areas where we could have expected Romney to win, although Santorum only won them by a fairly narrow-ish margin overall.

His victory, however, in rural Southern Illinois left no doubt. Southern Illinois is in a good number of ways more similar to Kentucky or southern Missouri than it is to Wisconsin, Iowa or Minnesota. It was settled by Southerners, for a long time retained an economy more typical of the South than of the north and to this day remains a working-class, socially conservative area with a sizable Baptist population for a northern state and an even larger proportion of Evangelicals. This is where Romney finds his toughest crowds, the base which is still wary of Romney despite the narrative about him as the frontrunner and eventual nominee. Mitt Romney failed to break 30% and Santorum broke 45 and even 50% in the vast majority of the counties in the south of the state.

There is a fairly clear north-south divide when you map out Mitt Romney’s performance by county. He did as poorly in these rural conservative areas of southern Illinois as he did in parts of Alabama or Ohio. This still does not portend well for his chances in Louisiana’s primary on Saturday March 24. Romney carried a single county in southern Illinois, traditionally Democratic St. Clair County (fairly working-class despite being suburban) with 42.5% against 41% for Santorum. Santorum carried next-door Madison County (43-38) and Jackson County (Carbondale) 43-37. Romney might have exceeded our expectations in exurban Chicagoland, but he didn’t exceed expectations in conservative rural Illinois for sure. Romney by maximizing his natural base (through heavy ad spending and campaigning in the Chicago media market), not by converting hostile voters in the areas where he still strugglesSantorum exceeded our expectations in southern Illinois, where he dominated by an even larger margin than previously assumed. The main reason is Gingrich’s collapse in Illinois, taking just 8% compared to 15% in Ohio on March 6 (performing best in Santorum-favourable counties). Gingrich’s electorate of sorts in southern Illinois clearly decamped towards Santorum.

The bad news for Santorum in all this is that southern Illinois’ conservative counties carry nowhere close to the weight of the Collar Counties. Illinois is way different from either Michigan and Ohio, and even if Illinois has that clearly Southern element which Michigan lacks entirely and which Ohio has little has, that Southern element in Illinois is minimal even in a statewide GOP primary unless the field is so divided as in the 2010 gubernatorial primary that it allows the conservative candidate of the rural areas to squeak in.


Mitt Romney, I repeat, will be the nominee. He can’t be stopped at this point bar some unexpected massive game-changer or a dead baby in his closet. His delegate lead is quite impressive even if it is probably true that it is not quite as big as the media projections make it out to be. Yet, the delegate allocation rules in the remaining states (all primaries, so no caucus shenanigans) favour Romney in a way or another and it would be impossible for him to be overtaken outright in the delegate count and unlikely for him to ultimately fall short of the 1144 threshold even if it may still take some work on his part to get there. The question will be whether or not a rather protracted nomination fight will have hurt Romney and still left him without the full support of the party’s right.

At any rate, the next contest is on March 24 (Saturday) in Louisiana. The conventional wisdom is that Louisiana being a very conservative state in the South, Santorum should win easily especially given that Gingrich’s campaign has turned into an irrelevant footnote. However, Louisiana brings one additional factor into the equation which few observers have considered. Louisiana is not quite a pure Southern state because southern Louisiana (Acadiana) was settled by and retains a large French (Cajun) Catholic presence which is not Evangelical though still conservative in a way which blends it in increasingly with traditional Baptist northern Louisiana. Yet, even a basic look into Louisiana’s voting patterns will reveal key distinctions between Acadiana’s French Catholics and the more traditionally Southern Baptists found in the rest of state. Santorum has done poorly with Catholics (though not, let us point out, with Catholics in rural areas) and in 2008, McCain easily won French Catholics in Louisiana despite losing the state by 2 points to Mike Huckabee. Romney, however, does not quite match McCain’s 2008 base in the South and Santorum, as a conservative Catholic, could easily exceed the performance of the Baptist Huckabee with conservative French Catholics in Acadiana.

USA 2012: Kansas, Islands and Dixie

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

Kansas (caucus)
Rick Santorum 51.21%
Mitt Romney 20.93%
Newt Gingrich 14.40%
Ron Paul 12.62%
Others 0.83%

Mitt Romney is reported to have won all 9 delegates with 83% in a straw poll

Northern Marianas
Mitt Romney 87.26%
Rick Santorum 6.25%
Ron Paul 3.30%
Newt Gingrich 3.18%

US Virgin Islands
Uncommitted 33.85%
Ron Paul 29.17%
Mitt Romney 26.30%
Rick Santorum 5.99%
Newt Gingrich 4.69%

Results of the KS caucus (source: uselectionatlas

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%
Uncommitted 1.49%
Others 0.74%

Rick Santorum 32.77%
Newt Gingrich 31.18%
Mitt Romney 30.59%
Ron Paul 4.40%
Others 1.06%

Mitt Romney 45.38%
Rick Santorum 25.30%
Ron Paul 18.28%
Newt Gingrich 11.04%

American Samoa
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.

Exit Polls

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.

Geographic Analysis

Results of the AL primary (source: uselectionatlas)

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%.

Results of the MS primary (source: uselectionatlas)

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.

Results of the HI caucus (source: uselectionatlas)

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.

USA 2012: WY, WA and Super Tuesday

After the primaries in Michigan and Arizona on February 28, the fascinating race for the Republican presidential nomination moved on to Super Tuesday’s seven primaries and three caucuses held on March 6. Side-shows caucuses of sorts were held in Wyoming (Feb 9-29) and Washington (March 3) between these two big sets of contests.

In my post on the last primaries, I compared this nominating season to a good TV show which returns to us almost every week with new intrigues, new twists and always a good load of suspense. In last week’s episode, Mitt Romney broke Rick Santorum’s momentum with a predictable landslide in Arizona and a close win in his home state but Santorum target state of Michigan. Mitt Romney surged to a pretty sizable lead in national polling over Santorum and second-tier rivals Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul. It seems very likely at this point that Romney will be the nominee, given the delegates he has amassed so far and his strength in late-voting WTA states which could place him over the top. However, his rivals are resilient and are unlikely to give him a free pass. The race could go on for quite some time still before Romney officially and formally seals the deal.

Between MI-AZ and Super Tuesday, Wyoming wrapped up its month-long county caucuses and Washington held a caucus on March 3. These caucuses, like – I think – all other caucuses held thus far, do not directly allocate delegates to the RNC in Tampa. These news-generating caucuses are only presidential preference straw polls with either no effect or a limited effect on delegate allocation, decided later in county conventions. The delegate projections created by media outlets based on the caucus results in these states thus vary wildly and are fairly inaccurate projections.

Wyoming (Feb 29) and Washington (March 3) caucuses

Wyoming (county caucuses)

Mitt Romney 38.99%
Rick Santorum 31.93%
Ron Paul 20.83%
Newt Gingrich 7.83%
Others 0.43%

Washington (caucuses)

Mitt Romney 37.65%
Ron Paul 24.81%
Rick Santorum 23.81%
Newt Gingrich 10.28%
Uncommitted 3.26%
Others 0.18%

Results of the WY and WA caucuses

Mitt Romney won a fairly comfortable victory in Wyoming’s month-long county caucuses (February 9 to 29) while in Washington he managed a comfortable victory over Ron Paul and Santorum. Washington was held in the wake of Romney’s post-MI momentum, which destroyed any chance for a Santorum victory. The delegate projections out of Wyoming indicate that Romney and Santorum both won roughly the same number, with Romney eeking out a narrow plurality. In Washington, Romney could have won between 30 and 34 of the state’s 43 delegates.

In Wyoming, the results indicated a fairly clear east-west split in the state’s GOP voting patterns. Mitt Romney dominated in the western part of the state, especially heavily Mormon Lincoln (75%), Uinta (65.7%) and Big Horn (70.4%) counties, all counties which showed turnout numbers heavier than the very low statewide average – only 2000 or so registered Wyoming Republicans turned out. Mitt Romney also carried the ski resort county of Teton (56.3%) fairly easily. In eastern Wyoming, he only carried Albany County (Laramie), and only with 35%. Rick Santorum and Ron Paul split the remaining counties in the east of the state. Santorum’s two major victories were in Laramie County (Cheyenne), in which he took 41.3%; and Natrona County (Casper) in which he took 38.6%. His other big win was in Goshen County, which seems sparsely populated but cast 146 votes, 65.8% of those for Santorum. Ron Paul won isolated plains county, including the old mining county of Sweetwater.

In Washington, Mitt Romney’s victory was helped in no small part by the heavily populated Seattle-Tacoma area. In King County, where most Republican voters tend to be affluent, educated Seattle commuters, he won 47% to Ron Paul’s 25%. In Snohomish County, another Seattle sprawl county, he won 42% to Paul’s 25%. In more exurban Skagit County (Mt. Vernon), Romney won 41% to Santorum’s 21%. In Pierce County, Tacoma and its suburban sprawl, he won 37.9% to Santorum’s 25.8%. Romney won eastern Washington’s main urban centre, Spokane, by a very narrow margin (30-29.8) over Santorum. He carried Clark County (Vancouver) with 37% against 28.5% for Paul. Vancouver is a fairly conservative urban area by PacNW standards, likely because it attracts the kind of residents who like low taxes (Washington has no income tax, neighboring Oregon has no sales tax). Romney took 43% to Santorum’s 25% in Benton County, home to the nuclear industry-driven Tri Cities.

Rick Santorum won Whatcom County (Bellingham, near the Canadian border) with 33% to Paul’s 28%. It may surprise, but it is likely that the GOP electorate in Whatcom County comes from Lynden rather than the liberal college town of Bellingham. And Lynden is an ultra-conservative Dutch Calvinist enclave, and those types of places have been Rick Santorum’s strongest locales thus far. Santorum also won three random eastern Washington counties where nobody lives. Ron Paul carried the four eastern Washington counties which border Canada, the coastal logging county of Pacific, two counties along the Columbia River and two counties in southeastern Washington. One of those counties, Whitman, is home to Washington State University (in Pullman).

Super Tuesday – Eastern Primaries (MA, VT, OH, VA, GA, TN)


Mitt Romney 72.09%
Rick Santorum 12.07%
Ron Paul 9.57%
Newt Gingrich 4.64%
Others 1.64%


Mitt Romney 39.79%
Ron Paul 25.49%
Rick Santorum 23.65%
Newt Gingrich 8.14%
Jon Huntsman 2.03%
Others 0.9%


Mitt Romney 37.95%
Rick Santorum 37.07%
Newt Gingrich 14.59%
Ron Paul 9.24%
Others 1.15%


Mitt Romney 59.52%
Ron Paul 40.47%


Newt Gingrich 47.20%
Mitt Romney 25.90%
Rick Santorum 19.56%
Ron Paul 6.55%
Others 0.79%


Rick Santorum 37.43%
Mitt Romney 28.09%
Newt Gingrich 24.18%
Ron Paul 9.11%
Others 1.19%

Super Tuesday – Western Primaries and Caucuses (OK, ND, ID, AK)


Rick Santorum 33.80%
Mitt Romney 28.04%
Newt Gingrich 27.48%
Ron Paul 9.63%
Others 1.04%

North Dakota (caucus)

Rick Santorum 39.74%
Ron Paul 28.07%
Mitt Romney 23.71%
Newt Gingrich 8.48%

Idaho (caucus)

Mitt Romney 61.59%
Rick Santorum 18.17%
Ron Paul 18.10%
Newt Gingrich 2.10%
Others 0.04%

Alaska (non-binding straw poll)

Mitt Romney 32.61%
Rick Santorum 29.03%
Ron Paul 23.96%
Newt Gingrich 14.15%
Others 0.25%

As the dust settled, it was clear that Mitt Romney eeked out a narrow win overall on Super Tuesday. The crucial state out of all 10 states which voted, the one which was most unpredictable and the one on which almost all candidates centered their attention on, was Ohio. And Mitt Romney, like in Michigan, was able to narrowly upset Santorum in the Rust Belt state, but only with 38% to Santorum’s 37.1%. A victory by the skin of his teeth, but still a momentum-maintaining win for Romney. Mitt Romney also emerged on top in Massachusetts, Vermont, Virginia and Idaho; where he was widely expected to win, and also won Alaska’s non-binding caucus straw poll. Rick Santorum won Tennessee, Oklahoma and North Dakota. Newt Gingrich won his home state of Georgia.

There are two ways to look at Romney’s victory in Ohio. On the one hand, Romney supporters will likely perceive it as a narrow victory but a victory nonetheless for Romney – which makes his likely nomination even more certain – in a state demographically favourable to Santorum (which isn’t quite true). On the other hand, a lot of people will probably see Romney’s victory as an underwhelming victory in a state where he outpsent Santorum 5 to 1 but was only able to beat him by less than 1% despite blowing him out of the water on the money race side of things.

Mitt Romney’s victory in Ohio does not seal the deal for him just yet, but it indicates that Romney’s route to the eventual crowning moment will be a little bit shorter than it would have been if he had lost to Santorum in Ohio. Mitt Romney’s delegate advantage increased on Super Tuesday, and he now has roughly 400 delegates, with 1,144 needed to win the nomination. Realistically, this lead is likely insurmountable for either Santorum or Gingrich unless one of them dropped out in favour of the other and was able to gather tons of momentum and cash to challenge Romney in his new firewall: WTA states in the Northeast plus California. However, Santorum and Gingrich are both proving to be resilient fight and it is tough to imagine either of them dropping out this week. Gingrich has little to lose in this contest, and Santorum seems to be in no mood to just give up and give Romney the nomination. Romney could emerge as the official nominee by the end of April or mid-May. Only Gingrich dropping out and giving Santorum the chance to build a conservative coalition could rejig the race, but even then it could be too late. And Gingrich won’t drop out for a week at least.

Romney’s victory on Super Tuesday is murkier than headlines indicate. He has failed to overcome his “Southern problem” or “conservative problem”. He lost to Santorum by fairly consequent margins in Tennessee and Oklahoma, despite a fairly divided conservative electorate in these conservative Republican bastions. In Ohio, as our geographic analysis will show, Mitt Romney – like in Michigan – won because of the votes of GOP voters in big-city Democratic strongholds and swing-vote suburbs, but lost to Santorum in the traditional Ohio Republican strongholds. All this indicates that while Romney will win the nomination, he will do so with a conservative base which is fairly unexcited about him to say the least and generally lukewarm towards his candidacy. John McCain faced a similar problem in 2008 but his selection of Sarah Palin as his Veep turned matters around for him as the same conservatives who had shown reluctance towards McCain were energized by the Palin pick. Romney could resolve the issue in a similar fashion, but at this point in time, he faces an uphill battle to gain the confidence of these voters. The overall results also indicates that Romney could struggle in the general election against Obama in working-class areas, but at the same time do well in suburban areas.

State-by-State Analysis: Exit Polls and Geographic Analysis


Results of the MA primary (source: uselectionatlas)

Massachusetts was the most boring contest of the night: Romney won 72% of the vote and won all 38 delegates which were up for grabs. With such a margin, you could think that Massachusetts is full of Mormons! It doesn’t actually have lots of Mormons besides Romney, but it does have other things: it is Mitt Romney’s adoptive home state – where he served as Governor between 2003 and 2007 – and its Republican electorate tends to be moderate, affluent, educated suburbanites. A huge landslide is what happens when a favourite son candidate named Romney is the only ‘moderate Republican’ on the ballot. The fact that the other candidates totally ignored the state also explains stuff to some extent.

Romney’s win in Massachusetts in 2008 was nothing to write home about – he beat McCain by only 10 points in his home state – but that was largely because McCain, favourite son effect erased, was a much better candidate for Massachusetts GOPers than the conservative Romney of 2008.

Exit polls, of course, are boring. Romney won 80% with those aged 65 or over, a group which made up 29% of voters. His support was still kind of graduated by income, but not as perfectly as before. He won 73% with the top 10% – those making over $200k, but took 77% of those 31% with an income between $100 and $200k.

Independents were 51% of the electorate and moderates/liberals were 49% of primary voters. Romney did better with registered Republicans (78%) than with independents (69%, Paul took 14%), and won 72% support from moderates against 64% support from ‘very conservative’ voters (15%). However, he won the most support – 76% – from somewhat conservative voters. Romney won 69% support among the 51% of voters who said that so-called RomneyCare – the state’s healthcare law passed by Governor Romney and later the blueprint from ObamaCare – went too far. This might explain why attacks on RomneyCare don’t seem to stick to Mitt: voters tend to disassociate the two or at least don’t consider Romney responsible for it. Romney won 82% support from the 43% who said that his ties to Massachusetts mattered a lot or a bit to them.

On a geographic basis, Mitt Romney received the most support in and around Boston in eastern MA. These counties (Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth) are made, largely, of moderate, highly educated and very affluent suburban communities. Plymouth is slightly more exurban and less affluent, but Republicans here – and there are quite a few by local standards – care a lot about taxation and such stuff. Romney won 72% in Brookline, 80% in Needham, 75% in Newton, 83% in Wellesley, 74.6% in Framingham, 72% in Waltham, 77.8% in Milton, 72.7% in Quincy, 75% in Weymouth and 82% in Duxbury. In this densely populated region, his only more underwhelming performances were in less affluent, more working-class areas such as Somerville (59%, 23% for Paul), Chelsea (54%, 27% for Paul) or liberal college towns like Cambridge (59%, 21% for Paul). He won 69.6% in Boston.

Romney also performed well around Cape Cod (Paul did well in Provincetown), with 75% in Barnstable, for example. He didn’t do as well in the declining post-industria cities of Fall River (55%, 21% for Santorum), New Bedford (54%, 22% for Santorum), Springfield (58%, 23% for Santorum), Holyoke (59%, 20% for Santorum) or Chicopee (59.5%, 23% for Santorum). His worst performances, however, were in the Berkshires, where he sometimes hovered below 50% and rarely did better than 60%. This is a Vermont-like liberal stronghold, but Santorum and Paul did fairly well. Interestingly, Paul didn’t do spectacularly well in college towns such as Amherst (21%) or Adams (13.7%).


Results of the VT primary (own map)

Vermont has shifted away from the Republican Party in droves in recent years, but we usually assume that those who remain in the Vermont GOP tend to be moderates. Based on this assumption, Romney should have done very well in Vermont. But his victory, with 39.8% to Paul’s 25.5% is not the landslide we might have assumed. When we think about stuff in more detail, it makes sense. Moderate or liberal Republicans are endangered species, but the idea that Romney dominates them has not really been proven. Mitt Romney won New Hampshire by the margin he did largely because of more conservative or libertarian affluent Boston suburbanites, while he did poorly in western NH, which most resembles Vermont in political and demographic terms. Vermont is not particularly well-off, and it certainly doesn’t have those New Hampshire-type very affluent suburban voters who are Romney’s strongest backers. It also has a fairly anti-establishment, independent streak which is hard to quantify or even observe in specific elections, but which can rear its head from time to time.

The exit polls prove that this observation is true: only 3% of Vermont voters made over $200k and only 17% made over $100k. Romney won that top 17% with 42%, while Ron Paul won the poorest 13% of voters (income under $30k) with 37% to Mitt’s 32%. Independents were 40% of the VT primary electorate, but for the first time this year, conservatives were outnumbered by moderates-liberals in Vermont: only 47% of the voters were conservative. Paul won independents, 38-31 over Romney, while Romney won Republicans 51-25 over Santorum. Santorum won the 19% who identified as very conservative, while Paul lost the moderates and liberals by only one point to Mitt (34 vs. 35).

Mitt Romney did best around Burlington. He won Burlington proper with 37% to Paul’s 29%, but did far better in the kinda-suburban towns which surround Burlington and which tend to be slightly wealthier. He won 51% in affluent Shelburne, 47% in South Burlington, 43% in Colchester, 42.6% in Essex, 42% in Jericho and 45.8% in Williston. Outside Chittenden County, Romney also did well in Rutland (45%), Bennington (38.5%), Brattleboro (39.8%) and especially the affluent ski resort of Stowe (48.6%). Ron Paul did really well in the Northeast Kingdom (Essex, Orleans and Caledonia counties) but also most of Lamoille County and inland Franklin County. Rick Santorum took a few towns here and there too, including Highgate on the Canadian border. The towns won by Paul or Santorum are largely sparsely populated rural small towns in the Green Mountains, where voters are pretty poor and portray Vermont’s independent, anti-system streak fairly well. Ron Paul also won Marlboro, a college town in southern Vermont, but there certainly isn’t any college town rule in the results. Santorum won Putney; Romney performed strongly in Northfield, Middlebury, Norwich and Hartford.


Results of the OH primary (source: uselectionatlas)

Ohio was the race which everybody was interested about. It was the most competitive contest of all 10 states which voted on Super Tuesday, and it was where Romney, Santorum and Gingrich focused their strengths. Rick Santorum polled very well in Ohio right up to his loss to Romney in neighboring Michigan, which allowed Romney to close the race down to a statistical tie. Romney outspent Santorum, whose campaign was so disorganized it failed to qualify for a full slate of delegates in each CD, by a 5-to-1 margin. Yet, Romney, unlike in Florida, was unable to use this money advantage to blow Santorum away. It has often been said that Ohio is demographically favourable to Santorum, even moreso than Michigan. This is not quite true – its demographic makeup is either as favourable or slightly less favourable to him than Michigan was. It has more Catholics, less Evangelicals and no Dutch Calvinists. In one of the closest races of the primary, Romney won Ohio with 38% to Santorum’s 37.1%. Newt Gingrich, who had focused on the state to an extent, won only 14.6%, a bit less than what the polls had given him. I discussed the two ways of interpreting this and the significance of this in more details above. I will now look at how Romney won, and why I subscribe to the view of Romney’s Ohio win as underwhelming.

The exit poll provides interesting information. Firstly, in terms of age groups, Santorum won all age groups besides those 65+, which Romney won by a crushing 47-31 margin over Santorum. In addition to what we have observed since day one about Romney’s support increasing as one’s personal income increased, we can add to that another strong correlation: Romney’s support really increases as one gets older. The income correlation was still there, of course, but interestingly the correlation was not quite perfect. Romney, of course, won those making over $200k with 53% to Rick’s 24%, but his worst income group were lower middle-classes ($50-100k), where he got just 32%, and not the lowest 15% (those making under $30k), where he tied Santorum at 35-35. Santorum stood at 43%, his strongest result, with those making $50-100k.

In ideological terms, 66% of primary voters were conservatives, and Santorum won that large group with 41% to Mitt’s 35%. With the third of voters who were very conservative, he won 48%. Moderates or liberals, a third of voters, backed Romney 43-29 over Santorum while also giving Paul his best result (13%). Romney won Republicans (41-37) but Santorum won both independents (26% of voters, 37-31) and Democrats (5% of voters, 47-27).

47% of voters were evangelical or born-again Christians, and they picked Rick by a 17-point margin (47-30) over Santorum. A third of voters were Catholic, and Santorum lost his coreligionists 44-31 to Romney while winning Protestants by a narrower 41-39 margin over Romney. Santorum had already lost fellow Catholics in Michigan and Iowa. It is interesting that there is absolutely no ‘Catholic vote’ for a fellow coreligionist. From a psephological aspect, I think this goes a long way to explain the general nature of Catholic voting patterns in the United States. If one seeks an explanation for this rather interesting element of the exit polls, it might be because social conservative and Evangelical/Christian right voters tend to be disproportionately Protestant rather than Catholic, or that Catholic voters tend to care more about economic issues than culture war/wedge issues such as abortion or gay marriage. Many American Catholics have moved away from their Church’s traditional conservative position on those issues and tend to be quite secularized despite claiming a Catholic faith or tradition.

Mitt Romney won his narrow victories on the back of big margins in late-counting big cities and inner suburbs. Romney won all of the main urban counties including Cuyahoga (Cleveland), 48.7-29.6; Summit (Akron), 43-34.3; Franklin (Columbus), 40.7-36.1; Hamilton (Cincinnati), 48.9-29; and Montgomery (Dayton), 39.7-31.4. The only major city he lost is working-class Toledo (Lucas County), in which he took 36.6% to Santorum’s 37.8%. Republicans in these traditionally Democratic counties tend to be affluent, educated and more suburban than the county’s population as a whole. Cuyahoga County certainly includes some very affluent suburban places, besides Democratic inner-city Cleveland. Columbus and Cincinnati are also largely white-collar cities with big corporations and affluent GOP-leaning residents. Cincinnati (Hamilton County) is a conservative metropolitan area by almost all standards, perhaps because of its large German Catholic population or particularly rock-ribbed GOP suburbs filled with affluent voters.

Besides the big cities, Romney also won their highly-educated and affluent suburbs or exurbs. He won 41.6% to Santorum’s 34.6% in Warren County in suburban Cincinnati and 41.9% to 34.4% for Santorum in next-door Butler County, an affluent exurban-suburban area. In suburban Columbus’ Delaware County, he won 42.3% to Santorum’s 35.9%. In the greater Cleveland area, he crushed in very wealthy Geauga County with 45.7%, but also carried slightly less affluent suburban Lake County (43.5-32.2) and exurban Portage County (39-35) and Medina County (40.8-34.7). He also won Erie and Lorain Counties, whose GOP voters tend to be suburban or exurban and fairly wealthy.

In these close races, people like to cling to random things and sensationalise about how candidate x owes his victory exclusively to those things. In this race, you can say that Romney won because he won the urban counties big, because he won Catholics or because he won working-class Catholics. I don’t like sensationalising in such ways, but from one point of view, Romney ironically won, in part, on the back of his narrow victories in working-class Catholic areas. In Youngstown-Warren, a low-income and working-class post-industrial urban conglameration, Romney beat Santorum 37-34.5 in Mahoning County (Youngstown) and 35.8-35 in Turnbull County (Warren). These post-industrial counties have a big Catholic population of Eastern European, Irish or Italian descent in large part. We should perhaps re-evaluate all the stuff which has been written about Santorum’s particular appeal to working-class voters in the Rust Belt. His appeal in older, urbanized manufacturing and post-industrial cities, which tend to have a large Catholic electorate, has been fairly limited. He did win Toledo and Flint, but fairly narrowly; but he lost Saginaw, Bay City, Macomb County and now Youngstown-Warren. His Rust Belt populist appeal seems to be working out in more rural, less big-city, less solidly Democratic working-class areas.

Rick Santorum won the rest of the state. The rest of the state includes very conservative rural ‘Corn Belt’ counties in western Ohio, which has a large rural German Catholic population which Santorum likely won; Protestant Evangelical and low-income voters in the corridor between Akron and Columbus; working-class Rust Belt areas in the Ohio River valley; and culturally Southern voters in southeastern Ohio (which includes a bulk of counties with a plurality of ‘American’ ancestry residents). In the Appalachian white working-class (mining, manufacturing, steel) counties of the Ohio River valley, an area where Obama had really struggled in 2008, Romney is roughly in the same boat as Obama was. He failed to break 30% in a handful of counties in this area, including Jefferson County where Santorum won 57.7%. I’m not sure what’s up in Athens County (60% for Santorum, 19.6% for Romney) – it could be an error – but it seems like it may be another case of Alachua County, Florida – a liberal county with a big college town which leans heavily to the left, but with a Republican electorate which is extremely conservative.


Results of the VA primary (source: uselectionatlas)

Virginia’s primary was a rather bizarre affair: only two candidates – Mitt Romney and Ron Paul – gathered the required signatures to appear on the ballot, leaving Santorum and Gingrich off the ballot in the state where both of them are currently registered to vote. The result was a primary basically conceded to Romney, but also a chance to measure how Paul – the least popular of the anti-Romneys amongst the social conservative/right-wing GOP crowd – could measure up to Romney in a contest where he was the only anti-Romney. In the end, Romney won, of course, taking 59.5%, but Ron Paul’s 40.5% was a very strong showing for him. Virginia certainly isn’t prime Paul territory and I think he would have had trouble breaking 10% in a normal primary, so he obviously took quite a number of votes from the anti-Romney crowd, which is likely pretty strong in Virginia which is at least half-Southern in its makeup. Virginia is not entirely relevant, as turnout was low and the Paul base was likely very motivated, and the anti-Romney crowd didn’t turn out en masse, but I still think it speaks volumes about Romney’s base problem that he only won 59.5% of the vote against a guy who is widely considered to be unelectable and who is the only contender who hasn’t won one state thus far.

Exit polls reveal how the primary electorate was small and hardly representative of a normal VA GOP electorate. 34% were moderates or liberals, which seems high for Virginia, and only 44% of voters were Evangelical or born-again, which seems low for Virginia. Otherwise, Romney won older voters (83% with those 65+), Paul won won those 17-29 (61%) and 30-44 (63%). Ron Paul did much better (48%) with those earning $30-50, the lowest income group to be quantified, but lost heavily (64-36) to Romney with those voters making over $100k.

Paul won independents, a third of the electorate, with 64%, but lost Republicans 73-27 to Romney. He tied Romney with the 34% who described themselves as moderates or liberals, and won 36% support from the very conservative voters (32%).

Ron Paul actually won a few counties, quite a few of them too. He won a fairly bizarre string of them in southwestern Virginia, all of which were won by Huckabee over McCain in 2008. One of these counties, Montgomery County includes the liberal college town of Blacksburg (Virginia Tech), but I’m tempted to attribute these victories to a conservative anti-Romney vote, although one which seems fairly limited because Paul certainly didn’t have Huckabee’s appeal in southwestern Virginia, the most Dixie-like region of the state.

Paul also won Lynchburg (51%), a conservative college town which includes the Christian right’s Liberty University; the liberal college town of Charlottesville (52%), Manassas Park (53%) and random Buckingham and Warren counties. He also proved popular in black-plurality Norfolk (50.6%), Portsmouth (51.5%), Surry County (53.5%) and Charles City (52.2%).

On the other hand, Romney blew Paul out of the water in Richmond’s affluent suburbs: 63.9% in Henrico County, 67.3% in Goochland County, 62% in Chesterfield County, 57% in Powhatan County and 57.3% in Hanover County. In Richmond proper, Paul took 48.5%. Romney also dominated in NoVa, where Republicans tend to be of the very affluent and highly educated demographic so favourable to Romney. He won 62% in Loudoun County, 65.3% in Fairfax County, 60.8% in Prince William County, 67.6% in Alexandria and 64.6% in Arlington. Romney also did very well – breaking 70% in two counties – in the Chesapeake Bay region, specifically the Northern Necks, where I assume you find a fair number of affluent retirees in the small coastal resort communities.


Results of the GA primary (source: uselectionatlas)

Georgia is Newt Gingrich’s kinda-home state, and certainly the state where his base is strongest and where he has maintained strong support despite his campaign’s descent into the near-abyss since Romney handily defeated him in Florida over a month ago. Santorum seemed to be in a position to give Gingrich a bit of a race, but Gingrich had a mini-surge of sorts in Georgia following Santorum’s momentum-crushing loss in Michigan a week ago, and the conservative vote united around Gingrich and abandoned Santorum. The result was a strong victory for Gingrich in a delegate-rich state, taking 47% to Romney’s 25.9% and denying Santorum, who won only 19.6%, a chance to get delegates out of the state.

Romney had won 30.2% of the vote in Georgia in 2008, meaning that he actually did better in 2008 than in 2012 in Georgia. Newt Gingrich’s landslide victory carries us back to the days of South Carolina back in January, but we shouldn’t delude ourselves into thinking that Georgia will resuscitate his fledgling candidacy. It was a favourite son victory, about as relevant as Howard Dean winning Vermont in 2004 or John Edwards winning North Carolina that same year. It wasn’t really a Southern candidate victory, as his performance in Tennessee shows.

Newt Gingrich dominated nearly every single demographic. He polled strongly even in Romney’s core 65+ constituency, won all income levels besides those who make over $200k (Romney won them by one, 39-38). He trounced Romney 53% to 19% among very conservative voters (39% of voters), a group where Santorum actually ran a distant second with 25%. He even won moderates, with 40% to Mitt’s 28%. 64% of voters were Evangelical, and he took them with 52% against 24% for Santorum. On the other hand, he only defeated Romney by one (38-37) among the minority of voters who were not Evangelicals. He also lost Catholics, 12% of voters, by four points to Romney (38-34), despite being Catholic himself. Even among those 45% of voters citing one’s ability to defeat Obama as the top candidate quality, he beat Romney by 10 (48-38). 61% of voters say that Gingrich’s tie to Georgia didn’t matter, but all these numbers indicate that Gingrich got a big favourite son vote in Georgia. I mean, 39% of voters considered him the candidate most likely to defeat Obama in November…

Romney had done well in the Atlanta metro area in 2008, and it was where he did best this year again. He won convincingly in Fulton County (Atlanta), 45.6% to Gingrich’s 33.2%. He also carried neighboring black majority DeKalb County (39.2-35.7). Fulton County should actually be two counties; a southern part (Atlanta) which is heavily black, low-income and very Democratic and a northern part (Sandy Springs, Alpharetta, Roswell, Milton) which is heavily white and includes some of the wealthiest areas in the Deep South. Romney won big there in 2008, and won big again in 2012. In Fulton County, the GOP electorate is not as conservative as the one found outside the Atlanta metro. The Republican parts of DeKalb County, few and far between, are also very affluent. However, Gingrich beat Romney in four suburban/exurban Atlanta counties Romney had carried in 2008. In Cobb County (Marietta), more exurban despite some very wealthy inner suburban areas, Romney lost 43.7% to 32%. He won only 28.8% in Gwinett County, 20% in Clayton County, 28% in Forsyth County, 28.3% in Fayette County; all exurban counties. Gingrich used to represent GA-06, which in his time covered northern Fulton County and parts of Cobb and Cherokee counties. He likely won his old district’s old boundaries convincingly.

Romney’s only other victory was in Chatham County (Savannah), with 39% to Gingrich’s 35%. Besides Savannah, it includes some very affluent coastal island resort communities (Skidaway Island, Wilmington Island).

Newt Gingrich swept the rest of the state, similarly to South Carolina. He won the Black Belt areas, generally supportive of establishment candidates in presidential primaries (McCain won it in 2008); the white rural areas of southern Georgia; Atlanta’s exurbs and northern Georgia. Like in South Carolina, Gingrich was able to build a favourite son coalition made up of more populist and Evangelical Upstate (northern Georgia) voters and the more patrician-tradition and pro-establishment conservatives of the coastal plains and Midlands. Gingrich took most of Georgia’s mid-sized urban and suburban areas.  He won Bibb County (Macon) with 46.9% to Mitt’s 26.8%, Muscogee County (Columbus) with 40% to Romney’s 29.7% and Richmond County (Augusta) with 40% to 28.9%. Gingrich won Clarke County (Athens, a college town) by a smaller margin: 39% to 30%, with Paul pulling in 13.5% in fourth place. Romney performed slightly better in these urban areas the more affluent Colonial Coast (Golden Isles region), but failed to carry Glynn County (Brunswick) which he had won in 2008. However, in the bulk of rural Georgia – north and south – he was badly trounced, rarely breaking 20% and often placing third behind Rick Santorum – whose support is closely correlated with the map of white Evangelicals.

As we found in Jacksonville, Florida; Romney’s affluent suburban base is rather limited in the Deep South. He had done well in those conservative Dixie suburbs in 2008, but that was when he was the non-Evangelical conservative contender rather than the blander establishment moderate in the race. Southern suburbs are more conservative (tending to be the most Republican counties in the state) and less ethnically diverse than most of their northern counterparts, which are more receptive to more moderate candidates such as Mitt Romney. White flight is also a major phenomenon in a lot of the newer Southern suburban counties, and the type of voter that such suburbs contain are hardly favourable to him. Romney lost Savannah white flight Effingham County 41-23 to Gingrich, placing third behind Santorum. It is hard to quantify, but Romney has shown that he has only very limited appeal to Southern voters in newer suburban or exurban areas, his Southern suburban strength being really just concentrated in the wealthiest of the older inner suburbs.


Results of the TN primary

Tennessee emerged as the second most competitive Super Tuesday contest after Ohio. A Southern state where Gingrich lacked a favourite son appeal, it was to be the first test for Rick Santorum’s ability to win in the Deep South despite not being a Southerner in a race which features a Southerner (Gingrich). Until the final few days, it seemed as if Santorum would win Tennessee easily, but after Michigan, his numbers fell and Gingrich’s numbers rose some. The division of the conservative vote between Santorum and Gingrich gave Romney the chance to creep up the middle and win what could be a symbolic victory in the South. It did not come to be. Santorum won 37.4% to Romney’s 28.1%, a decisive victory. Newt Gingrich performed fairly strongly with 24.2%, but this was only good enough for an unremarkable third place showing – in a Southern state bordering Georgia no less. Since Nevada, Gingrich has failed to come second or better in any state except Georgia. That shows how moribond his campaign is at this point.

Tennessee’s GOP electorate is conservative – it voted for Huckabee over McCain in 2008 – but at the state level it has tended to support moderately conservative establishment candidates like Bill Haslam, Bob Corker or Lamar Alexander over insurgent conservative candidates. Romney faced an uphill fight in Tennessee, but it would not have been impossible for him to win if he had proved to have a larger base appeal.

Santorum swept most demographic categories in the Tennessee exit poll, leaving Romney to his core demographic stregths: older voters (65+, he won them 34-31) and the wealthiest (those making over $200k, he won them 47-26). Santorum did better with middle-aged voters, as well as poorer and lower middle-class voters.

The electorate was overwhelmingly conservative, at 73% identifying as conservatives including 41% who were ‘very conservative’. Republicans made up 68% of voters, independents made up an additional 27% and 5% of voters were Democrats. Santorum won Democrats (41-21) and independents (38-25) by larger margins than he won Republicans (38-29 over Romney, Gingrich pulling 27%). With the very conservative voters, Santorum won 48% to Newt’s 27% and Romney’s paltry 18%. Romney, however, won ‘somewhat conservative’ voters by two (35-33) and moderates by five (33-28). 73% of voters were Evangelical, a group which Santorum won with 42% to Gingrich’s 25% and Mitt’s 24%. Romney still dominated with those who felt one’s ability to beat Obama was the most important quality (40-32 over Gingrich, Santorum in a poor third with 25%), and 43% of voters saw him as the candidate most likely to win in November. But, on the other hand, a full 49% of voters felt that Romney’s positions were not conservative enough.

As we found in Georgia, Mitt Romney’s base was rather limited. He had won a handful of counties in 2008, when he had won 23.6% in Tennessee, but this year he won only three counties. Two of them were in the Nashville area. He took 33.1% to Santorum’s 30.9% in Davidson County (Nashville) and 35.8% to Santorum’s 32.5% in Williamson County (Franklin, south of Nashville). Republicans in Williamson and Davidson counties, which include suburbs of the like of Forest Hills, Oak Hill and Brentwood tend to be the most affluent voters in the state – Williamson is the wealthiest county in the state. Romney also won, more randomly, Loudon County (36.2-34.6) which seems to include some more affluent suburbs of Knoxville in eastern Tennessee. However, Romney, like in Georgia and Florida, was unsuccesful in the newer, solidly Republican upper middle-class exurbs or outer suburbs of Nashville and Memphis. He had won exurban Nasvhille’s Rutherford, Sumner and Wilson counties in 2008; this year he lost them all. He lost 41-24 in Rutherford, 38-27 in Sumner and 40-24 in Sumner (placing third behind Gingrich). Romney also lost Shelby County (Memphis) 37.4-34.2 to Santorum. White flight is more pronounced in Memphis’ otherwise affluent suburbs included within Shelby County.

Rick Santorum swept the rest of the state save for one (or two? there are differences between sources) in eastern Tennessee which voted for Gingrich. Santorum was able to put together a coalition composed of East Tennessee Hill Country, Middle Tennessee and West Tennessee. He narrowly won Knox County (Knoxville) with 34.5% to Mitt’s 33.7% and prevailed in Hamilton County (Chattanooga) with 31.5% against 28.9% for Romney. Despite being hilly and historically very much opposed to the patrician plantation owners of West and Middle Tennessee, East Tennessee’s ancestrally Republican (Unionist since the Civil War) electorate has, unlike the Upland voters in South Carolina, usually favoured establishment candidates. Gerald Ford won most of the region in 1976 against Ronald Reagan and John McCain did fairly well against Huckabee there in 2008. This year, Mitt Romney did fairly well too in East Tennessee, but Santorum did well enough to sweep it in its quasi-entirety (despite strong Gingrich showings). He won, however, his best results (over 40%), in the more purely Dixie plain country of Middle and West Tennessee, where candidates of the populist/Huckabee variety do well.


Results of the OK primary

Oklahoma is a very conservative state, but tends to have fairly erratic presidential primary voting patterns for both parties. John McCain narrowly defeated Mike Huckabee in 2008, in a map which revealed a split between the more Southern parts of the state and the Midwestern parts of Oklahoma. Rick Santorum, unlike Huckabee, has proven to be more than just a sectional candidate and has real appeal to both Southern and Midwestern conservatives; while Romney doesn’t have McCain’s appeal to Midwestern conservative voters. Oklahoma was always going to be a slam-dunk for Santorum after his post-CO/MN surge. He won a fairly poor 33.8% to Romney’s 28%, hurt in good part by Newt’s very strong showing: 27.5%. I find it amusing that Romney basically won the same percentage in both Tennessee and Oklahoma. Can we assume that Romney’s Southern base of sorts is 28% of the vote in a three-way contest?

The exit polls are somewhat interesting. Gingrich won men, but lost women to Santorum (and Romney) by a big margin. He actually performed very strongly with the 65+ crowd (40%), while Romney did meh with those voters, usually his top demographics (only 29%, he did better with those 30-44). Romney did, however, win the wealthiest voters: he took those earning over $100k by a 10 percent margin (40-30) over Santorum and tied Santorum among those earning $50-100k. Santorum (39%) and Gingrich (35%) both performed best with those earning less than $30k. Evangelicals were a full 72% of the electorate, and Santorum won them by 10 (37-27) over Romney and Gingrich.

Predictably, this being Oklahoma, conservatives made up 75% of the GOP primary electorate, including 47% who were “very conservative”. Santorum won both groups, the latter by a crushing 40-32-21 margin over Gingrich and Romney and the former by 10 over Gingrich (38-28, 25% for Romney). Romney won the quarter of voters who were moderates, 38-28 over Gingrich with Santorum pulling just 19%. Santorum still had major problems convincing the 40ish percent of voters who feel that a candidate’s ability to beat Obama is top candidate quality; he won just 18% with them.

Mitt Romney, again, saw his appeal concentrated heavily in urban areas. He won Oklahoma County (OK City) 34.5% over 30.6% for Santorum, but he lost Tulsa County (Tulsa) 32.3% to 28.8% to Santorum – and placed a close third behind Gingrich (29.6%). He lost Comanche County (Lawton) 30.5% to 35.6% for Santorum. Romney’s other win was in Payne County, home to the college town of Stillwater, which he won 31.3% to 28.2% for Santorum. Romney failed to prevail in OK City’s two main suburban counties; Canadian County (lost 34.8% to 27.7%) and Cleveland County (Norman, lost 33.1% to 30.3%). He placed a poor second or third in the more exurban counties of OK City and Tulsa.

Newt Gingrich won a few counties, in a way which is so random that it is hard to explain. He won around Enid and Woodward in Midwestern northwest Oklahoma, did well around Tulsa but fairly poorly in Little Dixie. Santorum won the rest of the state, with appeal to both Midwestern and Southern-like areas of the state. He did well in Little Dixie, but also did very well in the very conservative Oklahoma Panhandle, which is very Midwestern.


Results of the ID caucus (own map)

Idaho is a conservative state, it is a caucus state; so based on those two factors, Romney shouldn’t have done overwhelmingly well. Indeed, some observers were fairly conservative about his chances in Idaho. But Idaho is the second most heavily Mormon state after Utah, with some 26% of its population being Mormons, heavily concentrated in eastern Idaho – or “northern Utah”. Given how solidly Republican the Mormons are, and how motivated of a base they are for Romney this year, we can estimate that Mormons made up at least half of the Idaho caucus electorate this year, if not close to 55-60% of the whole caucusgoers in Idaho this year. Thus, predictably, Mitt Romney won Idaho easily, taking 61.6% to Santorum’s 18.2% and Paul’s 18.1%. The map is all shaded in with over 50% shades because ID caucuses are run with an intricate recaucusing system, voting in each county continues through successive ballots until a candidate receives a majority or only two candidates remain (at which point a final ballot is taken).  Any candidates placing below 15%, plus the bottom remaining candidate are eliminated each round. This explains why in some counties, when looking over results in details, you will find some straight two-way contests excluding two of the other candidates – like Romney – because the others failed to qualify for the final ballot.

There were no entrance polls for the caucus in Idaho, unfortunately, but it would have revealed some interesting things about Mormons vs. non-Mormon Protestants in Idaho’s GOP caucus electorate. We can safely say that Romney like won some 90-95% of the vote with Mormons, but at the same time lost the non-Mormon minority by a sizable margin to either Santorum or Paul. Our map of the result confirms this, by highlighting a major fault line between eastern and western Idaho/the Idaho Panhandle. In eastern Idaho, which is very heavily Mormon (like Utah), Romney killed. 79.5% in Bonneville County (Idaho Falls), 79.2% in Bannock County (Pocatello), 78% in Teton County (Mormons-n’-ski bunnies). In the smaller, rural counties of the region, he broke 80% with ease. In tiny and heavily Mormon Franklin County (which we can take as a good example) he took 86.1%. It is interesting to point out that Paul often did comparatively well in Mormon country, breaking 10% in a few counties including Franklin County. Some stuff has been written about Paul’s appeal with Mormon voters, based on his constitutionalist principles which seem to appeal to some Mormons not enamoured by their coreligionist Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney carried Blaine County (Ketchum-Sun Valley) with 60.5%, likely because the ones who aren’t Democrats there are probably Mormons or at least affluent ski resort Republicans. Similar comments can be made about the Boise-Nampa area, which he won on the back of a Mormon base mixed in with suburban affluence. He took 51.8% to Santorum’s 22.8% in Ada County (Boise) and 51.8% to Santorum’s 32.7% in Canyon County (Nampa).

On the other hand, Mitt Romney failed to carry a single county in the Panhandle, heavily non-Mormon, though he did do well in Nez Perce County (Lewiston) and Shoshone County, where low GOP turnouts leads to a strong Mormon base in the GOP caucus-going electorate. There remains a fairly strong anti-Mormon sentiment in these parts of western Idaho, which despite being roughly as conservative as Mormon country, have little else in common politically. Romney often failed to qualify for runoff viability in a handful of counties in the Panhandle. Ron Paul won easily in Latah County (Moscow, a college town) with 52.3% to Romney’s 20.2% and narrowly beat Romney in the runoff in more working-class Nez Perce County (Lewiston) with 50.6%. Santorum, however, did win most of the Panhandle’s working-class belt, taking 63.8% in Lewis County, 64% in Clearwater County, 54% in Shoshone County and 50.9% in Benewah County. He won the region’s main urban centre, Coeur d’Alene in Kootenai County with 57.6% in a runoff against Paul.

North Dakota

North Dakota, a caucus state, went for Romney on Super Tuesday in 2008, but it was a tough state to predict. Some were reluctant to give the state to anybody else given that Romney won it, while others claimed that Santorum’s success in surrounding Plains state guaranteed him a win in conservative North Dakota. They ended up being right, as Santorum easily won with 39.7% to 28.1% for Ron Paul. Mitt Romney placed third with 23.7% in a state which went to him with 35.7% in 2008. We can now ascribe Romney’s win in 2008 to the “conservative caucus” effect, a conservative crowd of caucus-goers which turns out for the ‘pure’ conservative candidate in the race. Romney’s advantage in caucuses was overwhelming in 2008, and while he hasn’t lost it entirely this year, his caucus performances are underwhelming more than anything.

There were no entrance polls in ND, and the results were only reported by state house district, which Google Politics was good enough to give us. Results by house district are both less detailed in rural areas where districts cover many counties, and more detailed in urban areas where house districts cover only parts of a single larger county. Rick Santorum swept the bulk of rural North Dakota, his lowest showing in rural North Dakota coming from HD-9, a predominantly Native American district where he polled third with all of 13 votes against 15 votes apiece for Paul and Romney.  In rural ND, Ron Paul performed best in the more hilly areas to the west and north of the Missouri River, including the Badlands and Little Missouri Grasslands. Santorum did better in the traditional Plains region of rural ND.

Santorum also prevailed in the state capital, Bismarck, losing only an affluent northern suburb to Romney, though Paul did well in the city’s small core. Romney won Minot with 44% to Santorum’s 25%; the presence of Minot AFB likely explains Romney’s advantage. Santorum seems to have narrowly prevailed in Grand Forks, although both other candidates won a district. Ron Paul won the college town of Dickinson with 36.7% to 35.8% for Santorum. Ron Paul dominated in Fargo, the state’s largest city and home of NDSU. Santorum only won two districts, which seem affluent, south of downtown Fargo.


Results of the AK caucus (source: uselectionatlas)

Alaska can take the prize for most erratic voting patterns in GOP primaries. Steve Forbes almost won the state against George W. Bush in 2000, Pat Buchanan won it in 1996 and Pat Robertson won in Alaska in 1988. In 2008, Mitt Romney carried the Alaska caucuses with 44.6% to Mike Huckabee’s 22.4% and Paul’s 17.3%. Given its electoral history and its very pronounced against the grain, independent and anti-establishment streak (it gave over 10% of the vote to Ralph Nader in 2000 and to Libertarian Ed Clark in 1980), predicting Alaska was tough. Ron Paul campaigned in Alaska, to my knowledge the only candidate to do so, and Alaska’s alleged libertarianism favoured him. Ultimately, Romney won narrowly, with 32.6% to Santorum’s 29% and Ron Paul’s rather underwhelming 24% in the state where he perhaps had the best chance of winning.

An entrance poll would have been interesting, but obviously none was taken in remote Alaska. The map of results by district gives us the next best clues about who won what in Alaska. Unlike in 2008, Romney seems to have lost the Mat-Su valley (which goes from Anchorage to Fairbanks) to Santorum. The Mat-Su is the most conservative region in Alaska and it was where insurgent candidates Steve Forbes and Pat Buchanan had done best. Romney still won a handful of districts in the Mat-Su, but Santorum likely won it overall. In Anchorage’s suburbs of sorts in the valley, Romney prevailed in Palmer but Santorum had the upper hand in Sarah Palin’s world-famous hometown of Wasilla (where she voted for Gingrich).

Romney performed best in Anchorage, where Paul also won a few precincts. He, of course, dominated with over 40% of the vote in Anchorage’s wealthier neighborhoods. He also won in Juneau, the state’s liberal state capital, and on Kodiak Island, which appears to be fairly moderate. Ron Paul’s best performance was in Fairbanks, where he apparently did best around the more liberal neighborhoods around the university while Santorum (and Gingrich, who won a district in Fairbanks) did better in the conservative areas around the military base and North Pole. Ron Paul also won the bulk of the bush. No caucuses, it seems, were held in extremely remote Bethel, Barrow and the Outer Aleutians.


The next states to vote are Kansas, which holds caucuses on March 10; and the twin primaries in Alabama and Mississippi on March 13. Romney is unlikely, at this point, to win any of these three contests, unless there is a major division of the conservative vote between Santorum and Gingrich. Mike Huckabee won the Kansas caucuses in 2008, and realistically Santorum should do very well there. Alabama and Mississippi are not as clear. Newt Gingrich could perform well in these Deep South states, and even stand a chance at winning one or both of these states. Rick Santorum, on the other hand, showed in Tennessee and Oklahoma that he has expanded his social conservative base into the South and will likely emerge with more momentum than Gingrich from Super Tuesday. The demographics of either Alabama and Mississippi are hardly receptive to Romney, given that his traditional base of seniors or affluent, educated suburbanites are not really important in either state. His only chance to win these states would be a moneybombing (and it would take a lot of money, lots of it) or hoping for a split in the conservative vote. If the results in Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina and even Florida are any indication; then Romney should lose pretty handily in both these Deep South states.

Mitt Romney will win the nomination, but up until this point he has faced tremendous resistance from the party’s conservative base, which still hasn’t warmed up to him. In Ohio and Michigan, his victories were due to more moderate conservative voters while the most conservative voters in both those states voted in large numbers for Santorum. In the Deep South, up until this point, Romney was basically shut out everywhere outside the more moderate, older affluent suburbs of the largest cities. John McCain faced a similar problem with the conservative base in 2008, but the results we saw on Super Tuesday indicate that Romney faces an ever deeper problem. McCain had been able to win some regions of South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Oklahoma which soundly rejected Romney.

USA 2012: Michigan and Arizona primaries

The race for the Republican presidential nomination in the United States returned to prominence on February 28 with two crucial primaries in Michigan and Arizona. These primaries follow a pretty dry spell running since February 7, when two states held caucuses, a spell interrupted only by a jumbled-up caucus in Maine concluding on February 11 and a final debate in Arizona on February 22.

The Republican primaries this year are certainly filled with unexpected twists and turns and for casual observers it has become almost as enjoyable as a good TV show which comes back on every week with some new suspense or new twist. The February 7 episode of this show was certainly filled with such unpredictable twists. The winner of the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses nearly two months ago, Rick Santorum, came out of basically nowhere to win a huge 3-state sweep (the two caucues and Missouri’s beauty pageant primary). Santorum had his moment in January, but after fading out of the picture in South Carolina and Florida’s late-January primaries, it began to seem as if his Iowa magic had worn out. After South Carolina, Newt Gingrich seemed like the main conservative opponent to Mitt Romney, who won New Hampshire and went on to crush Gingrich in Florida and Nevada. However, after his defeat in Florida, Gingrich started fading away nationally. Mitt Romney, shaken in South Carolina, looked as if he had put his act back together and would win the nomination fairly easily after all. Then Santorum’s 3-state sweep changed the narrative again, and this sweep was followed by a Santorum surge nationally but also in key states such as Ohio which votes on March 6 – Super Tuesday.

Michigan and Arizona thus shaped up to be very critical contests. If they had been held within days of the February 7 Santorum sweep, then Santorum would likely have carried Michigan by a landslide and stood a good chance in Arizona. However, the three week gap between the two strings of contests allowed Romney to re-group, as he did after South Carolina.

Michigan and Arizona’s primaries were more open-ended, especially Michigan. Michigan is Mitt Romney’s birthstate and he has maintained a strong footing in his native Detroit suburbs, and he carried the state in the 2008 GOP primaries against John McCain. It is also a fairly moderate state in terms of GOP electorate, having voted for McCain over Bush in the 2000 GOP primaries. At the same time, Michigan is a pretty low-income state with a strong working-class electorate, and Mitt Romney’s support has thus far almost always followed a graduated income scale with strongest performances with the affluent GOP voters and bad performances with poorer GOP voters. Rick Santorum’s kind-of populist economic rhetoric, his strong base with social conservatives and Evangelicals (there is, of course, also a correlation between social conservatives/Evangelicals and lower incomes in these contests) promised him a strong base in Michigan. Arizona, on the other hand, is more favourable to Romney. It has a significant Mormon base (11% of GOP voters) and its Republican voters tend to be older and affluent. Its GOP base is more conservative than the GOP base in Michigan, but part of those conservatives are Mormons while others are likely conservative on immigration where Romney seems to have an edge. Rick Santorum decided to put his admittedly thin resources into Michigan and concede Arizona to Mitt. Michigan remained crucial to Romney both for strategic purposes and rhetoric about it being his homestate (admittedly, Mitt Romney has 4 homestates). Neither Ron Paul nor Newt Gingrich seemed to care much about either state.

Santorum came out of February 7 with a big surge in Michigan, but like in Florida, Romney easily outspent Santorum but Romney was unable to turn the race around in the way he did in Florida where he turned Newt’s post-SC surge into a 15-point deficit by election day in the period of 10 days. By February 20-22, Romney was back to a tie or narrow lead over Santorum in Michigan. In the debate on February 22, Romney performed well and Santorum had a tougher time, the focus of both Romney but also Ron Paul’s attacks. Santorum’s main problem is that Romney successfully painted him a Washington insider because of his time in Congress and lobbying, and Santorum has been surprisingly slow in running away from that damaging label. At the same time, Santorum has had trouble distancing himself from his voting record which Romney and Paul attacked as being supportive of spending and big-government. However, Romney made a gaffe in Detroit on February 24 where he said that his wife drove a bunch of Cadillacs, which again hit at Mitt’s Achilles heel – his elitist image. Santorum had a last-minute second surge to bring the race to a tie or a narrow win for either of the candidates depending on the pollster.

Results and Conclusions


Mitt Romney 47.3%
Rick Santorum 26.6%
Newt Gingrich 16.2%
Ron Paul 8.4%
(the ghost of) Rick Perry 0.4%


Mitt Romney 41.1%
Rick Santorum 37.9%
Ron Paul 11.6%
Newt Gingrich 6.5%
Others 0.7%

Mitt Romney won a landslide in Arizona, which isn’t surprising because the state’s primary had practically been conceded to Romney weeks ago and nobody watched the primaries there with too much interest. Arizona is still a WTA state, which nets Romney 29 delegates and adds to his already sizable lead over the other candidates in the delegate count. On the other hand, Michigan went right down to the wire, but ultimately Santorum’s performance in rural Michigan was not enough to overtake late-counting precincts in Romney’s native son strongholds in the Detroit MSA. If Mitt Romney had ended up losing Michigan, it would have been a huge blow to his campaign both for the lost-his-homestate symbolism but also because the race had turned into a pretty decisive make-or-break thing for Romney (not for Santorum). A loss would have been a decisive blow which he would have a hard time working his way out of. He only won narrowly, but instead of a narrative of a poor performance in a homestate, Romney is going to get the narrative of a decisive victory in a key state which shows his resilience.

He didn’t lose Michigan, which has the effect of saving his campaign and returning him into more comfortable likely nominee territory. But at this point in the race, it is unlikely he’ll get any huge bump out of Michigan and anything is possible. Rick Santorum certainly isn’t dead, because Super Tuesday is favourable, on paper, to him. Newt Gingrich has no intention of dropping out, and Adelson pumped some more millions into the campaign, which means that Gingrich might as well experience a final third surge. Ron Paul is pretty chummy with Romney, which becomes important in case of a brokered convention, but he has no intention of dropping out either. Still, Romney is back in the race but he must prevent falling asleep as he did after his NH and FL win. The race is unlikely to be finished anytime soon, and if a nominee is decided rapidly, it will probably be in April (if not later) and not in March.

On February 29, final results out of Wyoming’s staggered caucuses are due out, but on partial results, Romney has a lead of some 7-10% over Santorum with a bit less than 40% of the votes. On March 3, Washington holds GOP caucuses. Santorum seems favoured in Washington, which despite its overall liberalism, has a rather conservative GOP which will turn out for the not-Romney in a caucus setting. On March 6, Super Tuesday, ten states will vote. Mitt Romney’s victory is a near-certainty in Massachusetts, Virginia (Paul is the only other candidate on the ballot) and probably Idaho. Vermont looks favourable, on paper to him, but a poll showed him with a surprisingly narrow lead. On the other hand, Rick Santorum is looking pretty strong in Tennessee and Oklahoma, and Gingrich leads his homestate, Georgia. The main state to watch will be Ohio, where Santorum seems to have a strong lead and a ‘Rust Belt’ populist appeal to a state whose GOP base mixes rural conservatives with more working-class or lower-income voters. A caucus in Kansas (March 10) and Dixie primaries in Alabama and Mississippi on March 13 could go for either Gingrich or Santorum but probably not Romney unless the first two split the not-Romney vote.

However, Romney will more likely than not end up as the nominee. Romney can’t wrap the race up because of fundamental weakness with certain key GOP electorates, but they are unlikely to form a brick wall for Romney, though those weakenesses might rear their heads in November for Romney. Even if early March seems tough, Romney’s delegate lead remains pretty important and it will only be complemented by Romney victories in WTA states in the Northeast which vote quite late but will likely wrap up the race in Romney’s hand. Santorum’s path to an unlikely nomination is made much harder by a defeat in Michigan, because it might halt his momentum, not because Michigan’s actual delegate count will be a blow to him. Michigan allocated its delegates by CD, and it appears as if they either split evenly 7-7, giving Romney a 16-14 delegate victory or even split in Santorum’s favour by 8-6, giving him a 16-14 delegate victory despite a statewide loss.

Exit Poll Analysis

In Arizona, Romney swept pretty much every category. Voters over 65 made up 24% of the electorate, and Romney won them 48-27 over Santorum. 50-64 voters were another 34%, and they backed Romney by a similar margin. In terms of income, those earning over $200k made up 6% of the electorate, and those with $100-200k earnings made up 20% of the electorate. Romney’s support again followed an income scale, with the poorest voters backing him by a narrow 37-31 margin over Santorum and the wealthiest voters backing him by a 67-14 margin.

Conservatives were 74% of the electorate, but Romney even took those voters, winning 47% of their votes against 30% for Santorum. He won the very conservative voters (38%) with 41% to Santorum’s 35%. Romney dominated with voters who said the economy was the top issue (49%) with 51% to 26% for Santorum. This being Arizona, 13% said immigration was the top issue, and while Gingrich did well with those voters (23%) Romney still took 41% of their votes. The most right-wing voters on immigration (the 34% who said illegals should be deported) voted 47-28 for Romney over Santorum. The more liberal voters (34% who said illegals could apply for citizenship) backed Mitt with 53%.

Once again, the ability to defeat Obama was the top candidate quality for 40% of voters and Romney predictably romped with those: 56-22 over Santorum. Santorum did win those who said being a true conservative or strong moral character was the top quality.

Mormons made up 14% of voters, Romney won 93% of their votes.

Michigan also had an older electorate. 24% were 65+, and a full 49% were between 45 and 64. Romney won the oldest crowd with 49% to Santorum’s 33% and took the 45-64 group by two points over Santorum. Paul won 18-29 voters, and Santorum won those between 30 and 44. Income remained a very strong predictor of one’s vote in Michigan. Romney won only two income groups: the 9% earning $200k+ and the 24% who win between $100-200k. In the latter group, he took 46%, in the former he took 55%. Though Romney won 37% with the poorest voters, higher than his 34% with those earning $30-50k, otherwise vote for Romney and high incomes are positively correlated. Santorum did well with the poorer voters, but his strongest performance was not with the very poor (under $30k) but with those earning $30-50k. 23% of voters said somebody in their household was a union member, and Santorum carried those voters by 15 points over Romney and lost the 77% who said no by a 44-36 margin. He also won the 14% of voters who were unionized themselves.

There were big fears in Michigan about an “Operation Backdoor” of Democrats flooding the open primary contest to vote for Santorum, whom Democrats perceive as weaker than Romney against Obama in November (I might disagree on that). Democrats were 9% of voters and Santorum won 53% of their votes. Santorum had started controversial robocalls targetting Democrats, and the blowback from that might have hurt him with Republicans: he lost them 48-37 to Romney. Conservatives were 61% of the electorate, and Romney won them by a 43-41 edge. Moderates or liberals backed Romney 39-33 over Santorum. Very conservative voters, three in ten voters overall, gave Santorum 50% against 36% for Mitt.

Rick Santorum is a Catholic and has made his faith a large part of his political image. He has strong appeal to social conservatives partly because of that. Yet, in Michigan, like in a lot of other states thus far, Santorum has actually done better with Protestants than with Catholics. It is likely because Protestants tend to include the socially conservative Evangelicals so favourable to Santorum and that Catholics now tend to attach less significance to their faith. Romney won Michigan Catholics 44-37 but lost Protestants by 2 to Santorum.

The economy was the top issue for 55% of voters, and Romney had a decisive 17-point advantage with those voters as he did with those who cared more about the budget deficit. You still had a surprisingly sizable share of voters who felt abortion was the top issue (14%), and predictably Santorum won those with 77%. 50% of Michigan GOP voters disapproved of the auto bailout, against 44% who approved. Interestingly, Romney did better with those who approved of the bailout.

A fairly small 32%, still a plurality, felt a candidate’s ability to beat Obama was the top candidate quality. Romney won that group with 61%, against 24% for Santorum. Electability still remains Romney’s top card, as does his business experience: most GOP voters (57%) want a candidate with business rather than government experience, and those voters backed Romney 57-27.

Geographic Analysis


Result of the AZ primary (source:

 Over half of GOP votes were cast in Maricopa County, Arizona’s most populous county and also one of the most populous counties in the whole United States. Maricopa includes Phoenix and the vast majority of its suburbs including Scottsdale, Glendale, Mesa, Chandler, Glendale and Tempe. Mitt Romney, of course, did not will just on the heels of Maricopa, but his margin of victory owes a lot to his performance there. He won Maricopa with 49.7% against 24.5% for Rick Santorum. Four years ago, when Romney lost Arizona to home-stater John McCain by 12.6%, he had won a congressional district (old CD-6) in suburban Phoenix. Maricopa County includes a mix of demographics favourable to Mitt Romney: Mormons (around Mesa and Chandler), very affluent and educated suburbs (basically the bulk of the county besides the places with Hispanics) and older voters (especially in the Paradise Valley area).

Arizona’s Mormons, besides those in Maricopa, live in Graham County or the largely Native American counties (Navajo and Apache Counties). Romney, like in 2008, won Graham with a huge margin, taking 67.5%. He also took 57% in Navajo and 48% in Apache counties.

Mitt Romney won all other counties, including fairly populous Coconino (Flagstaff), Yavapai (Prescott) and Pima (Tucson) counties. Paul performed best with 11% in Coconino, which includes the fairly liberal college town of Flagstaff. Romney won 40.8% in Coconino, and took 40.4% in Yavapai and 44% in Pima. Santorum and Gingrich performed best in desert rural counties. Gingrich took 24% in sparsely populated La Paz County, while Santorum won his best result, 33.8%, in Cochise County, a sparsely populated on the Mexican border which is also the only county where Romney did not improve on his 2008 performance.


Results of the MI primary (source:

There are usually two main political regions in Michigan, both in general elections and presidential primaries. There is eastern Michigan, which includes the Detroit MSA, the state capital of Lansing, Flint and the Tri-Cities. Then there is western Michigan, on the shores of Lake Michigan, which includes Grand Rapids but also Muskegon, Holland, Battle Creek and Kalamazoo. Industrial eastern Michigan, the core of the auto industry and an integral part of the Rust Belt, has attracted immigrant workers from southern and eastern Europes but also, obviously, blacks from the South and working-class whites from Appalachia. Urban decay, poverty, population decline and inner cities which are associated with Michigan are found here. Western Michigan, fairly industrial but also with a larger agricultural base, has tended to attract immigrants from the Netherlands (Christian Reformed) who fled religious persecution. It is wealthier and traditionally opposes the political influence of eastern Michigan, a heavily Democratic region especially in and around Wayne County (Detroit-Livonia).

Mitt Romney’s birthstate homebase is in metro Detroit, specifically Oakland County which includes some very affluent and educated suburbs such as Bloomfield Hills – one of the wealthiest communities in the United States. Mitt Romney won 50% of the vote in Oakland against 28.9% for Santorum, his best performance in the state, in a county which cast more votes than Wayne County itself. But Romney was able to extend his strong performance to the rest of metro and exurban Detroit. He won 41.6% to Santorum’s 33.2% in Wayne, but apparently lost inner-city and heavily black CD-13 (new lines) to Santorum – Operation Backdoor? Paul also performed well in Detroit and won 16% in Wayne, his best performance statewide. Romney won 43.3% to Santorum’s 34.6% in Macomb, which is traditionally the more blue-collar and ‘Reagan Democrat’-like of the two northern Detroit suburban counties. The race in heavily Democratic Washtenaw County, which includes the liberal college town of Ann Arbor and thus probably a good number of fairly politicized and educated Democrats who would participate in Operation Backdoor, was narrower: 42-37 for Romney.

Mitt Ronney also had success in exurban Detroit, where George W. Bush had done well against McCain in 2000. He won 43.8% in Livingston County and 42.3% in Jackson County. Further west, Romney carried Ingham County (Lansing and its affluent suburbs) with 42.8%. Romney also performed surprinsingly strongly in blue-collar white Catholic (lots of Poles) areas in the Tri-City area: 42-40 in Saginaw, 41-37 in Bay City and 43-39 in Midland, the wealthiest and most white-collar of the Tri-City counties.

Romney’s strong performance in the northern Lower Peninsula, which holds very few voters, surprised a lot of observers. He won Grand Traverse County easily, 43% to 35%, but also played surprisingly well in more rural counties of northern Michigan. This is a fairly low-income and traditionally working-class (lumber, mining etc), but it seems a bit less Evangelical than other parts of the state and more moderate – Huckabee had done poorly in 2008. Electionate’s analysis showed a strong, negative correlation between Huckabee-08 and Romney-12 performances.

Santorum won the Upper Peninsula fairly easily. The UP is a socially conservative, albeit not Evangelical, region with a strong working-class tradition rooted in mining and lumber. The labour radicalism of Finnish immigrants in the UP, immigrants who provided the only sizable Communist electorate in the country, has passed as mining has died off and voters have started voting less on the basis on economic issues.

In the mainland, Santorum dominated in western Michigan, but not by a sufficiently large margin to win statewide. Firstly, Romney actually won two of the main urban areas here: Battle Creek (Calhoun County, 40-39) and Kalamazoo (41-38). Romney lost, but by a narrow 2% margin, Kent County, which includes Grand Rapids, the largest city in western Michigan and a fairly conservative area. Kent County mixes two ambiguities in GOP primaries: a strong conservative Christian Reformed influence, but also some wealthy suburbs. On this basis, the county split fairly evenly.

Rick Santorum showed in Iowa and Minnesota that Dutch-Christian Reformed voters were one of his most solid electorates. Dutch-Americans in Iowa and Michigan, the two main regions where they are found, tend to be extremely conservative by their association with the Christian Reformed Church. Ottawa County, a heavily Dutch-American county west of Grand Rapids, is usually the most Republican county in the state (over 70% for Bush in 2004, the only county over 60% for McCain in 2008). Santorum’s margin in Ottawa County (Holland) was surprisingly small given the demographics – 48.7-35.5. 

Santorum also won working-class Muskegon (44.5-36.2) and won, not always by large margins, rural counties in the rest of the state including eastern Michigan. He won Genesee County (Flint) narrowly, 39-38, the same margin as he carried outer Detroit exurban but fairly blue-collar St. Clair.

While it seems as if Mitt Romney will, after all this fun, be the nominee, the race is not over yet and this race has been so open-ended and downright insane that anything is still possible. Like any good TV series, it will need to end someday, but we have more episodes of this great show coming up next week (Super Tuesday on March 6). 

USA 2012: Maine caucuses

While Nevada and then Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri voted; Maine held week-long Republican caucuses kicking off on February 4 and ending on February 11. As in most caucuses, these are but straw polls which do not directly affect the allocation of delegates – those are apparently decided in May. Some areas of Maine decided to hold their non-binding straw polls before or after this week-long process, but their results are not counted in the results of this week-long caucus.

Some of these municipal caucuses were held after Rick Santorum’s 3-state sweep on February 6. Santorum’s come-from-behind wins in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri likely sent a shiver down Mitt Romney’s spine, as it shook the (formerly?) likely nominee from his position as frontrunner. Since his wins on February 6, a new strings of polls have shown that Santorum has surged into first place nationally, while Newt Gingrich is in a state of near-collapse. That Santorum would surge nationally was quite obvious, but Santorum needs to hold his momentum until the next major primaries in Michigan and Arizona on February 28. Santorum seems ready to concede Arizona to Romney for now (it is a fairly favourable state for Romney) but is taking on Romney head-on in Romney’s second home-state of Michigan. In a ominous sign for Gingrich, polls have also shown Santorum gaining or even first in a number of Super Tuesday Southern primaries, which were supposed to be Gingrich’s lifeline.

As for Maine, nobody cared besides Ron Paul, still looking for a win, and Mitt Romney who woke up late realizing that he might lose Maine, which he had won with 52% in 2008, to Paul. Maine’s Republican caucus-goers tend to be much more conservative than other New England GOP voters. In 2000, George W. Bush won Maine (which held primaries then) while losing every other New England state to John McCain. Of course, the Bush family, which vacations in Kennebunkport, has always had a built-in advantage with the Maine GOP. In 2008, Mitt Romney, as the conservative alternative to John McCain, won Maine’s off-the-map caucuses with 52% against 21% for McCain and 18.4% for Ron Paul.

Maine has an independent, against the grain streak which even beats that of Vermont and equals that of Alaska. It elected independent governors, most recently Angus King. It was Ross Perot’s best state in 1992, giving him 30% of the vote and a second place showing. Its congressional delegation includes two more or less standard-fare liberal Democrats in the House, two famous moderate Republican Senators. But in 2010, Maine elected Paul LePage, a Tea Party-backed candidate, to the Governor’s Mansion. Since 2010 (or even before), the Maine Republican Party seems to have been taken over by the right-wing of the GOP.

The results were announced in one batch on February 11, but does not include the bulk of results from Washington County where the votes were delayed due to snow.

Mitt Romney 39.21%
Ron Paul 35.74%
Rick Santorum 17.71%
Newt Gingrich 6.25%
Others 1.09%

Results of the ME caucuses (source: uselectionatlas)

Mitt Romney was able to pull off a rather narrow victory, in spite of early reports (from the Paul camp, fair enough) which indicated results rather favourable to Ron Paul. Not that it matters all that much, given that few people actually cared all that much about Maine and its results are unlikely to give Romney any type of momentum. Mitt Romney performed about 13% worst than in 2008, which indicates Romney’s new problem with caucuses whose participants are overwhelmingly conservative. At the same time, Ron Paul performed about 17% better than in 2008. Maine was Ron Paul’s best chance for win in all the states which have voted thus far, but he was ultimately unable to pull off a win. His other chances for a win are probably Montana, Washington, Alaska and North Dakota; but can he actually win a state, even with a strong GOTV operation on the ground and motivated supporters willing to turn out?

Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich did not campaign in Maine, but Santorum still did fairly well without any campaigning. Perhaps if Rick Santorum had put a bit of an effort in Maine, he could have made this a real three-way contest.

The Maine GOP released county and township results, which appear to be incomplete in parts. It only includes ten votes cast in a single town in Washington County, while counties such as Waldo (90 votes) or Aroostook (137 votes) appear to have reported either partial results (I know some parts of Aroostook voted before February 4) or that turnout was really low. The county map looks random, the town map looks both random and empty.

Mitt Romney’s victory was won in Cumberland County, Maine’s most populous county which cast 1,552 votes. While Ron Paul won Portland, Maine’s largest city, Mitt Romney dominated in the affluent coastal suburbs/resorts including Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Cumberland, Yarmouth, Freeport and Harpswell. Romney also performed well in other affluent coastal resort communities including York Beach, Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, Boothbay Harbor, Camden, Rockport and Bar Harbor. At the same time, in less affluent or perhaps more hippie resort areas such as Ogunquit, Old Orchard Beach, Thomaston and Vinalhaven, Ron Paul came out ahead.

Ron Paul also seems to have performed well in the more conservative inland regions, but at the same time he did quite poorly in backwoods Somerset, Franklin and Oxford Counties. Ron Paul’s best showing was in Aroostook County, which he had won in 2008 and which he won this year with 59% this year. But looking at a town map, Aroostook has reported results from only a handful of towns. The heavily Democratic French-Canadian townships of the Madawaska River Valley has basically no results. Aroostook, like Coos County in New Hampshire, seems to be natural Ron Paul territory. It is isolated, conservative but with a fairly independent or libertarian streak. Ron Paul did well in the college towns of Orono and Farmington, but at the same time lost larger college towns such as Gorham or Augusta.

Maine is a fairly working-class state, an element hardly apparent to out-of-state summer vacationers. There seems to be little consistency in results between Maine’s various working-class mill towns. Ron Paul won Lewiston and Auburn, in Androscoggin County, while Rick Santorum performed well in small mill towns in Somerset County. Santorum also performed well in Androscoggin County (26%), which, as Catholic working-class territory, seems to be fairly strong territory for Santorum. In York County, Mitt Romney won Saco and Sanford, but Paul won in Biddeford. Finally, no caucus seems to have been held in Waterville.

USA 2012: Colorado and Minnesota caucuses and Missouri primary

After Nevada’s caucuses on February 4, the race for the Republican nomination in the United States stayed west of the Mississippi with a mini Super Tuesday featuring caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota and a non-binding ‘beauty pageant’ primary in Missouri.

In Nevada, the Republican Party’s frontrunner Mitt Romney scored a triumph over his three remaining challengers taking 50% of the vote in a caucus state, and this despite a very conservative base of caucus-goers (8 in 10 were conservatives, the highest since Iowa on January 3). This win followed a 14-point win over Newt Gingrich in Florida’s primary at the end of January, which had allowed Mitt Romney to avenge his thumping at Gingrich’s hands in South Carolina 10 days prior. Newt Gingrich has tried to position himself as the ‘other guy’ in the race, to make this contest a choice between him – the alleged conservative alternative – and Romney – whose conservative credentials are often placed in doubt by others. His success in South Carolina and second place finishes in both Florida and Nevada have allowed Gingrich to retain this mantle. But Gingrich has so far failed to prove that he’s not a sectional candidate a la Mike Huckabee, with a base limited almost exclusively to the South. The February contests, none of which take place in the old Confederacy, are a tough spell for Gingrich. But these contests are generally seen as favourable to Mitt Romney. He had carried Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota, Maine and Michigan in 2008 – all these states vote (or voted) this month. In 2008, he won over 60% in Colorado’s caucuses and over 40% in Minnesota’s caucuses.

Outside Iowa (and Nevada, to a lesser extent), caucuses are unpredictable affairs. Their setup means that they attract far more limited turnout and its results are conditioned by those who attend caucuses, who are generally very heavily conservative. A candidate’s organization on the ground, with a strong ability to motivate base supporters to go out and caucus, are crucial factors in caucus politics. Barack Obama had understood that in the 2008 Democratic contest, and it perhaps proved determinant. In this race, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul dominate the field in terms of ground organization and GOTV capabilities. In contrast, Gingrich’s campaign in these caucus states was horrible.

In the 2008 Republican caucuses in Nevada, Mitt Romney had two things going for him: firstly, the fact that a quarter of the caucus-goers were Mormons like him. Secondly, the heavily conservative electorate suited Mitt Romney’s 2008 profile as the anti-McCain non-Evangelical conservative candidate. In Nevada this year, he didn’t really lose any of those two advantages. But in Colorado and Minnesota, both states he won easily in 2008 over McCain, his 2008 victory was apparently reliant pretty exclusively on the second condition (conservatism). Despite winning conservatives in Nevada pretty convincingly, conservatives have been 2012 Romney’s weakness. Furthermore, conservatives in Colorado and Minnesota tend to be different from those in Nevada. Nevada’s conservative base does not care all that much about ‘culture war’ issues and tend to be concerned about things such as taxes, the deficit and guns. Colorado and Minnesota Republicans tend to be far more socially conservative – though not Southern Baptist. In fact, the CO and MN GOP tend to be pretty conservative despite Minnesota’s liberalism and Colorado’s centrism. Minnesota Republicans include Michele Bachmann and Colorado Republicans included Tom Tancredo and Marilyn Musgrave.

The Missouri contest was a non-binding ‘beauty pageant’ primary which will not count in assigning delegates. In other words, it can be seen either as an irrelevant joke or a glorified straw poll. A caucus in March will be the one assigning delegates. The primary is made unique by the fact that Newt Gingrich is not on the ballot, although he will be on the caucus ballot. It was a contest between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, with Ron Paul also on the ballot.

Results and Conclusions


Rick Santorum 40.31%
Mitt Romney 34.85%
Newt Gingrich 12.79%
Ron Paul 11.75%
Others 0.3%

Minnesota (98% reporting)

Rick Santorum 44.99%
Ron Paul 27.08%
Mitt Romney 16.85%
Newt Gingrich 10.79%
Others 0.29%

Missouri (non-binding)

Rick Santorum 55.68%
Mitt Romney 25.58%
Ron Paul 12.28%
Uncommitted 3.95%
Others 2.52%

After his come-from-behind triumph in Iowa, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum had it pretty tough in January. He finished a distant third in South Carolina, taking 17%, and also placed third in Florida with 13%. A few days ago in Nevada, he polled only 10%. Despite the momentum his Iowan victory generated, Santorum was unable to keep that short-lived big mo’ from eroding. Rick Santorum, on paper, is a terrific candidate for the GOP primaries: experienced, reliably conservative, no skeletons in the closet and a well-managed campaign. In practice, however, Santorum’s problem is that he has little funds, weak or nascent state organizations and he is not Southern unlike Gingrich. His poor showings in the other January contests after Iowa threatened to descend his operation into irrelevancy. He risked being left behind as Gingrich took the mantle of the conservative anti-Romney. However, Santorum was able to focus his efforts on these three states – especially Minnesota and Missouri’s symbolic primary. Beyond his wildest dreams, Santorum roared back into contention by scoring some pretty monumental blows to Romney. A landslide in Missouri’s beauty contest – 56% of the vote against a mere 26% for Mitt. A much wider than expected margin in Minnesota, taking 45%. More spectacularly, beating Romney by a significant margin in Colorado with 40% of the vote.

Mitt Romney is the real loser of the night. His campaign had been worried about Minnesota and Missouri, and they spent election day furiously spinning the two contests into irrelevance for their campaign. Romney ignored Missouri – his landslide loss there is more understandable and less humiliating. He came to Minnesota only once and it was not his main target – still humiliating, but more understandable. Still, distant third place in a state he got 41% in four years ago… pretty horrible, no? But even further than that, Colorado was Romney’s backyard. He had won it with over 60% of the vote in 2008. The demographics in Missouri and Minnesota didn’t play Romney’s way, but Colorado is full of very affluent and educated suburbanites who form Romney’s backbone thus far. It has a not-insignificant Mormon vote in the GOP caucuses, giving Romney a tiny boost over his rivals, all things being equal. His campaign efforts were largely focused on Colorado, and the polls in the state seemed to be going his way.

There was a late Santorum surge which no casual observer saw coming and which experienced observers saw only very late. Caucuses outside Iowa are notoriously hard to poll, so only PPP ventured out to poll the contests in Minnesota and Colorado. A first poll in Minnesota had shown a three-way tie with Santorum ahead and a last-minute poll out of Minnesota gave Santorum a 9-point edge over Romney. In Colorado, a final last-minute poll by PPP showed Romney with a 10 point lead over Santorum, who had closed the gap. The Colorado poll results averaged out two days of polling, meaning that the final day’s sample was pretty pro-Santorum. That was the only hint of what was coming. Even on election night, most analysts were still pretty certain that Romney would win Colorado, but I did find it hilariously prescient that in his speech, Mitt said that he was confident of ‘finishing number one… or number two… in Colorado’.

Rick Santorum’s recipe for success seems to have been heavy conservative turnouts. GOP caucuses are full of conservatives, and in a lot of cases full of conservatives who are motivated to go out there. Mitt Romney is not the type of candidate who you would go out caucus for after dinner, even if you’re a supporter. He does not motivate turnout. In fact, a 538 analysis picked up by Newt shows that turnout of GOP voters (independents are not counted, given that they are obviously far more likely to vote in contested GOP primaries than uncontested Democratic primaries) so far has tended to decline vis-a-vis 2008 in the places where Romney performs best. Gingrich says that Romney ‘supresses’ turnout, which is perhaps not the best way of putting it, but Romney has not won so far by motivation of his electorate or swing voters, rather he has won by apathy of swing voters and opponents towards his rivals. In Colorado and Minnesota, Santorum – and Paul to a lesser extent – proved capable of motivating turnout, especially among conservatives.

The results in Colorado and Minnesota, more than anything else, show how deep Romney’s conservative problem is. He won those two states in 2008 because their caucus-goers were conservative and he was the conservative alternative that year. He lost those two states in 2012 because their caucus-goers were conservative and he was the moderate choice. Mitt Romney has a serious problem in appealing to his party’s conservative base. Conservatives don’t trust him, don’t like him and don’t want him as their nominee. If he wins, it will likely be because the conservatives have failed to coalesce behind a single candidate. We should still be careful about spinning MN and CO’s results way out of proportion, given that they were low-turnout caucuses where those who turned out were motivated social conservatives who hated Romney. Like McCain and Hillary in 2008, Romney may have a caucus problem, but we can’t really ascertain that he has a primary problem too. McCain lost Minnesota in a landslide, but he did not have any problems in next-door Illinois on the same day.

In a way, Santorum’s victory could be a positive for Romney in the long run. But only if Santorum is unable to build up true momentum and only builds up enough to further divides the conservative anti-Romney vote, allowing Romney to eek out uninspiring victories in crucial states along the way and emerging as nominee-by-default. Romney is still the favourite, he has money, loads of it, and he has shown no reluctance of going negative on his rivals. He has the means to bomb Santorum like he bombed Gingrich in Florida. On the other hand, Santorum is far more of a threat to Romney than Newt is. As previously outlined, he has relatively few negatives which could hurt him with the base but a good list of positives which make him a strong candidate. Santorum should shift his focus to winning Midwestern primaries, where Santorum’s populist tone on economic issues with stuff such as rebuilding America’s manufacturing base would play very well with Republican voters in upcoming big primaries such as Michigan and Ohio. Santorum also needs to try to marginalize Gingrich as much as possible, with the aim of forcing him out of the race as soon as possible.

Given Gingrich’s horrible caucus organization, his results are not surprising. But they make him the second big loser of the night. He has yet to prove that he is more than a sectional, Southern candidate. Gingrich seems extremely adamant about the fact that he’s staying in the race vitam æternam, but if his main financial backer, Sheldon Adelson, stops bankrolling him after a string of results such as these, his determination could prove short-lived. But this race is so unpredictable, Gingrich could mount a fantastic comeback followed a week later by a spectacular collapse back to today’s level.

Ron Paul performed well in Minnesota, up from 16% four years ago. In Colorado, however, his result was bit underwhelming, up only a bit from the 8 or so percent he won in 2008. Early indications out of Maine, whose week-long caucus mess ends on Saturday, are favourable to him and he could be looking at potential victories in Alaska, Washington and Montana.

Geographic Analysis

Results of the CO caucuses (source: uselectionatlas)

In Colorado, Rick Santorum’s victory was built on three main foundations. Firstly, he swept the sparsely populated counties of the state’s flat Eastern Plains. This is conservative, rural, agrarian, Evangelical country; but in the end it only provides a handful of votes. Secondly, and most importantly, Santorum won decisively in El Paso County (Colorado Springs), which cast the most votes of all counties. He won 47% to Romney’s 31%. Colorado Springs, a solidly Republican city, is driven by the military but also has a strong social conservative base as the headquarters of Focus on the Family, a socially conservative organization which endorsed Santorum. Evangelicals make up a big part of the CO GOP caucus-goers, perhaps up to nearly half of the entire electorate. They tend to be concentrated in the Eastern Plains but also non-touristic mountainous areas. Thirdly, Santorum’s victory was made possible by strong showings in the Front Range exurbs of Denver, which are to the right of Denver’s liberalizing suburbs, slightly less educated and less affluent. He carried Larimer County (Fort Collins) 44-30 and Weld (Greeley) 48-28. He also won the main population centre of the Western Slopes, Mesa County (Grand Junction) 47-35.

In the Denver area, Mitt Romney’s support was concentrated in urban Denver and in the educated, affluent and politically more moderate suburban counties of Arapahoe, Jefferson and Douglas. While his victories in Arapahoe and Douglas (45-34 and 47-33 respectively), he only won by a smaller margin of 39-37 in Jefferson County. Outside Denver and Boulder, however, Romney’s support was concentrated in low-vote locales including Mormon outposts (Conejos County, 79% for Romney, some counties along the Utah border) and liberal affluent ski resort places including Pitkin County (Aspen), Eagle County (Vail) and Summit County (Breckenridge).

Ron Paul did best (33%) in Gunnison County which includes both a college (in Gunnison) and a ski resort.

Results of the MN caucuses (source: uselectionatlas); incomplete map

Rick Santorum swept Minnesota quasi-entirely, leaving out only four counties for Ron Paul. His strongest support was concentrated in rural areas, especially in parts of southwestern and northwestern Minnesota which have a large proportion of Evangelical Protestants. Mitt Romney had performed comparatively poorly in the bulk of these areas in 2008, when he won statewide, and this year he was utterly trashed in the vast majority of these counties, where the GOP caucus-going electorate is extremely conservative. But in terms of overall weights, these areas are fairly minimal.

Rick Santorum performed well – and so did Ron Paul actually – in Minneapolis’ famous exurban counties, including Michele Bachmann’s home-turf (the 6th district). Minnesota’s right-wing exurbia, which stands out from the liberalizing suburbs of Chicago, are marked by mega-churches and a politically significant Evangelical community. Romney had performed well here in 2008, he was swept out this year, performing below his statewide average and a distant third at best. Even in the more moderate and affluent inner suburbs of Minneapolis, Romney at best broke 20%, but Santorum still dominated.

Mitt Romney could not even place second in the Twin Cities, both of which were won by Santorum by a smaller yet still significant margin. He won Hennepin (Minneapolis) 36-29.5 over Paul and won Ramsey (St. Paul) 36-34. Santorum also carried two other large urban centres, Olmsted (Rochester) 40-29 and the Iron Range city of Duluth (St. Louis County) 45-29.5. Paul was victorious in Blue Earth County, which includes the college town of Mankato, winning 51 to 30.

Results of the MO primary (source: uselectionatlas)

Missouri’s beauty-pageant primary is ultimately meaningless for Santorum’s campaign, but because it has been reported on by the media, Santorum’s big win there has created some sort of narrative about him winning “the heart of America” and similar stuff like that. Whether or not he can win the meaningful caucus, in which Gingrich will be on the ballot, is still unknown given that Missouri’s demographics are closer to Gingrich’s Southern conservative base than Santorum’s emerging Midwestern conservative base. Still, Santorum’s landslide in the primary carried him over Romney in every single county in the state, a spectacular feat. He far surpasses Mike Huckabee’s close second performance in Missouri’s meaningful 2008 primary, in which he had won 31.5% to McCain’s 33% on the back of strong performances in the culturally Southern Ozarks of southwestern Missouri, the Dixiecratic Bootheel and the old plantation region of Little Dixie in central Missouri.

Rick Santorum still won these culturally Southern regions by huge margins, doing especially well in the Evangelical Ozarks and parts of Little Dixie along the Illinois and Iowa border. But in addition to these conservative bases, Santorum was able to extend his appeal – rather spectacularly – to places where Huckabee had not done as well. He defeated Romney by large margins in the reliably Republican German Catholic counties of the Missouri Rhineland, where McCain had won four years ago. Even more surprising was his ability to defeat Romney in what should be Romney’s backyard: the affluent, more moderate suburbs and exurbs of St. Louis and Kansas City. He won St. Louis’ exurbs in St. Charles County 56-25, in a county which had been one of Romney’s best counties in 2008. But he also won the older, more moderate affluent suburbs of St. Louis (St. Louis County) 53-29 and won the city proper 45-26. He also carried Jackson County (Kansas City) and Boone County, which includes the liberal college town of Columbia.

Slightly amusingly, Mitt Romney’s best result in Missouri came out of Pemiscot County (37.3%), which makes no sense whatsoever. Pemiscot was the only county to vote for Wallace in 1968 and it is a traditionally Dixiecratic county in the Bootheel. Of course, barely anybody (413) voted.