Category Archives: Georgia
Legislative elections were held in Georgia (the country – not the state) on October 1, 2012. All 150 members of Georgia’s unicameral Parliament were up for reelection. This election follows some major amendments to the Georgian constitution and a change in the electoral system. According to amendments passed in 2010, the President of Georgia will eventually – by the beginning of the next term (due after the October 2013 presidential election) – be reduced to a ceremonial role while the Prime Minister and Parliament will assume more powers, seemingly with the obvious aim of transforming Georgia into a parliamentary republic.
The new electoral system has 77 seats elected by proportional representation (with a 5% threshold) and 73 seats elected by first-past-the-post. The 73 district seats seem to correspond to the second-tier administrative divisions (the districts), which would explain the huge malapportionment (the cities being badly underrepresented, as this map shows).
Since 2004, Georgia has been governed by Mikheil Saakashvili, who came to power shortly after the 2003 Rose Revolution removed Eduard Shevardnadze from office. Saakashvili, a young anti-corruption reformist, had briefly served in Shevardnadze’s cabinet before becoming one of the major leaders of the opposition in 2001. By 2003, Shevardnadze’s government, in power since 1995, had become extremely corrupt and had clear authoritarian inklings. The 2003 legislative election, allegedly rigged to allow Shevardnadze’s party to narrowly defeated Saakashvili’s opposition party sparked the Rose Revolution.
In 2004, Saakashvili was elected President with 96% of the vote. Saakashvili, which has sought to cultivate the image of a young pro-Western (which entails, in this case, pro-American, pro-European and pro-NATO) anti-corruption reformer, has a mixed and controversial record in power. On the overarching issue of corruption, a problem which every Georgian government has faced, while some of Saakashvili’s efforts to curb corruptions were lauded by the international community, at the same time he has been accused of corruption by opponents and foreign observers. His economic policies have freed the business climate in Georgia and have received warm acclaim abroad, but at homes critics point to the high unemployment (16%) and deep poverty in rural Georgia, which has not benefited from his modernization program.
Saakashvili placed his country on the map in 2008 when the Georgian military invaded the breakaway republic of South Ossetia. Since independence, Georgia has had only incomplete control over its territory, with the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia – two regions home to ethnic minority groups – causing headaches for every Georgian government. Both of these internationally unrecognized republics are described as Russian puppets (especially South Ossetia); indeed Russia is the sole major international power which has granted recognition to those countries and Moscow has clear interests in both: Abkhazia for its access to the Black Sea and South Ossetia because gas and oil pipelines transit through it.
Saakashvili had already faced a potentially explosive situation in 2004 when Aslan Abashidze, the local pro-Russian strongman of the autonomous region of Adjara in southwestern Georgia, refused to submit to the new Georgian government. He avoided armed confrontation and was able to lead the issue to a peaceful resolution with Abashidze’s resignation. In dealing with the breakaway republics, he had favoured diplomacy until 2008, when he ordered the invasion of Tskhinvali in South Ossetia following border clashes. Georgia’s military was no match for Russia’s military, which quickly pushed back the Georgians. The war ended as a disaster for Saakashvili, with the peace deal signed in August 2008, Georgia lost control of parts of South Ossetia and Abkhazia which had remained under its control.
Saakashvili has faced an often divided but very feisty opposition, which has often resorted to street demonstrations after failing to defeat Saakashvili at the ballot box. While international observers regarded the 2008 presidential and legislative elections as acceptably free and fair, the opposition has accused Saakashvili – perhaps not entirely unjustly – of abuse of power and authoritarianism. It is true that Saakashvili is known for his arrogant, vindictive, erratic and slightly autocratic tendencies and he has not quite transformed his country into a “Western democracy” since 2004 – it still has “partly free” ratings on press freedom, political and civil liberties and the Democracy Index rates it as a “hybrid regime”. His regime faced large protests organized by the opposition in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2012.
The opposition to Saakashvili is extremely heterogeneous and generally noted for its internal squabbling. It unites a wide range of personalities, ranging from supporters of the former regime to right-wingers to left-wingers to nationalists to former allies of Saakashvili (including Nino Burjanadze). A lot of politicians in Georgia have been business tycoons. The 2007 protests were led and organized by Badri Patarkatsishvili and the runner-up in the 2008 election was Levan Gachechiladze, two business tycoons who had large stashes of cash backing them.
The new opposition coalition this year, Georgian Dream, was no different. Georgian Dream is a coalition of different parties, but it is steer-headed by a billionaire, Bidzina Ivanishvili, who is a French citizen (he recently relinquished a Russian passport) after being stripped of his Georgian citizenship in 2011, allegedly for breaking dual citizenship laws but probably because he was entering politics. Ivanishvili made most of his money working in Russia, in a wide variety of sectors during the lucrative privatization era in the 1990s.
Georgian Dream is a heterogeneous movement. The Economist noted that “Mr Ivanishvili’s ragtag coalition is united mainly by his own largesse. Its ranks include xenophobes, chauvinists and those nostalgic for the old days, partly constrained by some distinguished pro-Western liberals who fell out with Mr Saakashvili.” The coalition’s platform was terribly vague, Ivanishvili said his sole priority is “happiness for all” and he has promised a wide range of goodies: more jobs, medical coverage, more schools, better pensions and a freer press and judiciary. The governing party – the United National Movement (UNM) – was similarly vague in its policy orientations. Its economic policies do not seem vastly different from those of Ivanishvili’s coalition, which is hardly surprising given that what divides the two parties are personality and power struggles rather than ideological disagreement. On foreign policy, the government promotes itself as pro-Western and pro-NATO, but Ivanishvili similarly supports NATO membership and closer ties with the west – all while also wanting closer ties with Moscow (which has led to Saakashvili accusing him of being a Russian stooge).
The campaign, as all electoral campaigns in Georgia, was very bloody. The two sides lobbed insults at one another, the opposition apparently refers to Saakashvili as “the rat” and has branded him a fascistic tyrant. The turning point during the campaign was the revelation of a video which showed prisoners being tortured and beaten up by prison wardens, the outrage forced a cabinet minister to resign and analysts have said that the outrage allowed Ivanishvili’s opposition coalition to take the lead.
The results were as follows, for the PR and the FPTP seats. Turnout was 59.76%.
Georgian Dream 54.85% PR / 53.42% FPTP winning 83 seats (44 PR, 39 districts)
UNM 40.43% PR / 46.58% FPTP winning 67 seats (33 PR, 34 districts)
Christian Democratic Union 2.05% PR winning 0 seats
Labour 1.24% PR winning 0 seats
New Rights 0.43% PR winning 0 seats
Free Georgia 0.27% PR winning 0 seats
Others 0.72% PR winning 0 seats
The election, largely free and fair, resulted in the defeat of Saakashvili’s party and the historic victory of the opposition. Though Saakashvili originally held out hope that the UNM would be able to win by virtue of the district seats, but he quickly gracefully conceded defeat to the opposition. The opposition was not as gracious in victory, Ivanishvili originally called on Saakashvili to resign before quickly backtracking on that statement. The country enters a funny transition period, Saakashvili will remain President until the October 2013 presidential election while Ivanishvili will become Prime Minister. The new parliamentary-type regime is due to take effect following the October 2013 election, between now and then Ivanishvili and Saakashvili will need to learn to work together. Ivanishvili will also need to learn to accept a strong parliamentary opposition, something which the UNM lacked in the last parliament.
Ivanishvili likely has a tough road ahead of him. His rag-tag coalition is held together in large part by his cash and a mutual hatred of Saakashvili, but they might find it very hard to stick together once in power, similarly to how Saakashvili lost a lot of his original 2004 allies during his presidency. Some will justifiably worry about the type of leader Ivanishvili will turn out to be. Will he continue the imperfect reformist path of Saakashvili or will he go down the road to crony capitalism, entrenching a regime of oligarchs? His platform was unbelievably vague, which means that few know exactly what he wants – besides happiness, a fairer society and a pro-Western foreign policy (all while being more pro-Russian than Saakashvili).
The maps to the right, drawn up by a friend of mine, show the results of the PR and FPTP votes by district. The opposition’s stronghold was the capital, Tbilisi, where it won upwards of 70% of the vote. Tbilisi has traditionally been a stronghold of the anti-Saakashvili opposition, for example in the 2008 election, the capital was one of the three districts which he lost. The opposition is also traditionally strong in a few districts bordering South Ossetia (some of these districts are only partly under Georgian sovereignty).
The UNM’s strongholds correspond to those districts where Saakashvili polled best in the 2008 elections. These include a large block of districts south of Abkhazia, a region with a large Mingrelian (and Svan) population (a Georgian subethnic group); and border regions in the south of the country, including a few districts with Armenian and Azeri majorities.
Regardless of the nature of this election or the country’s future, it is refreshing to see democratic elections of this kind in the former Soviet Union which result in the peaceful transfer of power. At least the voters had a choice, even if this choice is perhaps was not what some would wish it was.
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%
Mitt Romney 37.65%
Ron Paul 24.81%
Rick Santorum 23.81%
Newt Gingrich 10.28%
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%
Mitt Romney 39.79%
Ron Paul 25.49%
Rick Santorum 23.65%
Newt Gingrich 8.14%
Jon Huntsman 2.03%
Mitt Romney 37.95%
Rick Santorum 37.07%
Newt Gingrich 14.59%
Ron Paul 9.24%
Mitt Romney 59.52%
Ron Paul 40.47%
Newt Gingrich 47.20%
Mitt Romney 25.90%
Rick Santorum 19.56%
Ron Paul 6.55%
Rick Santorum 37.43%
Mitt Romney 28.09%
Newt Gingrich 24.18%
Ron Paul 9.11%
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%
North Dakota (caucus)
Rick Santorum 39.74%
Ron Paul 28.07%
Mitt Romney 23.71%
Newt Gingrich 8.48%
Mitt Romney 61.59%
Rick Santorum 18.17%
Ron Paul 18.10%
Newt Gingrich 2.10%
Alaska (non-binding straw poll)
Mitt Romney 32.61%
Rick Santorum 29.03%
Ron Paul 23.96%
Newt Gingrich 14.15%
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
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%).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
On May 5, a primary was held in Tennessee and on May 10, primaries or primary runoffs were held in Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia and Minnesota ahead of the American mid-term elections on November 4. In continuing coverage, here’s a rundown of the main primary battles in these five states.
Colorado, a traditionally ‘purple’ state, has turned heavily Democratic at almost all levels of government since 2006-2008, but Obama’s unpopularity in this traditionally ‘libertarian’ state and a shift to the right in the country, Colorado’s Democrats find themselves in tough races to retain a Senate seat and the Governor’s mansion. In their quest to retain these big prizes, they find themselves helped by the far-right and the Colorado Republicans.
The Democrats picked up an open Republican-held Senate seat in 2004 with Ken Salazar, who stepped down to become Obama’s Secretary of the Interior. Governor Bill Ritter, a Democrat, appointed a young little-known Superintendent of Denver Public Schools, Michael Bennet, to the Senate seat. Bennet’s very low name recognition hurt him in polls against Republican contenders earlier this year and also won him a primary challenge from former state house speaker Andrew Romanoff, who ran on a liberal grassroots-based campaign. The primary battle was also seen by some as a showdown between Obama – represented by Bennet, who supported him in 2008 and Hillary/Bill Clinton – represented by Romanoff, who supported Hillary’s 2008 campaign. Romanoff gained ground rapidly in polls though struggled a bit later on, which led him to sell his own house to finance his campaign.
On the Republican side, the two contenders were Weld County district attorney Ken Buck and former Lt. Governor Jane Norton. Norton, the Republican establishment candidate, was seen by the party’s activist base as a establishment stalwart and a party hack, leading the Tea Partier and activists to get behind Ken Buck, a more ‘libertarian’/GOP grassroots figure, though the Tea Partiers were not so happy with Buck when he called them, on the record, stupid. Latest polling indicated a neck-and-neck race.
In the gubernatorial race, Democrat Governor Bill Ritter, performing poorly in polls, read the writing on the wall and retired, leaving the spot open for popular Denver Mayor John Hickelooper. The GOP cast was far from top-notch, featuring former Rep. Scott McInnis, who got in trouble over a plagiarism case, and Dan Maes. Neither of them got much affection from the conservative base and the Tea Party, a fact which led former Rep. Tom Tancredo, a famous tough ‘secure the border’ anti-immigration congressman, to jump into the race – for the Constitution Party. The Democrats should be quite happy with Tancredo’s decision, given that polling since he jumped him gave him 24% or so and allowed Hickelooper to lead the polls by a wide margin over the divided right. Here are the results:
Senate (Dem and Rep)
Michael Bennet (D) 54.2%
Andrew Romanoff (D) 45.8%
Ken Buck (R) 51.6%
Jane Norton (R) 48.4%
Dan Maes (R) 50.7%
Scott McInnis (R) 49.3%
On the Democratic side, voters backed the establishment candidate, but Republicans went with the underdog and maverick-type candidates in both races. In terms of electability, both parties likely made the right choices: a late poll by PPP showed Bennet beating both Republican contenders, while Romanoff was statistically tied with both of them. Furthermore, Norton, widely seen as an establishment party hack, would have done more poorly than Buck will manage to do. Bennet beat Buck by 3% in yesterday’s poll, but the race is still wide open. On the gubernatorial side, Dan Maes’ victory gives the Republican a slightly less steep hill to climb, but he’ll still have to contend with Tancredo, although Tancredo’s high support of 24% should evaporate as Republicans return to the party’s candidate, though Hickenlooper should be counted with an advantage in this race. But November, in both cases, is still a long way away.
In House races on the GOP side, State Rep. establishment candidate Scott Tipton won the primary in CO-03 to face Democrat John Salazar. He beat the rugged tea party challenger Bob McConnell 56-44. The other main race is in the suburban 7th, held by Democrat Ed Perlmutter. He’ll face a black Republican, Ryan Frazier, who beat attorney Lang Sias 64-36. Both races will be tight in November.
Democratic Senator Chris Dodd and Republican Governor Jodi Rell will be retiring this year, leaving both main seats up for grabs. Dodd’s retirement came as a blessing for Democrats, who were badly trailing Republicans because Dodd had been involved in some shaky financial dealings on his side. They got the popular Attorney General Richard Blumenthal to run, but Blumenthal’s gaffe concerning his non-service in Vietnam has made the race in November a bit less of a safe Dem contest. The Republican contest gained notoriety as a showdown between former WWE magnate Linda McMahon, who has lots of money, and former Rep. Rob Simmons, a moderate Republican. Peter Schiff, a Tea Party-endorsed Paulite, was the third man in the race, with the backing of Ron Paul’s internet fanboy base. McMahon beat Simmons 52-44 in an earlier convention, which allowed both of them to be placed on the primary ballot (party rules required a candidate to win at least 15% at the convention to get on the ballot, or gather 10,000 signatures – which is what Schiff did). Simmons then suspended his campaign, but in late July got back in, but to no avail since McMahon had already owned the field with her ad frenzy and putting millions into her campaign. Money buys Republican contenders lots of stuff.
Democrats would like to pick up the GOP-held Governor’s mansion (they’d like to have control of all 6 New England gubernatorial mansions this year, with CT, RI and VT being held by retiring Republicans). Their two main candidates were Ned Lamont, the liberal grassroots favourite who beat Joe Lieberman in the 06 Senate primary but lost to Lieberman (Ind) in November; and ’06 Governor candidate and former Stamford mayor Dan Malloy. On the Republican side, it was an unequal contest between Bush fundraiser and former ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley and Lt. Governor Michael Fedele, with Oz Griebel being the third man in the race. Here are the results:
Linda McMahon (R) 49.1%
Rob Simmons (R) 28.1%
Peter Schiff (R) 22.7%
Governor (Dem + Rep)
Dan Malloy (D) 57.8%
Ned Lamont (D) 42.2%
Tom Foley (R) 42.3%
Michael Fedele (R) 39%
Oz Griebel (R) 18.6%
The main shock of the night is Ned Lamont’s defeat, yet again, but this time in a primary in which he was the favourite. It’s hard to see what went wrong for Lamont this time, but he definitely lost his base of support with anti-Iraq War liberal Democrats this time around. Or perhaps being a super-wealthy person running in a Democratic primary isn’t an asset in a year where people aren’t all that fond of rich people and Wall Street-type businessmen. In other races, predictable things happened: McMahon, with loads of cash, trounced on-and-off candidate Simmons, who only won his old CD in eastern Connecticut, but Schiff did surprisingly well, performing best in suburban areas close to the NYC metro. Blumenthal and Malloy are the favourites in their respective races as of now, but McMahon and Foley shouldn’t be counted out early.
Did I say that money buys everything for Republicans? Not so. In the GOP primary in the 4th district, the guy with the least cash, State Sen. Sam Caligiuri, came first with 39.7% against Justin Bernier (32%) but most importantly wealthy real estate magnate Mark Greenberg who won 28.3%.
Georgia – Runoff
A primary election runoff was held in Georgia as well on May 10, featuring a gubernatorial showdown on the Republican side between Georgia SoS Karen Handel and former Rep. Nathan Deal. Handel got 34% in the first round against Deal’s 22.9%, and, with the support of the Tea Party and Sarah Palin, she was the big favourite, especially against Deal who got desperate in the last days with tough attack ads on Handel – who attacked Deal on the ethical front. The results go against the big narrative of establishment defeats and gives a black eye to Palin-Tea Party folks.
Nathan Deal (R) 50.2%
Karen Handel (R) 49.8%
The difference between Handel and Deal was roughly 2,400 votes, but Handel has already conceded the election and thrown her support behind Deal.
The map is revealing of the electorate of the Tea Party. Handel dominated the Atlanta urban and suburban region, where the Republican electorate is both white and generally upper-middle-class, thus very keen on the low taxes message. She also did well in most Black Belt counties and surrounding white flight areas, areas where the GOP electorate is obviously majority white. At risk of being overly controversial, I won’t delve into the details about Black Belt white voters.
Though polling disagrees, many feel that Deal is the weakest candidate in November against a top-tier Democratic nominee, former Governor Roy Barnes, who lost to Governor Sonny Perdue in the Confederate flag-dominated 2003 election, but who stands a real chance at picking this seat up in November.
Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty, who has his eyes set on 2012 already, is term-limited, leaving Democrats (in Minnesota, known as the DFL) with good chances at winning back this traditionally Democratic state in November.
At a DFL convention earlier this year, Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak won the straw poll against State House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, but Rybak later dropped out to endorse Kelliher. The straw poll was useless because the big name in the race, former Senator Mark Dayton, wasn’t in it. Dayton, who was a rather poor Senator known for his erratic behaviour, came back into politics as some kind of populist candidate whose message is centered a lot around the idea of defending the common man. Matt Entenza, a former state house minority leader, was the third and distant candidate in the contest. Here are the results:
Mark Dayton (D) 41.3%
Margaret Anderson Kelliher (D) 39.8%
Matt Entenza (D) 18.2%
Peter Idusogie (D) 0.7%
Dayton faced a surprisingly close race and only came ahead of Kelliher very late in the night. Perhaps Democrats rallied around Kelliher, who was more the establishment candidate, later in the race? However, Democrats should be pleased that Dayton won, because he has a higher name recognition and his primary electorate reflects a much wider base, demographically, than Kelliher’s very urban support, big in Minneapolis-Saint Paul but rather weak outside of those places. Dayton is the favourite in a two-and-a-half man race against Republican Tom Emmer (who trounced token joke challengers), who is very far to the right and a poor fit for the state and Independence Party candidate Tom Horner, who could draw nearly 10% support in a field where the top two contenders are very much establishment-type party stalwarts.
Republicans will win back Tennessee’s gubernatorial mansion in November with the retirement of term-limited Democratic incumbent Phil Bredesen, who was a popular conservative Democrat. The big names in the Republican race for Governor held on May 5 were Knoxville mayor Bill Haslam, not too extreme for the party and the establishment favourite; as well as Rep. Zach Wamp and Tea Party-supported Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey. Wamp and Ramsey, trailing in polls, got desperate and got out the usual ‘God card’ by playing up their supposed Christian values. Wamp went off the deep end when he said that if Republicans didn’t win and health care wasn’t repealed, states would secede; while Ramsey said weird things about Islam. There was, of course, YouTube favourite Basil Marceaux, an old lunatic, who got popular by saying that he’d kill Lindsay Lohan if she committed a crime or granting his voters immunity from prosecution.
Bill Haslam (R) 47.4%
Zach Wamp (R) 29.2%
Ron Ramsey (R) 22%
Joe Kirkpatrick (R) 0.9%
Basil Marceaux (R) 0.5%
Haslam is, of course, the overwhelming favourite going into November against Democratic nominee Mike McWherter (nominated unopposed), a businessman-son of former Governor typical Blue Dog Democrat. Neither of those two candidates will appeal much to liberal Democrats.
The primary results were favourable for Democrats, since their best candidates for November won and the Obama camp didn’t get a black eye after Obama-backed Michael Bennet defeated liberal insurgent Clintonite Romanoff in Colorado. On the Republican side, bad blood between Nathan Deal and Karen Handel in Georgia could hurt the party there in its attempts to hold onto the state in November. In Connecticut, picking Malloy over Lamont prevents attacks on Lamont as being too liberal to win while Linda McMahon’s victory will allow Blumenthal to take out the anti-Washington populistic anti-big business message that could carry lots of weight in a year like 2010. Meanwhile, in the establishment vs. anti-establishment battle which has dominated primaries this year, the results from last night indicate that Democrats are more keen on backing the establishment candidates – a relief for Obama who faces discontent from the party’s more liberal base, but Republicans are more angry in this climate and back anti-establishment candidates. Yet, Handel’s surprise defeat in Georgia did give a black eye of sorts to Sarah Palin, though Handel wouldn’t have gone that far if it wasn’t for Palin.