Wednesday, February 29, 2012

2012 GOP Update – Romney Wins AZ, Home State MI by 2 Points – Santorum Pulls Independents, Democrats and Conservatives - Analysis

Romney and Santorum - which is the better general election candidate? - image

2012 GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, won both the Arizona primary and the Michigan Primaryheld on Tuesday, February 28, 2012. Romney was expected to handily win in Arizona, with his main GOP Rival, Rick Santorum, focusing on Romney’s home state of Michigan and the all important state of Ohio, which votes on Super Tuesday. Romney won his home state of Michigan by 2 points, a victory and a win, yet the signs that Romney would have trouble in the general election are evident in analysis of the voter turnout. An excellent opinion piece from CNN Politics, suggests that the better general election candidate lost Michigan – Santorum who pulled independent and union voters in a larger margin that Romney or Paul – those votes which are crucial to a win in November.

Following GOP logic, that the moderate candidate is the only candidate that can win an election has cost them dearly over the years, (See McCain and Dole), while the candidates they despise, do best in coalescing a broad range of voters (See Reagan and now Santorum). There are several fallacies being presented in this primary season that should be addressed – these are part and parcel of the effort for campaigns to win at any cost – and the establishment GOP to push its “favorite son” forward. The first that Obama would prefer to run against a weaker candidate, such as Santorum is nonsense – it has been suggested that the Obama Campaign was prepared only for Romney, and Santorum or Gingrich were not the candidates they would want to face in a general.

Additionally, the fact that Democrats who cast votes for Santorum are doing so in some effort to derail Romney as a preferred candidate is ludicrous (as noted in the opinion piece from CNN). Santorum’s blue collar background, and his political acumen, allows him to attract those blue collar and independent voters that are necessary to win, while Romney continues to alienate the Conservative’s who came out in droves in Michigan as elsewhere. Understanding that each state is a separate entity, with each holding a diverse electorate, one must look at the States won and lost by Romney in his 2008 bid, to see a pattern that has developed which does not bode well for him in the general – regardless of which candidate is the “anti-Romney” and how much those that would support Obama to push Romney (and those in the establishment GOP with the firmly held belief that only moderates will prevail). The labeling of Santorum as some sort of religious, for lack of a better word, crackpot, is specifically designed to push voters towards Romney – while attempting to drown out the larger and more important messaging of Santorum on manufacturing as well as foreign and domestic policy. It may have worked with Mike Huckabee in 2008, allowing McCain to best Romney (moderate and more moderate), but Santorum is a different candidate, who has a solid track record of knowing how to campaign and how to win elections. Granted he did lose Pennsylvania, in his last Senate race, something that is consistently pointed out by Romney surrogates, however, the more salient facts are that he had lost the race to a Blue Dog Democrat, with family ties in the State of Pennsylvania in a year that was simply poison for Republicans. His loss was not personal to Santorum; rather it was endemic to the Republican Party itself.

The fact that states have primaries that are open and allow Democrats to votes in Republican primaries and vice versa, only highlights the fact that Santorum understands the campaign far better than the other candidates – he openly courted Democrats in Michigan, a move derided by the Romney Campaign and the Press (See Boston Globe article Santorum Defends Calls to Michigan Democrats). There is little to no evidence, outside of a few individuals interviewed by CNN and the Detroit Free press, that a local left-wing radio talk show host, picking up on an old Rush Limbaugh “Operation Chaos” strategy (vote for the candidate that will push out the best candidate), had any significant effect, and can be taken with a huge grain of salt. One must look to the fact that liberal radio talk shows have insignificant shares of the marketplace versus the powerhouse that is Conservative Talk radio. Therefore, it was more likely the campaigns robocalls to Democrats that got out the vote for Santorum, pulling him within 2 points of Romney in his home state of Michigan.

Next on deck- Super Tuesday – which will allow the candidates to pull more punches, and prove their mettle to the American public. The wins, and the losses of the southern and Midwestern states, which hold the largest share of delegates, will allow the dust to settle, and the road to the nomination will be more apparent to the general public. If Romney can pull better than he did in 2008, it will be surprising. He won 12 states in the 2008 primary season, several of those won by much larger margins and or not at all in 2012 – Colorado, Minnesota and Michigan for example. Regardless of the candidate that emerges, be it Romney or Santorum, that candidate will be tested and able to best face a challenge to the President, it is a question now, of which of the candidates will appeal to those who hope to stay the party course, or elect a Conservative who has broad enough appeal to pull the independents and the Democrats desperately needed to win the general.

Finally, the question must be put forth, if Gingrich or Paul were not in the race, would Romney have won either Arizona or Michigan? Ron Paul’s supporters are difficult to determine, however, Gingrich’s supporters would most likely gravitate to the less establishment GOP candidate – that would have pushed Santorum past Romney in both states. Should either of these candidates drop out of the race, hypothetically, then it is more probable that Santorum would best Romney handily in the upcoming Super Tuesday states primaries – It is probable by polling that he will, even with those candidates in the race, win in the Midwest and the South – a fact that has been clearly lost on the establishment GOP but not on the President’s supporters. Watch for more focus on the “social issue” Santorum from the press, as well as claims regarding the effectiveness of the “liberal talk show hosts” ability to pull a Rush Limbaugh.

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