August 28, 2014

Four down…forty-six more to go.

Newt lost Florida, and he lost big. He dissed Romney by not calling to concede. Guess what? There are still forty-six states left in the Republican nomination battle. We’re going to see a lot more of him and his antics.

Further, if you’re voting where I am, you’re voting last. Dead last.

But enough about Utah’s primary in the last third of June. I’ve already expended enough hot air on that else where. While there are some really interesting ideas for changing up the Primary process, we’ll deal with those on a later date.

Right now, we’ve got a primary battle, and it’s going to be long. Contrary to victory speeches and common sense, this race will continue for a while. Don’t believe me?  Check out this graphic from the New York Times (the red text and arrows are mine):

In other words, despite Romney’s big win in Florida–and yes, it’s a big win–it’s only a small minority of the total votes he needs to secure the nomination, not to mention the total votes that are available. If Newt Gingrich can mount a serious campaign somewhere other than in the Bible Belt, he can lengthen this race out for months.

What’s next, then? First up on the agenda is Nevada, which is heavily favored for Romney. With a substantial LDS population (somewhere between 7% and 8% of voters and 25% of caucus attendees), Mormon Mitt Romney will have a leg up on the competition. Further, neighboring Utah will be sending hordes of energetic Republicans who watched Mitt up close when he was brought in to save the scandal bitten Salt Lake Winter Olympics in 2002…which he did, successfully, transforming a deficit to a surplus, all on his own dime.

Anyway: Mitt will likely win, but only a proportional number of the delegates. Unlike South Carolina and Florida, which are winner take all, Nevada distributes its delegates proportionately, similar to New Hampshire.

After the Nevada caucus? Colorado and Minnesota are on February 7 (next Monday), but their delegates, like Iowa’s, are not pledged to the winner because the election is non-binding. (Yeah, that’s a topic for another post…) Following quickly four days later, we’ll see Maine…also, non-binding.

In that case, the next serious contest is likely to be Arizona and Michigan on February 28th. Arizona–also featuring a large LDS population–is a winner-take-all contest, but Michigan is hybrid. As the Washington Post explains it, “9 delegates are allocated proportionally based on the statewide vote. 21 delegates are awarded on a winner-take-all basis to the winner of each congressional district (1.5 per district).”  Got it?

Got it or not, the big day to put on your calendar is “Super Tuesday” on March 6. (Yes, Washington has a non-binding vote, but, well, let’s move on to the binding votes…). On that day, ten states will hold primaries (or caucuses), including Georgia (where Gingrich served as Congressman), Virginia, and Tennessee, all which are Bible Belt states where Gingrich is betting he’ll do well with the evangelicals. Further, all ten are proportional or some sort of hybrid of proportional, and a good showing will keep him neck and neck with Mitt Romney well into March.

Another graphic from the New York Times:

In other words, while Mitt’s likely to win the next five or even six states, it’s going to take him a lot longer to win the nomination if Newt (and Rick and Ron) stay in it. Newt is  a formidable opponent, and if Rick Santorum gets out, leaving his supporters to support Newt, then we see an even stronger Gingrich going into Super Tuesday.

Nate Silver, in one of his well-considered scenarios, lays it out well:

Mr. Romney endures a few more losses along the way, including in some midsize states, especially in the South. However, he wins the clear majority of contests. His advantages are accentuated by his performance in caucus states and his support amongautomatic delegates (the Republican equivalent of “super delegates”).

Volatility in the race decreases. Mr. Romney holds a stable if not overwhelming lead in national polls. There may be a point or two at which Mr. Romney loses a state unexpectedly, but this is not accompanied by a pronounced decline in his national poll ratings.

Meanwhile, some swing voters grow impatient with Mr. Gingrich, especially as his path to the nomination becomes more mathematically implausible. Some of them begin to support Mr. Romney just to get the contest over with.

Anyway you look at it, we’re in for four more months–at least!–of campaigning for the Republican nomination for the Presidency.

[New York Times] [Washington Post]