It's time to call this race

By Erin Riley in Sydney, Australia

7 March 2012

It's really over now. Mitt Romney is the nominee.

I mean, it was really over after Florida, but now the media will have to stop pretending it's a contest and Republicans will have to start acting like he's the presumptive nominee. Though Gingrich and Santorum may — and Paul will certainly — struggle on for a while, Romney can now pivot to the general.

Romney got Virginia and Vermont by reasonable margins — he got over 50 per cent in Virginia, which is impressive and will net him a lot of delegates, and beat Paul by a 14 per cent margin in Vermont, as well as completely destroying the competition in his home state — 70+ per cent there.

Gingrich got his home state of Georgia, but fell short of the 50 per cent he needed to lock in the delegates, so that won't hurt Romney in the long run. Santorum is continuing to do well in deep red states — they've called Tennessee for him, and he's looking good in Oklahoma too.

The only interesting contest left is in Ohio, where Santorum and Romney are neck-and-neck. Because Ohio borders Pennsylvania, there's something of a home state advantage for Santorum, but because of the importance of Ohio in the general, there could be some questions about Romney's electability if he doesn't manage to win there. But those questions won't actually mean anything, because with the number of delegates he'll net today, Romney's lead is unassailable.

No real results from Alaska, Idaho, and North Dakota yet. I suspect Romney will do very, very well in Idaho, but it'll be interesting to see the influence of the libertarian vote in Alaska and Idaho.

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Super Tuesday update: Romney rising

By Luke Freedman in Sydney, Australia

6 March 2012

Santorum on roof

Hope you enjoy the March 12th New Yorker cover as much as I did; parodying Mitt Romney’s infamous trip to Canada with the family dog strapped to the roof of the car. The problem with election predictions is that they can easily become obsolete by the following morning. This is not the case with yesterday’s Super Tuesday preview, but there has been some movement in the polls and it comes at the expense of Rick Santorum. As I noted yesterday, Romney’s previous momentum coupled with his ability to blanket the airwaves with ads gave him an excellent chance of reining in Santorum in Ohio. This is exactly what is happening, as the most recent data suggests Romney may have pulled slightly ahead in the state. Nate Silver’s election model, which yesterday gave Santorum a 57 per cent chance of winning in the state, now puts Romney as a 65 per cent favourite.

The news doesn’t get any better for Santorum down South. There isn’t enough recent data to make any definitive conclusions in Tennessee, but Romney appears to be making up ground there as well. There is now a real possibility that Romney could end up winning the most delegates in the state.

Romney was already slated to pick up the most delegates on Super Tuesday, and his margin of victory appears to be increasing. As for Santorum, it doesn’t bode well that he’s struggling in two states where the demographics skew so heavily in his favour. Heading into Super Tuesday, it’s looking like Romney is back in the driver’s seat.

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Super Tuesday: keep an eye on Ohio

By in Sydney, Australia

5 March 2012

Ohio Flag

Less than half the number of states are holding Super Tuesday elections as compared to 2008, but that does not mean that this year’s contest will be small or insignificant. On March 6, ten states will hold primaries or caucuses and "more delegates will be awarded than in in the first two months of the Republican presidential race combined." Here's what to expect on the biggest day of the election so far.

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Mitt Romney has now won four states in a row, and is looking to try and carry this momentum into Super Tuesday. Romney will win easily in Massachusetts (where he served as governor) and Virginia (where only he and Ron Paul collected enough valid signatures to even appear on the ballot). Along with these two important prizes, Romney should pick up Vermont as well.

Out West, Romney has a very good chance of winning in North Dakota, Idaho and Alaska. However, these small caucus states could also be prime Ron Paul territory. Paul may not appeal to a broad segment of the electorate, but he does have a fervent base of supporters. Less than 14,000 Alaskans showed up for the 2008 Republican caucus, and a small but committed group of Paul devotees could flip the state in his favour. Still, the delegate count in these three states is not large enough to substantially affect the outcome of the primary process.

Standing between Romney and a Super Tuesday blowout is the South. Santorum should pick up the most delegates in Oklahoma and probably Tennessee as well. Gingrich (yes, he's still in the race) is the heavy favourite in his home state of Georgia. It's unlikely that Romney will win any of these three states, but keep an eye on the results nonetheless. A narrow win Tennessee or even a close second place showing in Oklahoma could be evidence that Romney’s re-establishing himself as the clear frontrunner.

That leaves one final state to discuss, Ohio. Ohio is without a doubt the crown jewel of Super Tuesday. It has the second most delegates of the day after Georgia, but its significance is more intangible. Two very different narratives could emerge out of Super Tuesday depending on who claims the "Buckeye State." It's often remarked that the road to the White House runs through the Midwest, and so far Santorum has outperformed Romney in the Midwestern states. A win in Ohio, probably the most important state in the general election, would allow Santorum to reassert his message that he's the candidate best equipped to win in these key swing states.

On the other hand, if Romney wins there on Tuesday, the entire script changes. If he can't carry a state like Ohio, it becomes much harder for Santorum to sell himself as the populist alternative to Romney. A Romney victory would be an important first step in repairing his image amongst middle class blue-collar voters.

At this point, the race between Romney and Santorum in Ohio is too close to call. Nate Silver's election model currently gives Santorum a 57% chance of winning. However, as I mentioned the other day, Santorum's polling advantage in the state has been steadily declining over the last several weeks. Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball goes so far as to declare Romney the favourite in Ohio. As they correctly note, the Romney campaign has done very well in the few days before previous primaries by effectively utilising its organisational and monetary advantages. Santorum’s lead looks much more tenuous when you consider the final wave of Romney ads that are hitting the airwaves in Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati.

Still, even if Romney performs exceptionally well on Tuesday, the proportional system of delegate allocation makes it all but impossible for him to pull too far away from Santorum. Super Tuesday will greatly influence the trajectory of the race, but it won’t decide it altogether.


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Romney claims Arizona and Michigan

By Luke Freedman in Sydney, Australia

29 February 2012

Michigan Mitt

Romney wins Michigan! Mittpocaplyse averted! Now he doesn’t have to drop out of the race! As I mentioned previously, there was a fair amount of undue hysteria surrounding the Michigan primary. Romney narrowly losing a state where the delegates are divided proportionally would probably not have been the grave disaster people were making it out to be; especially when he was all but guaranteed to win Arizona on the same night.

While Romney didn’t need this win as desperately as many assumed, it was still an important night for the campaign. By winning both Arizona and Michigan, he keeps Santorum’s name out of the headlines, a noteworthy accomplishment given the upcoming Super Tuesday primaries. He also quells the doubts of those who had anointed Michigan the laboratory for testing Romney’s viability as a candidate. Even though the media was placing too much emphasis on the results of one state, you have to pay attention to the narrative they are drawing since it subsequently influences the perception of voters.

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The good news for Romney extends beyond Michigan. First, of course, there was his easy win in Arizona. Arizonans have to be feeling a bit spurned by the media, given how little attention was given to their primary. “The Grand Canyon State” is far from insignificant, it has the 16th largest population in the union and awards its delegates on a winner take all basis. Nate Silver notes that while Arizona is a “longtime member of the Republican coalition,” it’s also a state which “Democrats might have some hope of putting in play in November.” Today, Romney firmly asserted that he is the candidate best equipped to keep Arizona in the Republican column.

Romney also looks to be quietly narrowing the gap in Ohio. Santorum still holds a 8 point lead in the state, but he has to be feeling a little worried that polls had him 18 points ahead on February 15th. Ohio will probably be the biggest prize in the general election, and it would be huge for Romney to win there on Super Tuesday. I’ve criticized others for placing too much importance on individual states; but Ohio really is one worth obsessing over.


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