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Five Surprising Super Tuesday Predictions

March 07, 2012 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2012

Here are five surprising 2012 Super Tuesday delegate predictions, based on my analysis of Real Clear Politics polling averages, public opinion polls, straw polls, and recent events in the ten states voting tomorrow.

(The takeaway: Non-Romney candidates will have their moments in the sun… and then the Romney juggernaut will continue crushing everything in its path.)

Prediction #1: In almost every primary state, the candidate who wins the most delegates will win more delegates than all other candidates combined in that state

In other words, in each of the seven primary states (not the three caucus states, where anything goes), one candidate will almost always win more than 50% of that state’s delegates.  This may seem surprising, given the fractious nature of the 2012 GOP primaries, dispersed support for the remaining candidates, and the proportional nature of delegate allegation.  However, these states’ apportionment systems are quasi-proportional, which means that large numbers of delegates end up going to the top two (occasionally three) candidates, and none to those who fail to meet a minimum threshold of 15% or 20% of the vote.  An even larger haul goes to the first-place winner, even if he beats the runner-up by only a small percentage.

Prediction #2: Rick Santorum will win only two states, Oklahoma and Tennessee

Santorum leads the polls in these two southern states, but Romney’s ahead of Santorum in the other eight.  Ohio’s too close to call but has been trending toward Romney since his Michigan victory.  Santorum failed to submit complete paperwork for nine Ohio districts, which makes him ineligible for 18 state delegates.  This means that recent polls showing him and Romney neck-and-neck may overpredict Santorum’s delegates relative to Romney’s.  If Santorum takes Ohio, the deciding factor may be Operation Hilarity.

Prediction #3: Only Romney will win delegates in all 10 states—and he’ll win at least 10 in each state

Romney is second in the polls to Santorum in two states, second to Newt Gingrich in one, and on top in the other seven.  Vermont has only 17 delegates, but Romney is heavily favored to win there.  Ron Paul will do better in caucus states—Idaho (32 delegates), North Dakota (28), and Alaska (27)—but Romney should do well enough to pick up 10 delegates each.  Second-place Santorum will win nothing in Virginia, where he’s not on the ballot, and possibly none in Idaho, where he received 0 votes in a Tea Party Straw Poll.  For about half the states, Paul and Gingrich will pick up no delegates.

Prediction #4: Paul will win more delegates in Idaho than in the other nine states combined

Paul does better in small caucus states, where his well-organized operation is more influential (i.e. where his fanatical supporters can rig the vote).  Santorum will likely be eliminated in early rounds of voting in Idaho, where candidates are dropped in successive rounds until one has at least 50% of the vote.  Outside of the three caucus states, Paul should win at most five delegates, all in Virginia.  Paul cleaned up in early caucus states, but he won’t be able to replicate that success in the proportional allocation states.  He will likely be the only candidate who doesn’t win more delegates on Super Tuesday than he has won to date.

Prediction #5: After Romney’s rout on Tuesday, Santorum will still have at least half the number of Romney’s delegates and a quarter of all delegates awarded to date

Romney’s likely to clean up on Super Tuesday; Gingrich is far from his December polling highs; and Paul never had a chance of winning the nomination; but the race isn’t over, if only because the three also-rans are too stubborn to quit.  It’ll be virtually impossible for Gingrich or Paul to reach the required 1,144 delegates to win—either would have to win about 75% of the remaining delegates.  Santorum’s not likely to quit soon, even though he’d have to win two-thirds of the remaining delegates, which would be possible only in the event of a major Romney scandal or sudden shift in public opinion.

As Romney’s political director put it, Santorum’s showing on Super Tuesday will not “do anything to cut the delegate lead.  He is going to fall further and further behind.  It becomes a mathematical battle as much as it is a political one, and the math just doesn’t add up for Santorum.”  (As one Santorum senior strategist put it, “The argument that math is on their side is uninspiring and laughable,” which just proves that the Santorum campaign doesn’t understand math.)

Note: For these predictions I used RCP polling averages, recent polls where averages were unavailable, and straw poll results.  I made no firm predictions for fruity caucus state North Dakota, for which there was only a Tea Party straw poll last fall in which Herman Cain won and Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich didn’t even place; and nutty caucus state Alaska, for which there was only a poll from October 2010 with Mike Huckabee in first place.  Nate Silver and Intrade were not consulted for this article.

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Dear Newt: Please Stick Around as Long as You Like

February 01, 2012 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2012

Much has been written about 2012 GOP presidential primary frontrunners Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich’s weaknesses as candidates.

Less has been written about how they stand up next to each other, and whom the comparison favors.  A close look at their records makes it clear that Romney can only benefit from Gingrich staying in the race as long as possible.

Gingrich will likely help Romney in two ways: first, by making Romney seem more conservative to hesitant members of the Tea Party wing of the GOP.  This will happen via Gingrich’s patchwork quilt of liberal positions on such issues as Romney’s role at Bain Capital (“Exploitive!”), Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity (“Right-wing social engineering!”), and Nancy Pelosi’s cap-and-trade bill (“Bipartisan!”).

Second, Gingrich may push Romney to the right on some issues, nudging his competitor to come out more forcefully for the conservative aspects of his platform and commit to them more unwaveringly as campaign promises.

(This is in contrast to the advantage Romney gains by Ron Paul staying in the race, which is for Paul to make Romney seem like a spring chicken with a manly laugh instead of an old goat with a girlish giggle.)

Newt’s attacks on Romney from the left will help Romney develop defenses against the charges the Obama campaign will inevitably fling at him in the general election.

And positions on which Gingrich is good—for example, his promise to repeal Obamacare on his first day in office—may spur Romney to take ever bolder stances.  If you have any doubts about Romney fulfilling his oath to issue a 50-state executive waiver, Newt’s upping the ante on Obamacare will make it harder for Romney to back down.  Newt’s grandiosity, however annoying and impracticable, will prod Romney to promise and act bigger.

(Give Newt credit, I guess, for proposing too many ideas rather than too few.  It’s just that voters get suspicious when the ideas include things like giving the moon statehood.)

Newt’s arrogance and intemperance will make Romney seem even-handed and statesmanlike.  Take Newt’s petulant refusal to debate Obama in the general election if the events are moderated by “the media.”  And they say Newt won’t help build party unity!

What of Newt’s endless, reckless assaults on Romney?  Won’t they hurt Romney in voters’ eyes?  I doubt it.  Being called fickle by Newt is like being called a blowhard by Al Sharpton.

But it’s not only Newt’s venomous attacks on Romney that will drive voters to side with the former Massachusetts governor.  Newt’s pathetic justifications for his dips in the polls and poor recent debate performances belie his claim that Romney is the forked-tongue prevaricator in the race.  My favorite Newt excuse, on his Tampa debate with Romney last week, is: “I stood there thinking, ‘How can you say these things you know are falsehoods?’  That’s why I was quiet, because there was no civil way to call him out on what was in fact a series of falsehoods that were astonishing.”  Because if there’s one thing we know about Newt, it’s that he’d rather be quiet than uncivil!

Or consider this half-baked zinger, which Gingrich offered as a rationalization for why Romney would win the Florida primary: “He can bury me for a very short amount of time with four or five or six times as much money, most of it raised in Wall Street from the guys who got bailouts from the government.”

Let’s unpack this obfuscating, run-on defense, which sounds like something a Democrat would say.  Under normal circumstances, we tend to accept that candidates who raise lots of cash have many passionate supporters.  Gingrich himself has been bragging about how much cash he raised after his unexpected South Carolina victory.  Now suddenly campaign cash is bad?

“A very short amount of time” implies that Romney will best Gingrich in the polls for just a few days, maybe a few weeks—a mere blip in the unstoppable wave of his opponent’s gathering momentum.  Um, wait—doesn’t that precisely describe Gingrich’s standing?

As for Wall Street: Which former GOP Speaker of the House supported the September 2008 bank bailout?  Why, that’s right—Newt Gingrich!

Gingrich has threatened to stay in the race until the 2012 Republican National Convention in August.  I say bring it on.

Romney doesn’t give the GOP exactly what it wants as a candidate, but what he gives us is better than what any of the remaining candidates gives us—and Newt’s presence in the race makes Romney an especially appealing contrast.  Rick Santorum obsesses over social issues and is an unreliable fiscal conservative.  Ron Paul is terrible on foreign policy.  But Newt is in a category of his own: erratic and reckless, bombastic and bloviating, he alienates independents, many conservatives, and probably his own dog.

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South Carolina Disenfranchises Camera-Shy Voters

January 18, 2012 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2012

Ahead of its 2012 GOP presidential primary, South Carolina is under fire for having enacted a voter identification law that would require citizens to show poll workers a photo ID before voting.  (You know—sort of like having to pay a poll tax and prove your ancestors came over on the Mayflower.)

The law is intended to curb voter fraud, which is more prevalent in South Carolina and other southern states and states with relatively small populations.  Some states’ historically corrupt local governments and proximity to the Mexican border have yielded a disproportionate incidence of voter-impersonation fraud, including non-citizens voting, ex-felons voting, and dead people voting.  Small populations increase the influence that a handful of invalid votes can have on a precinct’s outcome.

Seven states besides South Carolina require a government-issued photo ID to vote: Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Kansas.  Seven additional states require a simple photo ID: Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Michigan, South Dakota, Idaho, and Hawaii.  Three state legislatures passed photo ID laws in 2011 but were blocked by their governors’ vetoes.  Sixteen other states require non-photo identification.

So South Carolina isn’t exactly doing something new and different.

Naturally, the Obama camp has been riling up its base by accusing Republicans of trying to disenfranchise minorities.  Last month the Obama Justice Department blocked South Carolina’s attempts to implement its law, claiming that the statute violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965—the first time the Department has interfered with a state’s voter ID requirements since 1994.  The Department is also taking its sweet time approving Texas’s recently passed voter ID law.

On Monday, Attorney General and chief racial instigator Eric Holder ginned up the controversy again at a Martin Luther King rally in Columbia, South Carolina.

Democrats use this tired old tactic time and again: Take a perfectly neutral, fair-minded policy whose originators don’t consider or mention race in the slightest, then twist it to make it look as though people who support it are bigots.  College admissions committees should be color-blind?  Racist.  Black firefighters should pass the same test as white and Hispanic firefighters?  Racist.  Voters should produce photo IDs before they vote?  Racist.

Opponents of the law argue that, since getting a photo ID costs money, the voter ID requirement constitutes an illegal poll tax.  Never mind that it’s free to get a state-issued ID in South Carolina, and that Governor Nikki Haley has supplied taxpayer-funded, free carpools to take people to pick up their free IDs at the DMV.

The Supreme Court concluded, in its 2008 rejection of a challenge to Indiana’s voter ID law, that requiring voters to obtain an ID is not an unseemly burden.  Tellingly, the plaintiff was unable to produce a single witness who couldn’t meet the voter ID requirement.  Even liberal stalwart John Paul Stevens joined the 6-3 majority and penned its consensus decision.  (In his dissent, Justice Souter wrote that the state must provide evidence of voter fraud before it can pass a voter ID law, which is like saying that a jurisdiction must provide evidence of stolen credit cards before it can pass a law against identity theft.)

Another nonsensical argument is that South Carolina is using a states’ rights position to defend its law, which it used to defend slavery and racial segregation; therefore, voter ID laws are racist.  Yet South Carolina has been battling the federal government recently over other states’ rights issues, such as ObamaCare and the NLRB’s lawsuit against Boeing for moving jobs from Washington to South Carolina.  The Palmetto State is currently ground zero for states’ rights defenses against federal overreach, and none of it has a whit to do with race.

The media has also been linking South Carolina’s efforts with all sorts of other “racially tinged” proposals emanating from the campaign trail, such as Newt Gingrich’s suggestion that children help keep their schools clean and Rick Santorum’s comment about not wanting minorities to be dependent on government.  Tied together with all of this “coded language” and “racial politicking,” the media is invoking a “climate” of intolerance among GOP nominees and prepping for a revival of the “Republicans Hate Obama Because He’s Black” campaign theme for the fall.

What all of the opponents of the statute have failed to answer is: Why will the new voter ID law specifically disenfranchise blacks?  Are African Americans unable to get driver’s licenses?  Do they not have access to hundreds of local state facilities where an employee will take their picture, put it on a card, and give them an ID?  If African Americans can register and get out to vote every two or four years, why can’t they go pick up a one-time ID?  Do Democrats not consider blacks capable of taking that step?

In response to these ridiculous criticisms, state legislatures have bent over backwards to make it easy for voters to get IDs.  In addition to Nikki Haley’s Reliable Chauffer Service, the Indiana law allows voters without IDs at the voting booth to cast provisional ballots, so long as they bring their ID cards back or get new ones in the next 10 days, or else sign a statement saying they can’t afford one.  Are Democrats insinuating that blacks can’t fill out forms?

Voting is a right—but it doesn’t take place in a vacuum, and states may use constitutional means to enforce fair, non-fraudulent voting activity on their turf.

No one’s saying we need voter ID laws in every state, or that such laws can’t vary in strictness.  But on this states’ rights issue, South Carolina has determined it needs this particular law to ensure the integrity of its elections.

We need photo IDs to buy alcohol, drive a car, fly on a plane, get a library card, rent a movie, cash a check, enter federal buildings, and collect welfare.  Many of those reviews involve verifying age, residency, credit history, or citizenship; but presenting a voter ID confirms something more fundamental—identity.  Why are Democrats so scared of voters’ having to be who they say they are when they vote?

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