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Santorum Campaign: “Math Is Hard!”

March 14, 2012 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2012

On Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” GOP presidential soon-to-be also-ran Rick Santorum dismissed frontrunner Mitt Romney’s snowballing delegate count, declaring, “This isn’t a mathematical formula.”  Later that day he told a Fox News reporter, “It’s pathetic isn’t it?  I mean, now you’re gonna make the argument, ‘I should be president’ because of math.”

Actually, what isn’t mathematical about the delegate accrual process?

Presidential primary nomination season is rife with mathematical calculations.  Each state boasts its own complicated apportionment formula, ranging from mostly proportional to quasi-proportional to winner-take-all.  Savvy campaign managers earn big bucks planning winning strategies for accumulating the requisite number of delegates.  Campaign tacticians create sophisticated statistical models to predict state, district, and citywide outcomes and to plot contingency routes for reaching a majority of delegates.  Campaign finance staff forecast revenue from donations, estimate advertising costs, and manage a budget equivalent to that of a midsized company.

What does Santorum think is going to happen after his failure to clinch the nomination: that God will intervene and change the laws of mathematics for him?

What’s “pathetic,” to use Santorum’s term, is entering a process that requires careful strategizing, precise calculation, and detailed attention to trends on the ground—and then waving it all away, expecting one’s good intentions to carry the day.  How else can one explain the Santorum campaign’s idiotic failure to get on the ballot in multiple Ohio and Illinois districts, and its absence from the Virginia ballot?

Politics demands shrewdness, some crassness, a focus on the bottom line.  If that’s not your cup of tea, fine—there are many other noble professions to pursue that don’t involve calculating how the public will react to your every move and utterance.  But don’t get into politics and expect to be able to brush off pesky annoyances like arithmetic.

But back to the math: To win the GOP nomination, Romney must earn 47% of the remaining delegates; his average to date is 55%.  Santorum must earn 64% of the remaining delegates; his average is 26%.  That means that Santorum must more than double the share of delegates he’s taken in, from now until the last primary on June 26 in Utah.  And he must start now, at the very point in his campaign when he’s losing momentum like a car that’s run over a bear trap.

Santorum supporters claim the race is about to shift decisively in his favor, after upcoming primaries in conservative Southern states Mississippi and Alabama.  Yet Santorum is in third place in both states, trailing badly behind Romney and Gingrich.  How’s that Southern strategy working out for you, Rick?

Santorum isn’t even really pretending he can win 1,144 delegates anymore.  He’s mostly trying to keep Romney from doing so, hoping for a brokered convention in which he can twist enough arms to hand him the nomination against the wishes of a plurality of GOP primary voters.

Santorum is offended by the slow, plodding, methodical work needed to build widespread support and legitimacy among a broad base of the electorate.  He’s resting his hopes on swaying huge masses of emotional, uncommitted delegates at the GOP convention in August.  Blindly grasping at possibilities, he’s praying for uncertainty, chaos, a wrench in the system.  Even then, he hasn’t logically determined how he can win a brokered convention.

Santorum’s nomination strategy is about a step up in sophistication from Al Gore’s 2000 post-election day gamble.

Even when Santorum’s campaign flirts with math, it invokes, not a priori calculation and strategy, but post hoc rationalization and selective interpretation.  See, for example, this embarrassingly rosy-cheeked recent campaign memo.

When comparing himself to Romney, Santorum attacks the very concept of math, as if it offends him, just as his recent “snob” comment denigrated the idea of college.  The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin observed, “When you campaign against math and logic and tout your lack of money as a reason for voters to flock to you, you should take a breather and reflect on what you are doing.”

For the record, nobody ever said the nomination was all about math.  Despite the dastardly competence of his campaign staff, Romney wouldn’t have secured a solid footing in the GOP nomination process if his views had been repugnant and destructive.  (Securing the Democratic nomination with repugnant and destructive views—now that’s another story.)  When Romney says it’s all about math, he means the current stage of the nomination process, not the early stage when voters are forming their views of the candidates.

Romney isn’t arguing that he should be nominated because of math—he’s arguing that he will be nominated, because he engaged in the preparatory work to establish a winning candidacy, and has appealed to enough voters in strategically sound locations to establish a path to victory.  If Santorum doesn’t like that, then he should have gotten his ground game together a lot earlier, not waited and then complained about sour grapes.

Rejecting math won’t help Santorum, and if it keeps forcing Romney to spend money in an extended primary season, it may hurt Republicans.  As one recent Romney campaign memo put it, “As the other candidates attempt to ignore the basic principles of math, the only person’s odds of winning they are increasing are Barack Obama’s.”

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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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Santorum’s Sham Conservatism

February 15, 2012 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2012

Michael Barone titled a recent column “Romney Appeals to White Collars, Santorum to Blue.”  Santorum’s appeal to blue-collar workers—at least those who believe in hard work, small government, personal responsibility, and self-driven upward mobility—is highly suspect.

Santorum woos primarily conservative voters who obsess over opposing abortion and gay marriage.  These voters would gladly hand over the country to a big government “compassionate conservative,” so long as he channels his policies on social issues from holy men in white collars.

Mitt Romney downplays social issues relative to Santorum (which isn’t hard) and focuses on economic issues, emphasizing his private sector business experience running Bain Capital and the Salt Lake City Olympics.

How are “blue collar voters” supposed to get excited about a candidate whose strongest campaign positions are outlawing abortion and gay marriage rather than stopping the federal government from micromanaging our economy via taxes, regulations, and shovel-ready-job-killing “green” initiatives?

Santorum boosts “faith-based initiatives”—basically welfare redirected toward religious rather than secular agencies.  He calls for expanding Medicare, and authored a “Social Security Guarantee Act” that promises never to cut seniors’ benefits—in fact increases them every year.

As a Pennsylvania Senator, Santorum earmarked record amounts of money for public education and proposed more funding for the demonstrably worthless Headstart program.

Santorum sponsored a “Fair Care” act that would require taxpayers to subsidize continued health benefits for laid-off workers, and a “CARE Act” to deal with drug addiction, and wants more federal funding for organizations like “Healthy Start” and “Children’s Aid.”

He corralled federal funding to pay for low-income Americans’ heating bills.  He blocked federal legislation that would have made tiny cuts to food stamps.

He wants the U.S. to spend even more millions we don’t have to fight AIDS in Africa and genocide in the Sudan.  (Bono’s a big Santorum fan.)

He proposed a “Gasoline Affordability and Security Act” that would ban gas “price-gouging”—in 2005, years before the economic crisis and $4-a-gallon gasoline caused liberals to lose their minds over the fact that our gas prices were only moderately less expensive than Europe’s instead of much less expensive.

He bailed out Pennsylvania dairy farmers via the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program.

Why, Santorum is positively Reaganesque!

As Jonathan Rauch noted, Santorum favors “national service, ‘individual development accounts,’ publicly financed trust funds for children, community-investment incentives, economic literacy programs in every school in America, and more.  Lots more.”

And Santorum brags about all of this, on his website and in his campaign literature and in his books and on TV and in radio appearances and at voter rallies.  And then he has the temerity to lecture the GOP that he is the most conservative of the 2012 lineup.

In case you were wondering, Santorum dabbles in environmentalism when he has the time.  He secured $100 million in earmarks to build an expensive, inefficient “clean coal” plant in Pennsylvania.  He diverted funds to pay for restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and preservation of farmlands, natural resources that could otherwise have supported greater commercial fishing and agricultural activity.

If Santorum were merely a garden-variety big government type, I would call him a “Democrat” and move on.  But Santorum claims a different mantle.

Santorum has been making the rounds expressly rejecting the libertarian brand of conservatism, going so far as to say he has “real concerns” about the Tea Party, because they focus too much on economic and not enough on social issues.

Rauch notes that Santorum favors “promotion of prison ministries, strengthened obscenity enforcement, and covenant marriage”—all hot-button issues at the top of voters’ priority list this year.

In a disgusting interview with NPR in 2006, Santorum lamented, “[T]he left has gone so far left, and the right in some respects has gone so far right, that they touch each other…  This whole idea of personal autonomy—well, I don’t think most conservatives hold that point of view.  Some do.  They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low…”

Take away his opposition to abortion and gay marriage, and Rick Santorum doesn’t have a conservative bone in his body.

Santorum’s followers see his crusade as blinding white and pure, because it centers on the moral absolutes of two narrow religious issues on which at best half the country agree with him.

Given his 18-point loss in his senatorial reelection bid in his home state of Pennsylvania and his spiritual inclinations, it seems that Santorum’s true calling—and most suitable vocation after he loses the Republican presidential nomination—is that of a small-town preacher, or perhaps a Salvation Army volunteer.

While Rick Santorum courts evangelicals in a holy war to save fetuses and the exclusive legal status of opposite-sex marriage, Romney focuses on the issue that interests conservatives, moderates, and independents—our next president’s hands-off handling of the economy.

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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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Presidential Debate Cliffs Notes: So You Don’t Have To Watch

June 15, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2012

MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE- JUNE 13: Republican...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

John King: Welcome to our 2012 Republican primary debate.  On stage are all the candidates who felt like showing up tonight.  Let’s skip the boring opening statements and have candidates introduce themselves.

Rick Santorum: I’m a former senator who nonetheless has experience making tough executive governing managerial ruling leadership decisions.

Michele Bachmann: I’m a businesswoman with 5 children and 23 foster children.

Newt Gingrich: Obama sucks.

Mitt Romney: I lost in 2008, but that won’t happen again, because Republicans are the party of “it’s his turn.”

Ron Paul: I am a senator who used to deliver babies and now champions liberty and libertarianism.

Tim Pawlenty: I’m a husband, father, neighbor, and lover.  Of America.

Herman Cain: I am not a politician and have no political experience.  I know pizza.

King: What would you do to create jobs?

Cain: Uncertainty is stalling this train that is our economy.  We need to lower taxes, which is like greasing the caboose, and then decrease interest rates, which is like putting the fuel in the tank of the train that is our economy.

King: Is it possible for the economy to grow at 5% a year?

Pawlenty: Our president is an anemic declinist who thinks we can’t have 5% growth like China or Brazil.

King: What are your views on Dodd-Frank?

Bachmann: I’m looking forward to answering that question.  But first… Guess what: I’m running for president!

King: What three steps would you take to repeal ObamaCare?

Bachmann: I introduced the first bill to kill ObamaCare and will not rest until it is dead and buried.  Take that to the bank and cash the check.

King: Governor Romney, how will you ever be elected, given that you passed ObamaCare in Massachusetts?

Romney: That’s not fair.  Massachusetts’ plan was different, because it abridged people’s liberties and introduced massive regulations on the state level, not the federal level.

Pawlenty: Obama said he looked to Massachusetts as a model for his plan.  [Nelson Muntz laugh and finger-pointing at Romney]  Ha-ha!

King: Speaker, should there be an individual mandate, as you have passionately argued hundreds of times in the past before it became unpopular?

Gingrich: In addition to the presidency, we also need more Senate seats.

Audience member: Do you support right-to-work laws?

Pawlenty: Yes, even though I and most of my family have been in unions most of our lives.

Gingrich: I hope New Hampshire adopts it.  Why would you want to be stupid like California when you could be smart like Texas?

King: Every time we go to or come back from a break, I’m going to ask a pointless random personal question.  Leno or Conan?

Santorum: Leno.  Conan is too edgy.

King: And we’re back.  Elvis or Johnny Cash?

Bachmann: Both.  I love “Christmas with Elvis.”

Audience member: What assistance should government give to private industry?

Paul: None, duh.

King: Stop applauding, audience.  We know you’re Republicans and love their answers, but you’re taking up too much time.  Mr. Cain, why did you support TARP?

Cain: I actually supported TARP before I opposed it.

King: “Dancing with the Stars” or “American Idol”?

Gingrich: “American Idol.”

King: BlackBerry or iPhone?

Paul: BlackBerry.

Audience member: How will you keep Medicare solvent forever?

Paul: It is not solvent, will never be solvent, and was never designed to be solvent.  That’s why we need to cut our military.

Pawlenty: I have a plan that’s better than Paul Ryan’s.  I’m not going to show it to you.

King: Speaker, why did you call Ryan’s plan “social engineering”?

Gingrich: I put my foot in my mouth.  But the question was too narrow and the answer was taken out of context.

Audience member: How do you feel about separation of church and state?

Pawlenty: It was designed to protect religious people from atheists.

Paul: Congress should make no law abridging the right to express your faith, especially if it’s Christian.

King: Deep dish or thin crust?

Cain: Deep dish.

King: Spicy or mild barbecue?

Romney: Spicy, of course.

Audience member: Gay marriage is legal in New Hampshire.  Would you interfere with states’ rights on the issue?

Bachmann: Marriage should be between a man and a woman, because children need a mother and a father.  I come from a broken home, and I was raised by a single mother, and I turned out great.

King: Should Congress pass a federal marriage amendment, or should states deal with it?

Cain: States.

Paul: Get government out of marriage.

Pawlenty: Amendment.

Romney: Amendment.

Gingrich: Amendment.

Santorum: Amendment.

Bachmann: Oh, are all the real candidates in favor of an amendment?  Well, let me jump in and say that I am too, but let me also remind you that I don’t favor trampling on states’ rights, even though I’m totally contradicting myself.

Audience member: What are your views on immigration?

Gingrich: We are not a heartless nation.  We can kick 20 million people out of the country without being cruel.

King: Coke or Pepsi?

Pawlenty: Coke.

Audience member: Should we get out of Afghanistan?

Romney: We should bring the troops home quickly, assuming the Afghan military can defend the country against the Taliban, which it obviously can’t.

Paul: I would get us out of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and Pakistan, because we have no national security interests there, or anywhere else in the world.

Pawlenty: That’s crazy.  I favor defending the nation against outside threats.  Hello, it’s called “Commander in Chief”?

Cain: To paraphrase my grandmother, Libya is a mess.

King: Who made the worse vice presidential pick in 2008—Obama or McCain?

Pawlenty: Biden is a horse’s ass.

Romney: I have bad blood with Palin, so I’m going to avoid the question and just reiterate that Obama sucks.

King: What have you learned in the past two hours?

Santorum: Nothing.  If I’m delusional enough to think I have a chance of winning, do you think I’m capable of absorbing new information about the candidates or my prospects?

Bachmann: I’ve learned about the goodness of the American people.

Romney: New Hampshire loves the future.

Cain: It’s all about the children and the grandchildren.

King: Good night.  God, I feel old.

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