Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Polling Report: Special Michigan and Arizona Edition

This week's report begins with a question:

What would you call a candidate who LOST the following primaries: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Texas, New York, Massachusetts, California, Florida and Michigan?

How about, Mr. President.

That's right. Candidate Barack Obama lost every one of those primaries, and more, in 2008 yet won the nomination. That's why I'm not getting agitated over the latest results of the Republican race. As I've said over and over and over and over, Mitt Romney will be the GOP's nominee in 2012 even if he loses some big states. Granted, Michigan is different for Mitt; he's claiming pseudo-residency in the state and has set it up as a make-or-break contest. Obama at least won his home state, Illinois, so the comparison isn't perfect. But still, the national media's focus on whether Rick Santorum can win the nomination is a moot point. He can't, and he won't. To further muddy the picture, though, I will say that if he does manage to win it, the GOP will have committed hari-kiri.

The past three weeks have seen some extraordinary developments in the Republican Presidential Primaries. Rick Santorum caught fire (and brimstone) as the new, and probably final, conservative darling in the race. Romney made a few gaffes that have certainly hurt him, playing to a near-empty Ford's Field and citing his wife's two Cadillacs to name the main ones. What does it all add up to? A contested race that will probably drag on into the spring and even give Newt a chance to win his home state of Georgia.

On to the predictions.

First, in Arizona, the latest polls show that Mitt will win rather handily mainly because Santorum and Gingrich have pretty much conceded him the state. Arizona has a large Mormon population that will easily beat back the large Tea Party contingent at the polls (assuming that the Partiers can rush back from guarding the Mexican border in time to cast votes). Still, I think that Romney will need to win over 40% of the vote to make it convincing. Thusly:

Romney          43%
Santorum        30%
Gingrich          18%
Paul                 8%

In Michigan, things get complicated. In my view, Romney will need to win over 40% of the vote AND win by 10+ points to make a convincing statement. The polls aren't showing that, but if enough voters decide at the last minute that Santorum would be a sure loser in November, it could happen. I don't see it.

What is more likely to happen is that Mitt wins, but by 3 points or fewer and gets below 40%. In that case, Santorum can claim a win-by-losing argument because Romney keeps saying that this is one of his home states (even though most voters don't see the connection). The conservatives will have made their point and Santorum can then move on to Ohio and perhaps win that primary. He can also assume he'll win Pennsylvania, which would greatly complicate Mitt's message about electability.


Romney       39%
Santorum     37%
Paul             12%
Gingrich       10%

The race moves on to Super Tuesday. The national press will continue to talk about a brokered convention, which will not happen.  Romney will eventually be the nominee. Or have I said that already.

For more, please visit  www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives and Twitter @rigrundfest 


  1. I think you're right that Romney will be the nominee. Money is usually decisive (see: George Bush, 2000). However, I think you underestimate Santorum's chances (which I put at around 10%). Here's why:

    1. Romney's campaign has always been buttressed by inevitability and electability. As his electability advantage evaporates, he's left with inevitability, and as he loses contests -no matter how small - to Rick Santorum, inevitability wanes, too.

    2. No one in the GOP is passionate about Romney. They dislike him less than they hate Obama, but Santorum is better at serving up GOP red meat, and Romney is better at tin-eared gaffes.

    3. I expect Gingrich to be irrelevant after Super Tuesday, in which case Santorum coalesces the social conservative not-Romney vote.

    That said, I think Mitt has enough money and organization (it doesn't help that Santorum's not on the Virgina GOP ballot) to pull him through.

    Either way, I agree - there's no way the convention is brokered. We'll know the nominee by June (and probably by April).

    1. Good points. It's certainly possible for Santorum to win, but there are more moderate states that will not go near him. The GOP distaste for Mitt is interesting. I never thought they'd be so negative about him.

  2. One other point: in 2008, when Barack Obama lost those states, he lost them to Hillary Clinton, not, for example, Mike Gravel. In a sane political world, Rick Santorum would be a joke, and Romney can't put him away.

  3. The Obama Illinois to Romney and Michigan analogy grabs me as faulty. Obama is originally from Hawaii but his political career was and current home is in Illinois; Romney is originally from Michigan but his political career was and current home is in Massachusetts. Of course, Obama handily won the Hawaii Primary in 2008 (http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Hawaii_2008_presidential_primary_and_superdelegates), so the conclusions remain valid.

  4. Thanks for the post. Romney has made a big deal about Michigan, so that's why I mention it. As for Obama, I prefer to use the state that he represented, since that would have been a bigger upset had he lost it.

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