there is continued resistance to Mitt Romney in the GOP among evangelicals. These voters are concentrated largely, but not exclusively, in the South. And as we see, the former House speaker ran well in South Carolina as well as in northern Florida. This caused many to conclude that Gingrich was on the verge of emerging as the definitive not-Romney.
But now we have to consider that Santorum has won Iowa and Minnesota in the Midwest, and won Colorado largely on the strength of his showing in eastern Colorado (which is basically the Great Plains). He also won Missouri -- which is culturally more southern than Midwestern -- but Gingrich wasn’t on the ballot there. For now at least, he is the "anti-Romney" in the Midwest.
If this split continues -- Romney in the West and Northeast, Gingrich in the South, and Santorum in the Midwest -- we could easily find ourselves in a scenario where no candidate crosses the 1,144-delegate threshold by the time voting ends. Consider this: Right now, Romney barely has a majority of the delegates. If Gingrich successfully contests the winner-takes-all allocation in the Florida primary (based on the RNC’s rule against such a format before April), no one would have a majority of the delegates as of today.
We will find out how viable this path is in the next few weeks. In the lead-up to Super Tuesday, we’ll probably see Romney win Arizona, Michigan and Maine. Arizona and Maine are in his demographic wheelhouse, while he is a native Michigander and his father was governor of the state. Washington is a coastal state, where Romney’s strength hasn’t been tested, so it is up in the air.
Super Tuesday will likely be tougher for him. Four of the five largest states -- Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Georgia -- are Southern (or in Oklahoma's case, culturally Southern). Romney will likely win Virginia by default, but he will probably fare poorly in the remaining three. If Gingrich can maintain his strength in the South, he will likely win them.
On the other hand, Romney will probably do well in Massachusetts, Idaho and Vermont. Santorum seems well-positioned to win North Dakota.
So the viability of a three-way split probably comes down to Ohio, which has a fair number of evangelicals, though not to the degree that Tennessee, Oklahoma and Georgia do. Santorum has some strengths he can draw on in the Buckeye State, as his blue-collar message could play well even among Republicans there. If he wins, it means that we probably do have a deeply divided GOP, with Gingrich taking the anti-Romney vote in the South, and Santorum taking the anti-Romney vote in the Midwest.
The key is that neither Gingrich nor Santorum can begin to do so well that the other drops out. Both must remain effectively regional candidates.
Friday, February 10, 2012
Regional Split May Bring Us Broke
Real Clear Politics' Sean Trende spots a trend emerging -- Santorum winning the Midwest, Gingrich the South and Romney the Northeast and West -- that could lead to a brokered convention: