Primary Season Amnesia

[ Posted Monday, February 13th, 2012 – 17:37 UTC ]

The primary season opens with so many Republican candidates for the party's nomination for president that it seemingly takes forever just to ask each of them a single question in the televised debates. Three different Republican candidates win the first three states' races, in a wide-open contest with no incumbent on the ballot. The first results thin the large field of hopefuls, as minor candidates run out of funding and throw in the towel. As more states vote, the two top candidates get to a point in early February where they are neck-and-neck in the number of individual states won -- with the third candidate lagging, because his support is based mostly in the South. Ron Paul is also running, but not winning any states. Dark mutterings are heard about the presumed-frontrunner not being able to "close the deal," and about his overall weak support among conservatives in the party. The media is in a frenzy, all but drooling over the prospect of an open convention, where no Republican candidate has the magic number of delegates to secure the nomination.

While this all sounds very contemporary, what I'm describing is the 2008 primary season. This may come as a surprise, because few in the media have picked up on these similarities.

Four years and a few days ago -- February eighth, to be exact -- John McCain had won twelve states, Mitt Romney had won eleven, and Mike Huckabee had won seven. Huckabee took the first contest in Iowa, McCain picked up New Hampshire, and Romney won early votes in Wyoming and Michigan (his birth state). Unlike this year, Super Tuesday was very early -- pushed all the way to the beginning of February -- which is why so many states had voted by this point. McCain, right after Super Tuesday, had the following states in his column (in rough order of when they voted): NH, SC, FL, AZ, CA, CT, DE, IL, MO, NJ, NY, OK. Mitt Romney had at this point won: WY, MI, NV, ME, AK, CO, MA, MN, MT, ND, UT. Mike Huckabee had picked up: IA, AL, AR, GA, TN, WV, KS. Huckabee went on to win a few more states, but John McCain swept all the remaining contests to put him over the halfway point of total convention delegates (the "magic number") by early March.

But the point is, the race had gone on much longer in 2008 than it has in 2012, when measured by the number of states which had voted. Four years ago, thirty states had voted by the first week in February. This year, only nine have so far held their Republican contests. This is due to the Republican Party moving the date of Super Tuesday back one month, to the first week in March.

Even accounting for such differences, the 2008 race was still a very close three-way contest in early February. Romney and McCain were almost even in states won, with Huckabee not all that far behind. This year, Mitt Romney has won four states, Rick Santorum four, and Newt Gingrich one.

You'd think the media would remember these facts, but (once again) we are being subjected to endless stories about how downright unique the 2012 Republican primary season is, along with the exact same storylines that ran in 2008 about the frontrunner not being able to close the deal, especially with conservative voters. McCain, back then, raised just as many suspicions among the conservative Republican base that he "wasn't one of us" that Romney now hears.

Of course, there are differences. The favorite candidate of the social conservatives in the party is running in second place this time, instead of Huckabee's third place. Ron Paul is doing a lot better than he did in 2008, but has still yet to win a single state. The glitzy candidates back in 2008 had already dropped out (Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson), whereas this year Newt Gingrich is still hanging in there.

Super Tuesday may not crown a winner this year, but we could see another candidate drop out immediately afterwards (Newt, I'm looking in your direction...). Mitt Romney threw in the towel last time around, which left the relatively weak Huckabee still going up against McCain. This time around, if Romney and Santorum split most of the Super Tuesday states, it may be a much more even contest.

History never repeats itself, at least not exactly. But the similarities between the 2008 Republican primary race and the 2012 primary season are arguably more numerous than the differences.

Someone should alert the media.

To be fair, political reporters and pundits and other assorted wonks on the internet dearly love a good fight. Conflict equals viewers and readers. "Coronations" where one candidate just romps home without any real opposition equals a race so boring that everybody stops paying attention. There's a certain degree of self-interest involved, to put it another way. On top of this is the fact that news which is deemed "fresh" and "unique" and "never-before-seen" is obviously a bigger pull than "here we go again."

Perhaps, during the current lull in primaries building up to Super Tuesday, political reporters will get so starved for stories that a few of them might snap out of their self-induced amnesia and realize that the 2008 Republican primary race was also a rollercoaster ride. John McCain had to fight hard for the nomination, and suffered serious setbacks along the way. I realize it's easier to write another "This year is so unlike any other year in American history!" story, but maybe the two-week pause will inspire at least a few in the punditocracy to question whether that is really all that true or not. Stranger things have happened, one might say.

-- Chris Weigant


Cross-posted at Business Insider
Cross-posted at The Huffington Post

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


22 Comments on “Primary Season Amnesia”

  1. [1] 
    dsws wrote:

    the exact same storylines that ran in 2008 about the frontrunner not being able to close the deal, especially with conservative voters. McCain, back then, raised just as many suspicions among the conservative Republican base that he "wasn't one of us" that Romney now hears

    I'm dubious that McCain "raised just as many suspicions among the conservative Republican base that he "wasn't one of us"" as Romney. Part of the reason Romney couldn't keep up in 08 was that conservatives didn't like him. McCain wasn't from the People's Republic of Taxachusetts. Or are we the Taxachusetts SSR? I forget. Either way, conservatives regard us as pretty darn unAmerican.

    McCain wasn't the first choice of the fringe-of-the-fringe, but I didn't get the impression of him as being in the same league with Romney on that criterion.

  2. [2] 
    Osborne Ink wrote:

    The ugliest element of tea parties showed up at Sarah Palin rallies after the convention. Now it's in charge of CPAC. My takeaway from the GOP nomination race this year versus 4 years ago is that the conservative *movement* is different now.

  3. [3] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    mccain had a very different constituency than romney has. first of all, mccain was never particularly favored by the GOP establishment. i think his supporters got a set of steak knives every hundredth time they said "maverick," but the label existed for a reason. mccain-feingold tried to limit the influence of soft money, and mccain even challenged obama to stick to his early pledge on public financing. romney on the other hand revels in pressing his use of unlimited money for unlimited super-PAC attack ads. mccain may have strayed a bit to pander to his corporate base, but romney is the perfect representative of his corporate base. he is them and they are him.

    then, as matt says, the tea party is very different from what existed in '08. there's a feeling out there that maybe, just maybe, they won't just "fall in line" as republicans usually do. i'm generally the first to believe that conventional wisdom will win out where the R's are concerned, but romney is such an archetype for corporate money buying its way into politics, i have just a fraction of an inkling that this time the true-believers could potentially win out.

  4. [4] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    I recall O and Hillary engaged in a food fight, trying to close the deal.

  5. [5] 
    Michale wrote:

    I recall O and Hillary engaged in a food fight, trying to close the deal.

    :D The Dem 2008 Primary was a case study in Party Members eating their own..

    That level of acrimony is truly unmatched to date.

    Having said that, the current stage of the GOP primary is fascinating.. It will be interesting to see if Steele's plan of a longer primary to better vet candidates will pay dividends in the General..


  6. [6] 
    dsws wrote:

    What's really distinctive about this campaign is how extreme the flavor-of-the-week pattern was. Romney was established as the front-runner very early, but never passed 30% support, while candidate after candidate soared and crashed.

    Hillary was supposedly-inevitable very early, but we didn't have the same kind of series of rejected alternatives. We had a small core of Hillary supporters and a small core of Obama supporters, with Hillary starting out as the default choice among the rest. Edwards ran, but he never had a chance. He was just too sleazy-lawyer-ish for this soon after Bill Clinton.

  7. [7] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    What's really distinctive about this campaign is how extreme the flavor-of-the-week pattern was.

    The Dems only concern in 2008 seemed to come down to whether they wanted a female or an African-American in the White House, for the first time in history. Beyond that, there wasn't a heck of lot of difference between Hillary in O, except that he wanted a public option and she wanted a mandate. And what did liberals end up with? The first American-American in the White House, pulling the public-option rug out from under them and delivering Hillary's mandate, as ordered to by the insurance lobbyist. Hahaha! Change you can believe in, people!

  8. [8] 
    abulsme wrote:

    Sorry for the really long comment... probably should just post on my blog. :-)

    The media narrative in 2008 at this point in time may well have been that McCain was having problems closing the deal, but looking at delegate counts, there was a very different story. There was NOT a close three way race in mid-February. Take a look at my page showing how the delegate race played out in both parties last time around:

    By this time in February (indeed, essentially immediately following Super Tuesday, but he continued to consolidate after) McCain had essentially already put this away.

    The key thing I use to measure this is the percent of the remaining delegates available that the candidate would need to cinch the nomination. This takes into account both what the candidates already have gotten, and the dwindling number of remaining delegates available to catch up. At this point in February 2008, McCain had amassed a big enough lead that he had over 60% of the delegates allocated thus far, and only needed about 35% of the remaining delegates to clinch the nomination. In other words, he could do much worse than his record up to that point and still win. By comparison, at this point his closest competition was Romney, who had collected about 22% of the delegates so far, and would have needed to get about 87% of the remaining delegates to catch up and win. 87%!!!! Compared to the 22% he had managed so far! This was not a realistic outcome absent a major McCain collapse or scandal... and probably the other candidates dropping out too.

    Starting with Super Tuesday last cycle, you can see the clear pattern of McCain completely dominating the race and all other opponents just falling further and further behind while McCain races toward clinching the nomination. Any narrative about him not closing the deal was just not borne out by the numbers.

    As you pointed out, the HUGE difference is that we have had less states and a smaller percentage of the delegates allocated so far. Even super Tuesday will be smaller than last time, everything is just more spread out that last time, which means in terms of TIME (as opposed to states) one would of course expect it to take longer for things to settle.

    (And indeed perhaps, really, the better time to compare to would have been mid to late January in 2008, when things really were still more unsettled and less states had voted... McCain only even took the delegate lead from Romney on January 30th or so...)

    But sticking with February and comparing this year:

    Looking at the "% of remaining needed to win" you see all the non-Romney's rapidly heading upward. With each contest (with the exception of Newt's win in South Carolina) even if they win, they aren't winning by big enough margins to be on a pace to actually win the nomination outright. Meanwhile though, there is a big difference from 2008. Rather than Romney's numbers indicating that he is getting an easier and easier path to the nomination after each state as he gains more and more delegates, we see him hovering around 50%. Right now he is slightly under. (I should say at this point that I use the delegate estimates from the primaries and caucuses by The Green Papers, and the Super Delegate estimates from Democratic Convention Watch.) Romney is staying flat, but to "close the deal" in terms of winning outright before the convention, he has to actually start collecting delegates at a slightly faster pace than he has been so far.

    Right now Romney's closest competition is still Gingrich (although Santorum is closing fast). Right now Gingrich has 17.9% of the delegates so far, and would need to get 54.0% of the remaining delegates remaining to catch up and win. (Santorum and Paul would have to do even better than that.) Now, 54.0% is not an outrageous number, but it is more than three times better than he has been doing so far!!! If that were to start to happen (or the equivalent with the other candidates) it would be a HUGE change compared to what has happened so far in the race. And it would have to happen soon, because if not, that 54% is just going to rise and it will get harder and harder to catch up. One of the other candidates catching up and winning is not impossible, but it would take a major seismic shift changing the dynamics of the race. Perhaps Gingrich continuing to drop rapidly with Santorum picking up most of his support, winning Michigan and getting momentum out of that going into Super Tuesday would do that... but it still needs to be a big change for one of these guys to catch up.

    Meanwhile, so far Romney has 49.8% of the delegates so far, but would need 50.1% of the remaining delegates to close the deal. So he has to improve his performance, but just by a LITTLE bit in order to be on pace to actually win the nomination... a few nice big winner take all states would most likely be enough to do the trick. But he is NOT putting it away or closing the deal yet. If all the not-Romney's combined keep operating at about the level they have been, Romney would get to the convention just short of the 1144 delegates he needs.

    Now, there is a long time between now and then, and if he wins the winner take all states and doesn't completely collapse in the proportional states, he should be able to do that "little bit better" that he needs and wrap this up. At the moment though, none of his competition are in a position to actually WIN unless there are dramatic changes in the dynamics of the race (for instance one of them drops out), but they ARE in a position to block Romney from getting 1144 if they continue to do as well or better (collectively) as they have so far...

    (In 2008 at this point, all of McCain's competition combined were not in a realistic position to even keep him from getting the magic number, let alone catching up to win.)

    None of this means I'm predicting a brokered convention... yet. But if Romney is still above 50% of remaining delegates needed after we pass Super Tuesday... then I'll start to look at that as a realistic possibility. Until then, he is still actually the front runner, although he has clearly lost some momentum.

    But Arizona is winner take all, and he is still way ahead there. Michigan is proportional, so chances are even if Santorum wins, it won't be by enough to actually be on a pace to catch up. A win there would clearly put Romney in danger on Super Tuesday though. But more immediately Arizona is the one to watch because it is winner take all. If Romney wins that, then he consolidates his lead, regardless of what happens in Michigan. If Romney LOSES there... then he is in real trouble.

  9. [9] 
    abulsme wrote:

    One more follow up thought... it really is very important that the calendars are so different between this year and 2008... so let me explicitly do the conversion. As of today, 2012 Feb 14, we have 10.98% of the available delegates allocated or estimated. The closest comparison we would have had in 2008 was February 4th and 5th, at which point 9.41% of the available delegates had been allocated.

    On that day... McCain was ahead of Romney, but just barely. McCain had 43.3% of the delegates so far (and needed 50.7% of the remaining delegates to win). Meanwhile Romney was his closest competition and right behind... 41.1% of the delegates so far (and 51.0% of the remaining delegates needed to win.) This was still a race. These guys were very close to each other at that point. (Unlike this year, where Romney has a very substantial lead on Gingrich at this point.)

    So if anything, at a comparable point in the delegate race (as opposed to the time of year) Romney is actually MUCH better off than McCain was at the same point. Gingrich is much further behind Romney than Romney was behind McCain. Romney and McCain were neck and neck. Gingrich is nowhere close to Romney in delegates, and everybody else is even further behind.

    But February 5th was Super Tuesday. It took several days for all the delegate estimates from Super Tuesday to be complete... but most of them were in by February 8th, and no other primaries or caucuses had happened yet. At that point 50.29% of the delegates had been allocated. McCain now had 59.6% of the delegates so far, and only needed 40.3% of the remaining delegates to get to the magic number and win the nomination. Romney by contrast, now had only 23.9% of the delegates and needed a full 76.5% of the remaining delegates to catch up and win.

    So post-Super Tuesday, McCain could do worse than he had done so far by a 20% margin and still win. But Romney needed to more than triple how he had been doing in the delegate count to catch up and win. These are again the kind of numbers where the press will still call it a race because it is fun, but the reality is that in order to close that kind of gap the front runner essentially has to totally collapse AND things have to go very very right for their challenger too...

    As for this year, things are MUCH more spread out. After Super Tuesday we'll still only have some 35% of the total delegates allocated, as opposed to over 50% in 2008. So even if after super Tuesday, Romney is finally starting to get his "% of remaining needed to win" to come down instead of staying flat, he'll have a decent slog to actually collect the 1144 delegates. If he still is hovering around 50% of the delegates (or less!) at that point instead of routinely winning more than half of the delegates, then we'll have quite a nice bit of fun before we get to the end of this, and the possibilities of brokered conventions start becoming more real.

    But in terms of the delegate race, in comparison to 2008, it is really very early. On February 14th 2008, 56.55% of the delegates were already allocated. We won't get to that point in 2012 until the end of March or beginning of April (depending on how fast super delegates announce their positions). It was very front loaded last time. This time it is very stretched out....

  10. [10] 
    abulsme wrote:

    That comment will make even more sense when Chris approves the comment I made earlier, which looks like it is still awaiting moderation since it contained links. :-)

  11. [11] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    dsws -

    Romney was actually seen as MORE conservative, in 2008, than John McCain (at least during the primary season). I can look up articles if you need proof, but McCain was seen through VERY suspicious eyes by the conservatives back then. Remember, that whole "Maverick" thing was being a maverick against his own party.

    Osborne Ink -

    Yeah, they've lurched rightward, from what I can tell...

    nypoet22 -

    OK, the "steak knives" quip was pretty funny, I have to admit. But McCain was a maverick on foreign policy, at times, as well -- which really stuck in the craw of the loyal Bush faction.

    Chris1962 -

    Very true, but there's just no news in Democratic PrimaryLand this year... my coverage is going to be necessarily lopsided this time around.

    Remember, though, the mavens at the RNC decided that the Hillary/Obama fight actually did Obama a lot of good ("toughened him up") in 2008, which is why the primary rules for Republicans are different this time around (e.g.: moving Super Tuesday back a month, proportional delegates until April Fool's Day, etc.) The RNC watched Hillary and Obama and thought "this is actually a good thing," remember...

    Strangely, I think that the GOP race is going to play out exactly as the GOP establishment wanted it to: a slightly-longer period of real competition, followed by the usual Republican "fall in line behind the winner" thing. Whether they were right to want that is an open question, but I think they're going to get exactly what they planned on. Make of that what you will.

    Michale [5] -

    [Aside: See, Chris1962? Even Michale agrees with me (sort of)!]

    I had forgotten that it was Steele who put this plan together, thanks for that reminder.

    dsws -

    I beg to differ. Edwards got the "Ron Paul" treatment by the media -- he was never GIVEN a chance, even after placing second in Iowa. If Edwards had actually won Iowa, maybe things would have been a bit different. Remember, nobody knew about his "zipper problem" at the time....

    Chris1962 -

    Well, Obama never sponsored a flag-burning amendment to the Constitution, either. Ahem. Sorry, meant to type: "You're largely right, though snarky..." Don't know how I could have mistyped that...

    abulsme -

    Welcome back!

    abulsme (a.k.a. "Sam") is my unindicted co-conspirator (so to speak) from our 2008 Electoral Math series, here. Before I get to answering him, I have good news to announce to all readers: we are teaming up again this year to provide the same high-quality graphs we provided four years ago, in a new 2012 version of the column series! Woo hoo! Because I am lazy, and because I am consumed by another writing project this year, it may take a few weeks or even months to get this effort moving, but it was such big news that I had to insert it as a public service announcement!

    OK, as to your comment... sorry it took a while to get the first one approved (see: previous laziness characterization).

    OK, you are obviously bent on spoiling my fun, here. Heh. Yeah, Romney's states were pretty tiny, Electoral College-wise, which is why he dropped out of the race right after Super Tuesday -- even with all those states, the electoral math pretty much showed that his chances were toast (something it took Hillary a LONG time to admit, just to be fair). But that didn't stop me from writing this, as a commentary on the laziness of the media this time around.

    The biggest difference between 2008 and 2012 is the number of states voting by this point: 30 versus 9. That's a big change in pace. As the RNC planned for, this time.

    Thank you for pointing out your sources, though, because I've been searching for such hard data and have not been able to find it through the more mainstream sources.

    What interests me is when Newt will effectively drop out of contention. This doesn't mean he'll quit the race, but when he'll stop being a distraction for the non-Romney voters and start pulling single digits repeatedly. Of course, Newt could surge again (stranger things have happened), but right now I'm betting not.

    Did AZ lose half its delagates? It's supposed to, if it is indeed winner-take-all.

    And the important question: any news or polls from the Northern Marianas contest on Feb. 25? Heh. Inquiring minds want to know...

    Multiple links cause delays in comment postings... post one link per comment, and they'll automatically post. Just FYI!


    And, again, welcome back! Hard numbers and other data are always welcome here...


  12. [12] 
    dsws wrote:

    Romney was actually seen as MORE conservative, in 2008, than John McCain (at least during the primary season)

    No question about that. Romney was then an unknown who had just stated some lunatic-right-wing positions, whereas McCain was pretty well known as a mavericky sunbelt Republican who had made his name on the national stage with the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. Romney tried to lead a lunatic-fringe insurgency against McCain, and failed. I think he failed because he was never really felt to be a one-of-us cultural-rightwinger extremist, only heard to be saying the right-wing things. And because he was content with the consolation prize of being designated as the next-in-line.

    The question is whether McCain was seen as being as alien then as Romney is now. Extremists are all in favor of "voting reform" (on the understanding that it includes making it harder for the wrong people to vote). It's the SCOTUS that hates McCain-Feingold, not the base. The base hates Obamneycare.

    McCain is associated with Arizona: a giant retirement community, representing another segment of the Republican coalition. Not "one of us" to the Pentecostal culture-warriors, but from their own side of the great divide. (The cultural one, if not the geographic one.)

    Romney is associated with Massachusetts. And what does our fair commonwealth represent to the hard right? Well, let's just say that if certain planes leaving Logan airport in 2001 had gone to the Hancock and the Prudential instead, there would have been some confusion as to whether it was an attack on America or whether God in His mysterious way had used one bunch of foreign infidels to wreak his vengeance on another bunch of foreign infidels.

    Remember, nobody knew about his "zipper problem" at the time.

    Zipper. Schmipper.

    His whole public persona screamed "sleazy lawyer". As James Potter said of Snape, it's not anything he's done. It's more the fact that he exists. When I went looking for a second choice after the Dean Scream, it took about thirty seconds of watching Edwards speak, to know that he was completely worse-than-useless as a messenger, no matter how good his actual message or morals might have been.

  13. [13] 
    dsws wrote:

    Looking at the "% of remaining needed to win" you see all the non-Romney's rapidly heading upward. With each contest (with the exception of Newt's win in South Carolina) even if they win, they aren't winning by big enough margins to be on a pace to actually win the nomination outright.

    These numbers reflect three things: 1) superdelegates who have endorsed Romney don't switch, and uncommitted superdelegates don't endorse his opponents, just because three states (plus a straw poll) go against him; 2) Colorado and Minnesota were proportional whereas Florida was winner-take-all; and 3) the non-Romney delegates have been split among the other candidates.

    Suppose the results did continue to be as bad for Romney as they were in MN/CO/MO. If Romney lost every state by substantial margins, would the superdelegates really ignore the clear decision of the primaries and caucuses? Not likely. If Romney kept losing, would it still be all proportional? Not likely. If Romney kept losing, wiould it still be half to Gingrich and half to Santorum? Not likely.

  14. [14] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    Chris: Well, Obama never sponsored a flag-burning amendment to the Constitution, either. Ahem. Sorry, meant to type: "You're largely right, though snarky..." Don't know how I could have mistyped that...

    Hahahahaha. Which Republican did that? I don't remember. All I can remember doing is cringing. I think I successfully blocked the rest.

  15. [15] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Chris1962 -

    Um, I dunno... who joined up with Hillary Clinton to co-sponsor that affront to the Constitution?

    Um, OK, here we go:

    Senator Robert Bennett of Utah (R).



  16. [16] 
    abulsme wrote:

    dsws: Yes, you are right in those points. A little more on each... 1) Compared to democrats in 2008, there are relatively few Republican Superdelegates, they would only make a difference in a very close contest. 2) Yes, in the delegate race, the Winner Take All states are clearly much more important in amazing delegates. Winning them becomes much more important because of that. Winning a proportional state only gives you a few delegates up on your opponent, winning a WTL gives you a massive haul and a big leg up. 3) Indeed, the fact that the non-Romney's continue to split the take is the most important feature of the race right now. If one or more dropped out (or just stopped getting delegates) then the nature of the race would change significantly.

    For your speculation on the future... if Romney's results continue to be bad...

    A) Yes, his 18 superdelegates might bail, and he may stop getting more of them. But again, small number of super delegates this time.

    B) Would it still be all proportional? Well, yes, the states that are proportional would still be proportional. Not sure what you are asking here. If Romney collapsed completely, then of course he would get much less there. If everybody but one candidate drops out, then of course that one candidate will get all (or nearly all) the delegates in those states.

    C) If Romney kept losing, and then either Santorum or Gingrich collapse and stop getting delegates (or drop out) then indeed there is still room to catch up and pass Romney. One of the non-Romney's would have to start doing MUCH better in the delegate count than they have so far, but one of them dropping out would give the opening to make that possible. We aren't at the "impossible to catch up" stage yet, just at the "something dramatic needs to happen to change the dynamics of the race to catch up" stage.

  17. [17] 
    abulsme wrote:

    CW: Yes, Arizona lost half of its delegates. The Green Papers has extremely wonky super-detailed info on the delegate allocation process in each state if you want to dive into it.

    Speaking of which, I dove into those details for Michigan, so need to correct a bit of what I said earlier. Michigan is proportional in name only, just enough to comply with the rules on that (although they still lose half their delegates for going early). Specifically out of the 30 post penalty delegates Michigan gets, only TWO are allocated proportionately based on the state wide vote. So Romney and Santorum will probably just get one each of those. The other 28 delegates are allocated winner take all in each of the 14 congressional districts, two at a time. So while not quite as all or nothing as a winner take all state, if a candidate has broad geographic support across the state (something which I've seen reported Santorum has at the moment) that person could indeed win the vast bulk of the delegates from Michigan, making for a delegate haul almost as substantial as a winner take all state.

    So lets say current polling holds... Romney wins Arizona and gets all 29 delegates there... then Santorum gets his best case and wins Michigan, and wins all of the congressional districts too, so gets 29 delegates of the 30 delegates, with Mitt just getting the 1 from the state. Even if you give Santorum all 30 from Michigan just for the sake of it, this still ends up basically splitting the delegates down the middle from that day... Which would leave Romney still not quite on pace to actually get to 1144 on time, but Santorum still not near the pace he'd need to be to actually be catching up and winning.

    Of course, the trick there is that with that kind of result, the narrative would be all about Romney failing, and Santorum continuing to show strength, and so the big question would then be if those results have a cascading effect on Super Tuesday that are big enough to change the picture substantially.

    And THAT will in turn depend not just on how the candidates do in the popular vote that night, but on the specifics of how delegates are allocated in each of the Super Tuesday states, which, as is fitting, is a complicated mess. :-)

  18. [18] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    Chris: Um, I dunno... who joined up with Hillary Clinton to co-sponsor that affront to the Constitution?

    Wow, I even managed to block Hillary's participation. I'm good! Anyway, I'm totally with you, needless to say: I don't know what these pols are thinking when they do stuff like that. Burning the flag (although the act is repugnant to me) is the ultimate example of freedom of speech/expression. It's also the ultimate example of why We, the People, didn't give our pols the authority to unconstitutionally "mandate" how we should live our lives, according to their opinion of what's in our best interests. LOL. Had to get that in.

  19. [19] 
    dsws wrote:

    I was responding to With each contest (with the exception of Newt's win in South Carolina) even if they win, they aren't winning by big enough margins to be on a pace to actually win the nomination outright.

    There've only been two big nights for other candidates. Two with the exception of one means we're talking about the other: MO/MN/CO for Santorum. You say that even that win wasn't by a big enough margin to be on pace to win the nomination outright. I say the numerical statement there is true, but if Santorum were to win every state by six or more percentage points, he would coast to victory. I'm not suggesting that he will sweep every state. He won't. But if he did, it would be good enough. That win didn't decrease his percent-remaining-needed, but a string of wins like that would nonetheless give him an uncontested nomination.

  20. [20] 
    abulsme wrote:

    dsws: If Santorum were to win every state by 6%, it would still all depend on the delegates... the magic number for him right now is 54.1%. He needs to get 54.1% of the remaining delegates to win outright, which is of course much more than the 17.5% he has right now. If he won by 6% in ALL the states, that would of course include the winner take all states, which would probably be enough to do it. More to the point, if he won just a few states at that margin (including Super Tuesday) the other candidates would start to do worse and he would start to do better most likely, because people might start thinking it was a done deal.

    The winner take all states really do matter a LOT more than the proportional states in terms of building up a lead. A 6% win in a proportional state may or may not be enough to be on a pace to "catch up". A 6% win in a winner take all state most definately puts you in a better place than you were.

  21. [21] 
    abulsme wrote:

    One last word from me. I did up some graphs to make the 2008 vs 2012 comparison visual. Those interested can look here:

  22. [22] 
    dsws wrote:

    That still seems to be counting endorsements as committed delegates. Superdelegates wind up supporting the winner of the primaries and caucuses, if there is one. So a better number to look at would be percentage of remaining pledged delegates needed to reach 50% of pledged delegates. If no one reaches 50% of pledged delegates, superdelegates might choose a 35% over a 31%. But even a plurality would get the superdelegates to fall in line, if it were double digits.

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