Will Mini-Tuesday mix things up?

For those of you just tuning in, 10% of the states in the union have now held primaries or caucuses. This is also known mathematically as five states:

One has to note that, with the exception of Florida, they’re smaller states, collectively accounting for 54 electoral votes, only 1/5 the total someone would need to win this fall. That being said, the group to-date isn’t a bad mix- Northeast, West, South, Midwest, and one large state with cross-regional and cross-cultural population groups are all represented. Based on the voting so far, where do the Republican candidates stand?

Let’s take a look…

Looking at the numbers, I find a couple of things to be interesting:

  • Romney is clearly ahead, but if you total his and Huntsman’s votes versus 85% of the total so far for the conservative candidates (i.e. what you might expect a unified conservative candidate to have if there was one) it’s pretty close- 43% versus 40%, rounded off. 
  • If you’re Gingrich, you probably think you deserve to be the last Conservative standing, since you’ve gotten more than twice as many votes as Santorum has.
  • If you’re Santorum, you’re probably not totally convinced you should step down yet, since you’re third, you may have a good day today (more on that in a moment), and…
  • Romney’s lead is fairly weak, historically speaking.

To follow up on that last point, you’ll see above that he’s currently at around 41% of the total. Democrats tend to be a more fractious lot, and it’s not at all unusual for even a candidate that ends up tying up the nomination pretty handily to be under 50% of the total. For Republicans, though, it’s practically unheard of in the modern era. The lowest percentage I could find any Republican winning their nomination by post-1968 was McCain in 2008, who ended up with 46.5% of the party’s total votes. That was a nominee that the party was very lukewarm toward, running in an election that they expected to lose going in, and Romney is beneath that level.

Granted, you’d expect his total to rise as we go on, as the field narrows. And another three states (Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri) vote today in what’s being called Mini-Tuesday. Sort of. As Swing State Voter nicely explains, most of the voting today doesn’t directly result in delegates being awarded. Still, news is news, and it’s definitely an indication of where enthusiasm lies. So how’s it looking?

Actually, pretty scattered:

The most recent available polls for Colorado show Romney ahead, but as one of three candidates polling more than 20%, instead of as a runaway favorite. In Minnesota, he may actually be slightly behind Santorum. Missouri hasn’t attracted a lot of polling, but there’s a decent chance that Santorum could win there as well, or at least place strongly. Indeed, 538.com is noting that Romney is generally weaker in the Midwest and both Santorum and Gingrich could have some upset possibilities there.

So how much could today mix things up? A Santorum victory (or two) would certainly breathe some new life into his campaign. Gingrich is less likely to get any great news today, but he could continue to field double-digit results across the board, which will encourage him to stick around as well. This could make Michigan interesting later in the month. It also probably holds Romney down below 50% of the total until Super Tuesday at the earliest.

Could he lose the nomination? Unlikely. Ultimately, he remains the only candidate with the funds and organization to compete across the country (poor Newtie didn’t even manage to get on the ballot in Missouri for today!). But the longer Romney remains a circa 40% leader of a field that has three other candidates in double-digits, the longer the doubts that many of the Republican faithful have about him have to ferment. Which could leave the party less unified and enthusiastic than it typically is, making for a more difficult Fall campaign for them. Check back in next week!    

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