Sunday, January 22, 2012

Post-South Carolina Primary Thoughts


Fortified by a few Old Crow and RC nightcaps, my take on what's happened and what's next in the GOP nomination race:

Mitt Romney's chief strength going into this race was his putative front-runner status and the attendant "inevitability" of that status. So, three contests in ... he's won one of the three. The smallest of the three. The one in a state where he maintains a home. The one in the state next to the state he used to govern. The one where he should have easily exceeded 50%, but instead barely managed to notch up 40%.

Rick Santorum earned his Iowa victory with hard, dedicated, on-the-ground campaigning. But in addition to earning it, he had the advantage of being a pro-life Catholic running in a state with a large (23%) Catholic population and a large evangelical pro-life population. If that evangelical support had stuck with him, he might have a shot at the nomination ... but it didn't stick with him in South Carolina. Apparently Tarheel voters are more interested in actually winning the White House than they are in making a strong statement.

Ron Paul's supporters are more enthusiastic and dedicated than any, bar none. That makes a huge difference in states with small populations. But the populations of the primary states are growing as we go, and the bulk of the GOP base just isn't ready to give up on the Bushevik foreign policy line. He's not going to be the nominee.

Perry's out. Huntsman's out. Bachmann's out. Cain's out.

That leaves Gingrich.

Two weeks ago, I had people telling me I was crazy for saying he'd win South Carolina. Even as little as a day ago, I had people saying I was way high on my 9-point win prediction for him. As it turns out, I was low -- he won by 12%.

Ten days until Florida. That means eight or nine days of people telling me I'm crazy when I say Gingrich will win there, and one or two days of people telling me I'm over-predicting the margin of his win. Here's my initial prediction:

Gingrich: 42%
Romney: 33%
Santorum: 13%
Paul 12%

And frankly I think I may be over-predicting Santorum at Gingrich's expense, and under-estimating Paul a bit.

Paul, of course, will hold out to the end and use what support he garners to advance his agenda rather than his personal ambition. Good on him for that.

My guess is that Santorum exits the race after Florida. As much as I disagree with him on pretty much everything, he strikes me as a reasonably honest and honorable man who wants his party to succeed. He took his best shot. He did well in Iowa. He tried to parlay that into further successes. Once he's sure that didn't work, he'll cut bait and get behind the party's choice.

Romney will probably hold on until Super Tuesday. After Gingrich humiliates him, winning at least eight of the ten primaries that day, the GOP will move forward into the general election cycle with a clear nominee apparent.

That's how I'm seeing it, anyway. But you know, I'm a little tipsy at the moment.


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