February 29th, 2012

Thoughts on Romney’s wins in Arizona and Michigan

(1) A lot of the spin depends on perception and expectation.

Arizona was expected to go to Romney with the outcome never really in doubt, and though he won strongly there, it will be dismissed for the most part as a Mormon thing. But it’s really not; Mormons account for only about 10% of the Republican electorate, and his margin of victory was quite a bit more that that yesterday.

Before Santorum’s surge, Romney was also expected to win in Michigan. But then Santorum came around in the stretch and took the lead, and it seemed as though he would pull it out, which would have been a major upset. Romney won by about 3 percentage points, which would have looked bad just a couple of weeks ago. But after the scare Romney got recently, it looks pretty good, and puts him back in the front runner position again.

(2) Romney’s Michigan victory margin may have actually been bigger among Republicans than it looks because according to exit polls there were a fair number of Democrats coming out to vote for Santorum.

(3) Things have shifted back and forth awfully fast in this particular primary season.

(4) Since Newt did so badly, should Santorum ask him to drop out, the same request Gingrich made to Santorum after Florida?

(5) Will there be a next non-Romney, and if so, whom will it be?

(6) And what’s up with this “winning ugly” business? I’ve seen the term in two articles featured on memeorandum, this and this. I always thought that term (from sports) meant an unusually close race, marked either by weird officiating, or a lot of unforced errors or fouls on the part of the winner, or some or all of the above. Is there something especially close about a 41-38 victory in a primary with four candidates? Did Romney do anything particularly unusual at all in Michigan? Would it not be more accurate to say that Santorum “lost ugly” there (the robocalls, etc.), if you’re going to use the term at all?

13 Responses to “Thoughts on Romney’s wins in Arizona and Michigan”

  1. Curtis Says:

    Winning ugly is the Democratic spin meant to undermine Romney. “Hail the Victor” is the pro-Romney spin.

    I think I could sort of kind of accept the Kraut’s analysis: Romney is a good man and would make a good President. He’s not a good candidate.

    But it ain’t over yet. Super Tues may bring the blues.

  2. Conrad Says:

    I agree that 41-38 is a repsectable margin of victory under the circumstances. The “home state” thing seems particularly overblown, IMO. Mitt has spent practically his entire adult life in Massachusetts (when he wasn’t doing overseas missionary work or running the Olympics in Utah). Granted, his FATHER was governor of Michigan, but George Romney’s six years in office ended 43 years ago!

    I’m sure Romney’s connection to Michigan helped him, and it justified somehwat higher expectations for him there than would be warranted in, say, in Ohio or New York; but the main reason he “had” to win Michigan is that it’s a big state and presumptive nominees are always supposed to win the big states.

  3. neo-neocon Says:

    Conrad: Agreed.

  4. Conrad Says:

    I don’t really get the criticism of Mitt that he’s “not a good candidate.” He’s been very good at the debates (and much better than he was in ’08, IMO). He’s a terrific fundraiser. He’s not lazy in any sense (seems energized by the process, for example). He’s seemingly willing to do “whatever it takes to win” (note that while Newt and Rick supporters generally portray this as a negative, I think it counts as a positive for purposes of this discussion).

    The only real criticism I would have of Mitt as a campaigner is his occasional tendency to carelessly throw out remarks that sound insensitive. OTOH, both Rick and Newt have said some really dumb things as well. So has Obama, for that matter (“spread the wealth”).

  5. Matthew M Says:

    I voted for Romney in the Michigan primary yesterday not because I love him but because he has both an unmistakable competence that could yield some good governing and also the most potential to attract independents and some Democrats.

    Because Michigan distributes delegates by congressional district, Santorum will get just about as many as Romney, but the details reveal some Romney strengths. Romney did best in the most populous counties, winning by 8% in Wayne (Detroit), 20% (!) in Oakland (upscale suburbs) and 8% in Macomb (blue collar suburbs). He also won Saginaw (particularly rusty part of the rust belt). Santorum’s only wins in populous areas (Flint and Grand Rapids) were by small margins of 1-2%.

    Interestingly, Romney also did well in Washtenaw (Ann Arbor), which puts some substance behind the anecdotal accounts of liberals, including Democrats, who would favor Romney but not other Republicans over Obama.

    (Search for state and primary at NYT website for a very useful county-by-county map)

  6. Curtis Says:

    Conrad, I’m going to take a guess here:

    You’re pro-choice, pro gay marriage, and have sympathies for Ron Paul.

  7. Exurban Says:

    Romney did well in Arizona because he’s the least bad of the candidates on illegal immigration. Don’t expect any media coverage of that rather obvious aspect. BTW this is not an endorsement of anybody.

  8. Conrad Says:

    @ Curtis:

    Three strikes and you’re out.

  9. Curtis Says:

    I am the world’s worst prognosticator. But, the beauty of that is, there’s only one way to go: Up.My thinking, I presume, was obvious? To non social conservatives, Romney’s weakness is indiscernible because they believe social conservatism is a liability for election.

    I wonder, what do you think of Jeff Bell’s book which states social conservatism wins.

    http://www.heritage.org/events/2012/03/social-conservatism

  10. Conrad Says:

    I’m not familiar with Bell’s book, but I don’t doubt that social conservatism wins (or CAN win, put it that way).

    I don’t think Rick Santorum’s brand of social conservatism is the way to go if you are looking for electoral success. Compare Romney and Santorum: Both are pro-life, both are anti gay marriage, both are opposed to the HHS mandate but would of course keep contraception legal (as if anyone would try to ban it at this point!).

    Here’s the difference, IMO: Santorum will go out on the campaign trail, with the economy in tatters and the country badly in need of a Republican to rescue the country from four more years of Obama, and start pontificating on how birth control is harmful to women. Whether or not I might agree with a statement like that in the course of a private, freewheeling discussion over a bottle of wine, it seems like a ludicrously ill-advised thing to include in a political speech (or whatever the context was) if you are running for president in 2012.

    Not to make this about religion, but my general impression is that Romney, as a dedicated Mormon, is a pretty socially conservative guy. He’s certainly socially conservative enough that I don’t see him coming out on the liberal side of any issues that are likely to come within his role as president. But I don’t think he’s going to drive away a lot of potential supporters (including libertarian-minded Republicans) by literally preaching about how we need to put God back at the center of American life.

    Bottom line: Social conservatism wins, but stridency in expounding on social issues having little to do with the presidency doesn’t win.

  11. Curtis Says:

    I’d have to say I’d agree with you on Romney’s Mormonism indicating he’s a social conservative. I hope he can be as mean and nasty against Obama as he has been against Republican candidates.

    So, basically, if you’re going to be a social conservative, be nice about it, apologize for it, and try and downplay it as much as possible.

    Not very appealing to stalwarts and may be the reason for Romney’s lack of support from social conservatives.

    But if that’s the way it’s gotta be, okay. I’m just not convinced, but it does make sense to at least have a modicum of poise, calm, reasonableness, and appeal. Still, the first thing I want to hear from Romney when he is elected is how he will appeal Obamacare and support DOM.

    I much prefer the straightforward combativeness of Allen West who I think is going to be easily re-elected and has been mentioned as a VP choice because he is so popular.

    I appreciate the good and reasoned answer, Conrad.

  12. physicsguy Says:

    Santorum’s unabashed appeal to Dems to vote for him was the last straw for me. He obviously has no principles whatsoever and cares only about himself if he stoops to siding with the opposition.
    I know my vote won’t make much difference in CT, but Romney now has it.

    @Curtis…. West running… Wow! wouldn’t that be wonderful!

  13. Curtis Says:

    Well, he’s family, and I’m inclined to forgive family a lot quicker than strangers and enemies.

    I read an article that Santorum is like Lombardi in that winning is everything (and hey, don’t Americans like a winner) and close to the point I made that it is quite alright to employ deception against your enemies, and sometimes, even your friends and allies. Ike did this to some degree in his ability to make people underestimate him.

    However, Santorum appears to have put off more people than he appealed to and his robocalls was a strategic mistake. I know Santorum has principles. So did Churchill who bombed civilians.

    I think Conrad has it right. A social conservative who is a very special social conservative, who is not threatening nor appears dogmatic, that social conservative would garner the votes per the Limbaugh and Bell theory and also garner the rational and moderate independent vote. And Palin was that person in substance and style.

    Perhaps Santorum, like Gingrich, has a better role and like Gingrich, when he is good, is very good.

    http://spectator.org/archives/2012/02/29/obama-loses-his-first-debate/3

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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