Thoughts on Last Night’s Elections: Conservatives Starving for Leadership

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012 and is filed under Blog

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1)      So far, turnout has been dismal in almost every state.  Missouri was a disaster and Minnesota saw a 20,000 drop in participation from 2008.  The fact is that these low turnout numbers should give pause to all Republicans.  This is a year when Republican turnout should be at record highs, as everyone is eager to defeat Obama.  Yet, in almost every state, turnout has been mediocre to bleak, especially in the districts that Romney has won.  It is abundantly clear that conservatives are apathetic to the current crop of candidates, especially to the establishment-anointed candidate, Mitt Romney.  The exception to the low-turnout precedent last night was in Colorado’s rural counties (not statewide, which still suffered a lower turnout relative to 2008).  There was an increase in turnout for some of the rural counties that strongly supported Santorum.

2)      There are serious concerns about Rick Santorum’s voting record on many fiscal issues (he was stellar on social and national security issues); however, he has been hitting the right themes in recent days.  I believe that he was substantially helped by his debate performance, in which he became the first candidate to finally articulate the case against Romneycare.  Conservatives are starving for leadership, and with a little help of some amnesia regarding his voting record, they are rallying behind a man who has been outspent by record numbers.  Had he remained in the Senate until now, he would probably be one of those Republicans we would try to primary.  However, Republicans are so eager to defeat Romney, they are willing to give him a second look.

3)      When will the establishment get the message?  Conservatives absolutely don’t want Mitt Romney.  He failed to win a single county in Missouri or Minnesota.  In Colorado, where he dramatically outspent Santorum, he won just a few highly populated counties around Denver, in addition to some counties with a measurable Mormon constituency.  Will Romney continue to ignore conservatives after this embarrassing defeat?  Will he realize that Romneycare is indeed something to get angry about?

It doesn’t sound like he’s getting the message.  Ahead of the Michigan primary (which is his quasi home state), Romney has announced an endorsement from Michigan Congressman Fred Upton, the liberal statist who sponsored the ban on incandescent light bulbs.  That is supposed to be a virtue?

4)      Last week, we pointed out just how profoundly out of touch Romney is with the conservative understanding of welfare and poverty.  It’s very possible that Romney’s gaffe is finally registering with the Republican electorate.

5)      Heading into the next month or so, Romney is in deep trouble.  Looking at the electoral map, there are not too many bright spots for him.  Michigan, his adopted home state, is the only one where he is likely to win, but a lack of competition from the other candidates might blunt any momentum that would accompany such a victory.

Arizona has a sizable Mormon population in the northern part of the state, but the Mormon vote wasn’t enough to stop Santorum in Colorado, and that was before he picked up the momentum he is expected to enjoy headed into Arizona.

Between Arizona and Super Tuesday there is the Washington Cauci.  There is no reason to suggest that Romney will win there, without a substantial Mormon population.  He is at an automatic disadvantage in caucus states because they attract more die-hard conservative voters.

Super Tuesday could be a disaster for him.  Georgia will go to Gingrich; Ohio will likely go to Santorum, who appeals to that demographic – similar to that of his home turf in western Pennsylvania.  Those two states have a lot of delegates.  Romney will be crushed in Oklahoma and Tennessee.  Ditto for the strongly libertarian voters in the North Dakota and Alaska caucuses.  Massachusetts will hold a primary that day, but Romney’s win will be mitigated by the state’s proportionate allocation of delegates.  He will be favored to win in Vermont, but needs to win a majority in order to receive all the delegates, otherwise they are awarded proportionately.

The only big prize for Romney is Virginian (49), where Santorum and Gingrich will be off the ballot.  However, overall, Romney could easily wind up behind in the delegate count by the end of the day.  Once viewed as an impossibility, a brokered convention is looking more plausible by the day.