(1144 delegates to win) Romney 658 (58%), Santorum 281 (25%), Gingrich 135, Ron Paul 51, Huntsman 2 (Source: WSJ)
Primary results/looking ahead
The Republican Presidential nomination contest has become increasingly predictable, as the outcome of a given state can now be predetermined by a state’s geographic location and/or its demographics. Two states and the District of Columbia held their primaries this past Tuesday, and Mitt Romney was the victor in all three states (he defeated Santorum 49-29% in Maryland, 44-37% in Wisconsin, and received 70% of the vote in Washington DC). While the Romney victories on Tuesday were not a surprise, the patterns of support for Romney in Wisconsin were eerily similar to Illinois, and unless those patterns can be reversed, Santorum will be unable to compete effectively with Romney.
Statewide, Romney’s Wisconsin margin was 7 points, but his entire margin of victory came from Milwaukee and its suburbs – his 58-31% margin over Santorum was very similar to the 55-29% lead Romney had over Santorum in the Chicago suburbs in last month’s Illinois primary. Similarly, “outstate” Wisconsin (i.e., that part of the state outside of Milwaukee) actually preferred Santorum by a 1,600 vote margin, while in “outstate” Illinois, Santorum eked out a 43-39% victory over Romney.
In simple political terms, this means that Santorum has a solid base in the Deep South, the Great Plains states, and the rural areas in the industrial Midwest. However, his rural strength there is not strong enough (in terms of raw votes and percentages) to overtake Romney’s dominance in the urban areas. This electoral landscape will be forbidding for Santorum in the near future, as the next primaries are on April 24 in more liberal northeastern states (Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware). Santorum has a shot in Pennsylvania (his home state), but a composite of recent polls shows Santorum with only a 40-38% lead there.
So by April 25 (the day after the Northeastern primaries), Santorum faces a dilemma. There will likely be pressure for him to get out of the race, given that Romney would have had a month’s worth of favorable primary results, even though the reality is, the contests were on Romney friendly turf. Equally as complicating for Santorum is the fact that the eight primaries to be held in May will be on (for Santorum) friendly turf where he has a chance to dominate in at least seven of those states.
Turnout and President Obama – While the media narrative is that the Republican primary electorate is dispirited, the truth is more complicated. There has consistently been an energized GOP turnout in states where there were competitive contests. In fact, in Wisconsin, turnout was 94% higher than it was in 2008, while in Maryland (which was not considered a competitive primary state), Republican turnout was 26% lower than it was four years ago.
We have also noticed that when President Obama is on the Democratic primary ballot and his opponent is “uncommitted”, he typically wins near unanimous percentages. With named opponents, his percentage is somewhat lower. Since President Obama ran against “uncommitted” in Wisconsin and Maryland, his percentages were naturally near unanimous (88% in Maryland and 98% in Wisconsin), but it’s worth remembering that he got less than 60% in Oklahoma against named opponents, while in Louisiana, that percentage was 76% (36% outside of Orleans and East Baton Rouge parishes).
In the delegate count compiled by the Wall Street Journal, Romney has a 58-25% lead with 49% of the delegates chosen. This means that Romney only needs 42% of the remaining delegates to get the nomination, and Santorum has to get 75% of the remaining delegates. If Newt Gingrich’s delegates were all to go to Santorum, the 75% threshold is lowered a bit – to 64%