Decision 2012 (January 11 edition)
UPDATE 1/11 PM The New Hampshire primary has concluded, and Mitt Romney won a clear victory with 39% of the vote – this from a state that only gave him 32% of the vote and a second place showing in 2008. As with Iowa, the conservative vote remained splintered. Unlike Iowa, the New Hampshire Republican electorate is less hospitable to conservatives (particularly Southern and/or social conservatives), and as such, Romney mostly had the more moderate electorate to himself.
Did the New Hampshire primary results resolve anything? Not really, since there have thus far been no candidate withdrawals. Rick Perry only finished in New Hampshire with 1%, but he had written off New Hampshire, instead placing all his hopes on the January 21 South Carolina primary. He will have to compete against Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum (each of them got 9% in New Hampshire), however, for that conservative vote, which in the 2008 GOP primary was about 50% of the South Carolina electorate.
UPDATE 1/11 PM There are four things worth noting about the New Hampshire primary results: (1) last night’s turnout of 248K is actually above the 2008 Republican turnout of 235K, so media stories about disinterested Republican primary voters are not entirely correct, (2) the “conservative” vote of 19% (Gingrich + Santorum) is eerily similar to the 22% of New Hampshire voters who voted for conservative candidates in 2008, (3) exit polling showed that among registered Republicans, 49% supported Romney, while 25% supported Gingrich or Santorum, and (4) among Democratic primary voters, President Obama received 82%, while a write in campaign for Hillary Clinton received 10%. This is a respectable showing, but for presidential incumbents, the bar is really high when there is no serious opposition, and as such, less than a 90+% vote indicates some discontent with the Democratic base.
Looking ahead, South Carolina has a January 21 primary, while the Florida primary is January 31. While on the surface, these would seem to be conservative southern states, “moderate” candidates received 50% of the South Carolina primary vote and 82% of the Florida primary vote. Therefore, it’s a fairly safe assumption that the more that conservative opposition to Romney is fragmented, the greater are the odds that Romney can “win” these states with pluralities. There is a subplot to these upcoming primaries: at some point (most likely South Carolina), one or more of the trio of conservative candidates opposing Romney will likely throw in the towel. Those remaining in the race will have to be well funded and/or organized if they wish to remain credible candidates, because Florida’s multiple media markets make that an expensive state to compete in, not to mention the cost of competing in multiple states starting with the February primaries/caucuses.
Even though Congressional primaries don’t commence until March 6 in Ohio and Texas, there has been some recent action. Candidate filing is closing today in Maryland, while on Friday, filing closes in Alabama and Mississippi. While there were no surprises in Maryland (i.e., retirements and/or unopposed candidates), two Republican Congressmen in California (where filing closes on March 9) have chosen to retire, and there are rumors of more.
Overall, before a single ballot has been cast, we know the partisan composition in 8 Congressional seats: 5 seats only have Republicans running, while Democrats are guaranteed to win 3 seats based on the candidates who filed thus far. We also know that 29 House members (17 Democrats and 12 Republicans) are not returning, while 9 Senators (7 Democrats and 2 Republicans) have decided not to run again. These numbers will obviously change, since we are very early in “filing season.”
Other than that, there is a special Congressional election in Oregon on January 31 in a 61% Obama district that has been held by the Democrats since 1974. While this is a Democratic leaning district, it does contain the affluent suburbs of Portland, so it will be interesting to see the extent to which economic issues can play a part in the outcome.