February 7th, 2008 by Rightsideup

Now that I’ve had a day or so to get my head around it, I wanted to do a bit of analysis on what happened to Romney on Super Tuesday.

First, a look at where he won:

  • His home states (Utah, Massachusetts)
  • Two other Western states with high Mormon populations (Montana and Colorado), although the latter is also the home of Focus on the Family and a cluster of evangelicals
  • Some others that were less obvious: North Dakota, Minnesota and Alaska. And he won the first ballot in West Virginia, although subsequent tactical voting by McCain supporters gave Huckabee the win in the end.

The media has essentially written off his wins in the first category (even though with three home states Romney arguably has an edge over McCain and Huckabee, who only have one each). They’ve also to some extent written off the second group for much the same reason (although they don’t seem to expect Southern Baptists or evangelicals in general to vote in blocs for Huckabee, or exhibit the same dismissiveness when he wins Southern states where they form a substantial part of the electorate).

I haven’t heard good explanations for his strong performance in the other states – Ron Paul had a stronger local operation in Alaska and was expected to win, and neither North Dakota or Minnesota are obvious ones for the Mitt column. West Virginia would have been particularly impressive and if McCain’s supporters had split by their own preference rather than tactical voting he might well have taken it. One explanation would simply be that where neither Huckabee (in the South) or McCain (in more liberal coastal areas) has a natural edge, Mitt actually does very well, even with little advertising, presumably as a result of honest assessments of qualifications for the job.

Overall he did well outside the South, put in a reasonable showing in a couple of other Mid-Western and Southern states, and unfortunately did equally well/badly in almost all the California congressional districts, giving him very few delegates to show for his 34% of the vote.

But of course he has a huge mountain to climb now, with the following states remaining:

  • February 9th – Louisiana (Southern, so likely to go Huckabee), Washington (caucuses – coastal, but Western – McCain and Romney likely to both be strong) and Kansas (mid-Western, so likely to see strength from all three candidates like Missouri)
  • February 12th – DC, Maryland and Virginia (clumped together in a single media market – if Romney wanted to spend the money he could probably do well. His WV showing suggests he may be able to put in a strong showing. But MD and DC in particular may lean liberal and therefore McCain)
  • February 19th – Washington (primaries – see Feb 9th), Wisconsin (tough to call – might be influenced by neighbouring Michigan and the George Romney factor)
  • March 4th – Ohio (MO/KS), Vermont (McCain?), Texas (Southern but also very varied – McCain should be strong, but Romney may be able to compete) and Rhode Island (close to MA, so Romney gets a bump? But McCain likely strong too)
  • March 11th – Mississippi (Huckabee has to be the favourite)
  • March 22nd – Pennsylvania (Depends a lot on ad spending – if it follows the NYC cluster it will go strongly McCain)
  • May 6th – Indiana (KS/MO), North Carolina (could go like South Carolina, but lots of business in the Raleigh metro – perhaps they lean Romney?)
  • May 13th – Nebraska (KS/MO)
  • May 18th – Hawai’i (who knows? liberal but also a large Mormon population)
  • May 20th – Kentucky (Huckabee), Oregon (see WA, but perhaps more liberal so McCain?)
  • May 27th – Idaho (Romney)
  • June 3rd – New Mexico (close run between McCain and Romney), South Dakota (Romney again as in ND?)

It would take a major shift in the race to allow Romney to win what he needs from these remaining states to be close to McCain in total delegates – likely only his opponents running out of money and/or Huckabee and/or Paul dropping out would do it. He can continue spending on ads and that will make a difference, but not enough to put him into real contention. On the other hand, unless someone drops out, it will also be hard for McCain to go into convention with a majority of delegates. Of course, Huckabee’s are likely to swing behind McCain at that point in return for the VP slot, but potentially things could still go another way. But Romney ending up as the nominee has to be a minority probability at best.