There have been some bright moments in the 2012 GOP primary season. Newt Gingrichs disgraceful "southern strategy" failed to win Alabama and Mississippi.
The two deepest old Deep South states split their delegates pretty much equally among Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, who finished first in both. In spite of his win in Georgia, Gingrich can nowhere near garner the 622 or so delegates in the Old South states on which he staked an early claim. (Ron Pauls people did not organize heavily in Alabama and Mississippi, obviously feeling that Romney would need all the passive assistance he could get.)
Gingrich did hit a more elevated note following the terrible shooting spree in Afghanistan, when a US soldier allegedly killed 16 civilians, including nine children. Gingrich departed from his usual bellicosity, to voice a hint that it might be time for the US to leave Afghanistan.
On the campaign trail, the only Republican candidate who comes close to persuasive sanity on the Middle East is still Ron Paul, whose views have been consistent throughout his years in Congress. But at least Gingrich moved closer to the rational. The tension has now surfaced anew in the split between Santorum supporters and other GOP voters.
This is not a matter of "more conservative" versus "more moderate." Gingrich, Romney and Santorum all support rapacious economic policy that constitutes a further assault on the middle class. All three represent a trickle-down, top-heavy economic theory of sorts.
Some slight variation on social issues, if there is any, affects only their ability to represent their counter-constructive rich-get-richer economic monetary theory. It does not affect the theory itself.
The race is not equal, and not only because of Romneys vast financing and organization. There are more people in areas of greater population density than in areas of less population density. Santorum has a chance, by the metric above, in Louisiana; also in Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky and maybe Wisconsin. But as more contests develop, the pattern dividing the GOP voting population will be more than apparent to the Romney campaign, and there is always some chance that the Romney people could adapt to it.
Barring the unforeseen, as of March it still looks impossible for any candidate to win a majority of Republican delegates 1,144 before the GOP national convention, even by effectively adapting to demographics. With proportional representation, all the candidates can pick up more delegates. With turnout on "Super Tuesday" 2012 the lowest in history, proportionately, the fight is intense, to put it nicely.
It is a fight for some semblance of control going into an open convention at this point rather than a fight for a clear majority of the Republican delegates. A recent Gallup poll shows that if Gingrich dropped out of the race, Santorum would not get a majority of Gingrich supporters. In fact, he would not get even a plurality. The poll is pretty definitive. If Gingrich left the race, according to this snapshot, Santorum would get 39% of Gingrich voters, anyone else or no opinion 61%. Romney would get 40%. With turnout in the 2012 primary season down and dropping, the race continues to be unpleasantly intense. Combat is more vicious, as they say about academia, when the stakes are low. But in this context Gingrich supporter Rick Tyler has elucidated why Gingrich should stay in the race. Lawrence ODonnell on MSNBC's The Last Word challenged Tyler with the assertion that Romney needs Gingrich to stay in the race, to keep Romney from being defeated by Santorum one-on-one.
Tyler countered that Santorum, rather than Romney, needs Gingrich to stay in. If both stay in, they can siphon away enough delegates from Romney to prevent Romneys reaching the magic number of 1,144. Even Pauls delegates would be relevant.
The GOP seems to be heading to a brokered convention, as well-regarded analyst Craig Crawford has suggested could happen. That might well finish off the current experiment with a more open, more democratized process for the GOP, with the Republican nominee for president chosen directly by the voters, or at least by voters motivated enough to get out and vote..
There can be little doubt that GOP turnout in 2012 is reflecting some kind of political margin of diminishing returns.
In almost every state holding a GOP primary or caucus on Super Tuesday, turnout was down from 2008. Turnout from the presidential primary of 2008 was down in Massachusetts, which gave Romney over 70% of the vote, and in Virginia, where only Romney and Paul made it on to the ballot.
Both predictable, maybe but turnout was also down in the primaries in Tennessee, Georgia, and Oklahoma, and in the Alaska and Idaho caucuses. The partial exceptions were Ohio, Vermont and North Dakota, the latter two heavily organized by Ron Paul supporters.
While there is no question about the decline, there is some question about what it means, or how much it means. Unfortunately, the Obama haters do not need a reason to vote. They hardly need a candidate. Much of the Republican electorate gives every sign of wanting to know as little about its candidates as possible.
The GOP is struggling mightily: It has opened up and broadened and otherwise democratized its primary process, to choose a candidate who will uphold anti-democratizing policies. Former RNC Chair Michael Steele, who has said he favors an open convention, split open some more underlying tensions.
Margie Burns is a Texas native who now writes from Washington, D.C. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
From The Progressive Populist, April 15, 2012
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