Romney Leads in Arizona; Or, Why Arizona Doesn't Matter

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 17 2012 11:28 AM

Romney Leads in Arizona; Or, Why Arizona Doesn't Matter

Rasmussen Reports, take a bow. You're the first polling organization to apply some science to Arizona's primary since January, since the Republican race settled into the current Romney-Santorum phony war. With trendlines:

Mitt Romney - 39% (-9)
Rick Santorum - 31% (+17)
Newt Gingrich - 15% (-9)
Ron Paul - 7% (+1)
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It's a dogfight! Santorum is surging! But no candidate has stumped in Arizona this month, and Mitt Romney's Super PAC is the only organization spending money for a candidate. The reason: Arizona has a winner-take-all primary. There is no upside for competing there unless you're close. Michigan has a proportional delegate selection process: Even if Santorum collapses there, and his David-Goliath act fails, he'll get a few delegates. But he won't repeat Mitt Romney's 2008 mug game, when he tried to steal Arizona away from John McCain -- lots of conservative voters, angry about immigration law -- fell short, and won nothing.

For all the talk of state "wins," there hasn't been much attention paid to the way delegates are assigned on Super Tuesday. (Arizona and Michigan make up the last mini-Tuesday before we go super). Idaho's caucuses? Winner-take-all, 32 delegates. Georgia, where Newt Gingrich wants to prove himself again? Partially proportional by district, 76 delegates, which means it's possible for Romney to get more from the tiny caucuses out west than Gingrich will get from his adopted state.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.