Opening Act: Six Lessons from the Primaries That Effectively Ended the Race

Weigel
Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 4 2012 8:14 AM

Opening Act: Six Lessons from the Primaries That Effectively Ended the Race

Last night, Rick Santorum declared the start of the Pennsylvania primary, compared Mitt Romney to the bad guys in the Revolutionary War, and implied that he was ready to go the distance. I'd argue that "going the distance" works better in an early Stallone film than it does in a months-long primary with very little doubt about the ultimate victor.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

1) Mitt Romney is now winning the Republican vote easily (outside of the South). In Ohio, when his current march to dominance began, Mitt Romney won registered Republicans by a 41-37 margin over Rick Santorum. It was a solid victory, compared to his overall 38-37 squeaker. In Illinois, it was 51-36. In Wisconsin it was 50-37. In the end, it was Wisconsin Democrats -- possibly fans of Santorum's old views of collective bargaining -- who kept their state competitive. Add to this that 66 percent of Wisconsinites said they'd be satisfied with a Romney nod, and you can see why the campaign is already moving on.

Advertisement

2) Finally, the dragged-out campaign is helping the candidates. Yes, I've seen the polls showing Republican enthusiasm flagging as this drags on. Whatever. Wisconsin will be a key general election state. Pennsylvania, too. Four years ago only 410,607 Wisconsinites voted in the GOP primary. This year, before the last numbers are in: 694,159. Santorum got more voting in losing the state than McCain got when he won it. The organizing, on both sides, can't possibly hurt Republicans.

3) Rick Santorum can close, sort of. There were polls showing the perpetual loser as far as 10 points behind Romney in Wisconsin. He lost by 5. The secret: a 42-38 winning margin with the 36 percent of voters who decided "in the last few days." Santorum campaigned relentlessly in Wisconsin, getting in at least daily one free media bounty by lacing on bowling shoes and (for reasons that escape me) generating pangs of excitement in the press and photo corps.

4) The end of proportional voting will end everything else. April marks the start of the period when states are allowed to assign delegates winner-take-all without penalties. How does that effect the count? Well: In Louisiana, Rick Santorum won 49 percent of the vote to Mitt Romney's 27 percent. That gave Santorum 10 delegates to Romney's five. Maryland ended up with a similar (reversed) vote count: Romney 49 percent, Santorum 29 percent. The result: 31 delegates for Romney, none for Santorum. I keep shaking my fist at clouds and saying this, but the fact that most Southern primaries ended up on the proportional vote calendar meant that Romney survived them with a clutch of delegates.

5) Dept. of Trivia I. The closest Wisconsin county result was a 1125 to 1121 buzzer-beater in the southwest corner of the state. The name of the county: Iowa. The winner: Romney, this time.

6) Dept of Trivia II. Only two candidates -- Mitt Romney, Ron Paul -- made the ballot in all three regions of the beltway. There were 509,116 votes cast, total, in Maryland, D.C., and Virginia. Mitt Romney ended up with 54.8 percent of that vote. Ron Paul: 25.8 percent. Rick Santorum: 13.6 percent. Newt Gingrich: 5.2 percent. If we accept the premise that this race was ever really winnable for a not-Romney, it was lost when Gingrich and Santorum failed to make the Virginia ballot, handing 46 delegates to Romney and freeing him to campaign elsewhere.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
  Life
Outward
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
  Technology
Technocracy
Oct. 20 2014 11:36 PM Forget Oculus Rift This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.