Four Lessons from the Fait Accompli Primaries

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 25 2012 9:27 AM

Four Lessons from the Fait Accompli Primaries

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COLLEGE PARK, MD - MARCH 28: Supporters of Republican Presidential hopeful Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) cheer as he speaks during a town hall meeting at the University of Maryland on March 28, 2012 in College Park, Maryland. Paul is trailing his opponents in what has become a race for delegates until the Republican National Convention. (Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images)

Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images

They might go down in Game Change II: The Quickening as the primaries that ended the Gingrich campaign. Other than that... they were pretty damn predictable.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Ron Paul really knows how to win delegates. While some other schmucks were writing "can Newt win Delaware?" stories, Ron Paul's campaign was spending money in Rhode Island. His reward: 24 percent of the vote and four delegates. Let me make it clearer. Here was the delegate count from Tuesday, not counting Pennsylvania, which is still sorting out.

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Romney - 134
Gingrich - 0
Santorum - 0
Paul - 4

In 2008, Paul was the last candidate to quit the race, using his time to haul more popular votes and delegates. Lather, rinse, repeat, end the Fed.

Turnout was horrendously low where the presidential race was the only thing on the ballot. In 2010, when he lost his U.S. Senate primary to Christine O'Donnell, Delaware Republican Mike Castle won 27,021 votes. The total number of votes cast in yesterday's Delaware presidential primary: 28,591. And that was nearly twice as many votes as were cast in Rhode Island's primary: 14,489. We don't have complete results from the next three states, but with most precincts in, there were 58,966 ballots cast in Connecticut and 153,482 in New York. Another way of reading this: So far, Mitt Romney won more votes in the Alabama primary (180,250) than he won in the northeast and Delaware yesterday (160,901).

Newt Gingrich kept telling voters that the primary wasn't over. So did Ron Paul. But Republicans didn't listen. They found other stuff to do on Tuesday.

Romney's still struggling for [some] conservative votes. Look at Pennsylvania, where a U.S. Senate primary kept turnout high, but the departure of Rick Santorum effectively handed the win to Romney. Overall, Romney took 58 percent of the popular vote and won every county. But in ten counties, mostly in central PA, he only won 50 percent of the vote or less. It was the same pattern we'd seen in competitive states -- suburban Republicans have accepted Romney, and rural voters haven't. (Noted: The popular vote doesn't assign delegates in Pennsylvania. Voters pick delegate slates. But they don't differ much from the popular vote.)

Redistricting kills Blue Dogs dead. Republicans were awfully ready to pronounce the death of moderate Democrats after those Pennsylvania results, weren't they? That was because they planned it. The Republican-drawn Pennsylvania map shoved Blue Dog Jason Altmire into the same seat as Mark Critz, the more reliably liberal heir to John Murtha's district. Turnout in Critz's part of the new seat -- Cambria and Somerset counties -- was up to twice as high as turnout in Altimire's Pittsburgh suburbs. Labor took credit, and labor deserved it. In the new 17th district, drawn to capture all of the more liberal parts of the Lehigh Valley, Blue Dog Tim Holden never really had a chance to beat Matt Cartwright, a lawyer who claimed to hail from "the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party."

The Republican goal was the same as the Republican goal in North Carolina, as the Democratic goal in Illinois: Pack all the other team's voters into a few districts, run the table on the rest. If it works, then Pennsylvania -- a state that gave Barack Obama a 10-point win in 2008 -- will have a 13-5 Republican-Democrat delegation in the House.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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