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Why Rick Santorum won’t stop

By Bill Schneider

“Irrelevant.” With one word, Sen. John McCain dismissed Rick Santorum’s role in the Republican presidential race.

Santorum’s response? “I’ve endured about eight months of people saying that,” he told The New York Times. “I’ve never been the party establishment’s candidate, and that holds true today and that’s nothing new.”

So why is he still running?

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Etch Two Sketches: Romney 2008 and 2012

Mitt Romney 2012 is not the same candidate as Mitt Romney 2008. How do we know? Because Romney 2012 is not getting the Romney 2008 vote.

In 2008, Romney captured the staunchly conservative vote against John McCain. This year, Romney is losing the staunchly conservative vote to Rick Santorum. Which means that Romney is defined more by who he’s running against than by who he is.

Look at Romney’s vote in the 2008 and 2012 Florida Republican primaries:

In 2008, the more conservative you were, the more you voted for Romney. In 2012, the more conservative you were, the less you voted for Romney. In 2008, Romney got the conservatives who didn’t trust McCain.

In 2012, Santorum is getting the conservatives who don’t trust Romney. That suggests the Republican electorate has moved even father to the right. 

But keep this in mind: In 2008, Republicans nominated McCain over objections from staunch conservatives. In 2012, Republicans are likely to nominate Romney over objections from staunch conservatives.

The more moderate candidate still wins.

This In Focus is from Bill Schneider’s March 2012 Inside Politics Newsletter

Newt Gingrich, you’re no Ronald Reagan

By: Bill Schneider
February 2, 2012

Newt Gingrich thinks he’s Ronald Reagan and 2012 is 1976.

In 1976, Reagan ran a tough, scrappy primary campaign. It was a conservative insurgency against President Gerald Ford, the titular but unelected leader of the Republican Party.

Reagan never gave up — even after he lost Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida and Illinois. South Carolina did not have a Republican primary in 1976. Reagan came back to life by winning North Carolina in late March. He then started winning the late Southern and Western primaries. It was not enough to defeat Ford, but Reagan went all the way to the Republican convention.

In 1976, the conservative base was in revolt against the party establishment — Ford, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger — mostly over foreign policy. Conservatives hated détente. Ford lost the 1976 election narrowly to Jimmy Carter. Reaganites took over the Republican Party and won the nomination four years later.

In Florida Tuesday night, the former House speaker conceded nothing. “It is now clear,” Gingrich said, “that this will be a two-person race between the conservative leader, Newt Gingrich, and the Massachusetts moderate.” He was contemptuous of the Republican Party establishment, promising to run “a people’s campaign, not a Republican campaign.”

Was that a veiled threat to run as an independent if he loses the Republican nomination? Could be. How’s this for a threat? “This is a future we ask you to join us in imposing on the establishment in Washington and imposing it on both parties.” Threatening to “impose” your views is not a good way to win people over.

Reagan never did that. The former California governor tried to win over the Republican establishment in 1976 by announcing his choice of Pennsylvania Sen. Richard Schweiker, a moderate Republican, as his running mate.

In 1980, Reagan made peace with the party establishment, first by offering Ford a place on his ticket and then by settling for another establishment running mate, George H.W. Bush.

Gingrich lost Florida decisively because Republicans thought he was unelectable. Too many voters just don’t like him. The ABC News-Washington Post poll has measured the American public’s view of Gingrich 21 times since 1994. In every case, negative opinion has outweighed positive. Last week, it was 51 percent unfavorable and 29 percent favorable.

Why don’t people like Gingrich? Shall we say, he is not known for his generosity of spirit. Unlike Reagan. Gingrich didn’t even congratulate Romney on his victory in Florida. To a lot of voters, the idea of Gingrich with nukes is pretty scary.

It is true that the conservative base of the Republican Party is in a state of insurrection. That’s why South Carolina voted for Gingrich. But it’s not Gingrich’s movement. It’s the tea party movement. It was there long before Gingrich grabbed its banner. The insurrectionaries auditioned other candidates — Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Sen. Rick Santorum, Herman Cain — before they settled, uneasily, for Gingrich.

Gingrich is desperate to get Santorum out of the race so he can go mano a mano with Romney. But there are two problems. First, it is not clear Gingrich would beat Romney in a two-man race. In Florida, self-described conservatives and tea party supporters went narrowly for Romney.

Second, Republican Party rules require that delegates be awarded proportional to the vote until April. Florida, which awarded its delegates winner-take-all to Romney, was an exception.

So primaries are a killing field. They’re supposed to kill off candidates and get their bodies off the field. Proportional representation, however, keeps dead candidates alive. They can keep on winning delegates week after week. That’s why Santorum and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) won’t get out of the race. They want to play a role in the convention.

Suppose Romney gets the nomination and defeats President Barack Obama. Gingrich wants to be the leader of the not-so-loyal conservative opposition. He would hold President Romney’s feet to the fire, to guard against any deviation from conservative principle. And what if Romney were to waver and make deals with Democrats — the way he did as governor of Massachusetts? Gingrich would challenge him for renomination in 2016.

And if Romney gets the nomination and loses to Obama? That would be a profound shock to Republicans. It would mean they threw away their best chance in years to take over everything — the White House, the Senate and retain the House. Recriminations would ensue. And Gingrich would be the chief recriminator.

Gingrich warned Republicans on Tuesday night, “If [Obama] can have a record this bad,” he said, “unemployment this bad, deficits this bad, policies this bad, gasoline prices this high and still get reelected, you can’t imagine how radical he’ll be in his second term.”

In nominating Romney, Gingrich was saying, Republicans would be allowing that to happen. But Gingrich would be there to pick up the pieces and purify the Republican Party.

Didn’t Reagan do that after Ford lost in 1976?

Message to Gingrich: It won’t work. He is not nearly as likable as Reagan. Or as popular. Or as pragmatic. Reagan made peace with the party establishment. Remember his 11th commandment, “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican”? Gingrich has called Romney a liar and a cheat and a “liberal” and has accused him of suppressing religious freedom and trying to buy the election.

The Republican Party establishment did not hate Reagan. It rallied around Ford in 1976 because he was the president, and they feared Reagan was too conservative to get elected. Which was probably true in 1976.

The party establishment really doesn’t like Gingrich. Former Senate majority leader and presidential candidate Bob Dole has called Gingrich “a one-man band who rarely took advice.” He warned that a Gingrich nomination “could result in a landslide victory for Obama and a crushing defeat for Republicans.’’ Sen. John McCain has said, “We ought to send Newt Gingrich to the moon.”

Bottom line? Gingrich is not Reagan. And 2012 is not 1976.

Bill Schneider is the Omer L. and Nancy Hirst professor of public policy at George Mason University and a resident scholar at Third Way.

dcdecoder:

What you need to know about today’s Florida primary.
Mitt Romney, as you can see in the image from prediction market InTrade, is almost certainly going to win.
Newt Gingrich, who was once leading in the Florida polls, has been massively outspent in Florida: Romney and his allies have ponied up the money for 12,768 television commercials to Gingrich’s comparatively paltry 210.
In total ad spending, Gingrich may have been lapped as badly as five to one. 
Spending by outside groups (meaning not the presidential campaigns themselves) is up a whopping 1,600 percent versus the same time in 2008, POLITICO reports.
Romney proves organization is worth something: Nearly 40 percent of GOP Floridians cast their vote as an absentee ballot or in early voting and Romney won these voters by 12.5 percent over Gingrich. If you walk into election day with a 12.5 percent lead, you’re going to be hard pressed to lose the top spot.
Why haven’t Ron Paul or Rick Santorum fought in Florida? Because the state awards its 50 delegates to the winner of the overall state ballot. At least they think they do…
… because while Florida’s state Republican party wants a winner-take-all system, all Republican contests held before April are supposed to reward their delegates proportionally. POLITICO explains why this could get messy if the GOP convention comes down to counting delegates.

dcdecoder:

What you need to know about today’s Florida primary.

  • In total ad spending, Gingrich may have been lapped as badly as five to one
  • Spending by outside groups (meaning not the presidential campaigns themselves) is up a whopping 1,600 percent versus the same time in 2008, POLITICO reports.
  • Romney proves organization is worth something: Nearly 40 percent of GOP Floridians cast their vote as an absentee ballot or in early voting and Romney won these voters by 12.5 percent over Gingrich. If you walk into election day with a 12.5 percent lead, you’re going to be hard pressed to lose the top spot.
  • Why haven’t Ron Paul or Rick Santorum fought in Florida? Because the state awards its 50 delegates to the winner of the overall state ballot. At least they think they do…
  • … because while Florida’s state Republican party wants a winner-take-all system, all Republican contests held before April are supposed to reward their delegates proportionally. POLITICO explains why this could get messy if the GOP convention comes down to counting delegates.

Happiness is a Divided Opposition

By Bill Schneider

Happiness in politics is a divided opposition.

That’s what Confucius would say if he were around to analyze the race for the Republican nomination. Jon Huntsman is probably saying it in Chinese.

By that standard, the happiest person around is Mitt Romney. He’s coasting to the Republican nomination on the strength of a divided opposition. In the Gallup tracking poll, only 30 percent of Republicans nationwide say Romney’s their choice. But look at the rest of the field: Newt Gingrich 18 percent, Rick Santorum 17 percent, Ron Paul 12 percent, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Huntsman in single digits.

The New Hampshire campaign was a race between Romney and a candidate called “expected.” Would Romney do better than expected, worse than expected or about as well as expected? Answer: At 39 percent, he did better than expected. Enough to sustain his position as front-runner and presumptive nominee.

The other candidates are all factional contenders.

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The GOP’s Long and Winding Road

by Bill Schneider (via HuffPo)

Will a long, competitive race between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich give Republicans a boost? Don’t bet on it.

A hard-fought race for a party’s nomination often does the party a lot of good. That was certainly the case for the Democrats in 2008. The spirited race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton wasn’t decided until June. Both contenders ended up enhancing their reputations. Clinton scored points for being a resilient fighter. She never gave up. Obama looked like a conquering hero after beating the Clinton machine.

The 2012 Republican race may not be resolved quickly. Far from rallying around a frontrunner, Republican voters seem more and more uncertain. The latest Gallup tracking poll shows the GOP race tightening up. At the beginning of December, Gingrich led Romney by 15 points. Now his lead has been cut to four points (28 to 24%). Meanwhile, the number of undecided Republicans has been going up, not down. That’s not supposed to happen as the voting gets started.

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