Results Important But Not Likely Decisive
Right now, the question looming for the 10 Super Tuesday Republican Party primary contests is will we have two winners or three? Will Newt Gingrich join Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum in racking up any victories on Tuesday?
Put Mitt Romney down for his home state of Massachusetts, neighboring Vermont and Virginia. He lucks out in Virginia because both Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich couldn’t get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. So in the swing state of Virginia, it’s Romney versus Ron Paul.
But let’s keep moving around the Super Tuesday map. Santorum has real opportunities in Oklahoma, Tennessee and Ohio. In fact, Ohio will be the big prize on Tuesday, not only because of the number of delegates at stake (66), but also because it’s the best test of a Romney-Santorum showdown among the states voting that day.
Ohio is always critically important in the general election. No Republican has ever won the White House without carrying it. Now it looms as a major test in the Republican primary battle with the latest public opinion polls showing a tightening race between Santorum and Romney, who appears to be gaining a bit after his recent wins in Arizona and Michigan.
Santorum really needs a win in Ohio to make the argument that he is strong enough to continue in the race as the leading conservative alternative to Romney.
The former Pennsylvania senator came close in Michigan, thanks to social conservatives and men. But Santorum lost the women’s vote to Romney and probably didn’t help himself in the final days with strident comments about separation of church and state and a blast at President Obama for wanting to make it easier to send kids to college. Republican voters in Ohio tend to be a little older, a little poorer and even a little more evangelical than those in Michigan and that could give Santorum a real boost there.
Santorum would love to win Ohio and rout Newt Gingrich in both Oklahoma and Tennessee. Gingrich desperately needs to win his home state of Georgia. If he doesn’t one, it’s hard to see his rationale for staying in the race. Gingrich’s original hope was to spread his southern popularity from Georgia to Tennessee and Oklahoma as well, but that’s looking iffy at best. Some polls even have Gingrich slipping in Georgia and Santorum rising, so Gingrich is a bit on the ropes here with lots to lose if he can’t pull off a win in his home state.
As for Ron Paul, look West, my son, as the saying goes. Paul is hoping for good showings in some of the smaller caucus states like North Dakota, Idaho and Alaska. But remember that Idaho has a large number of Mormons and that should help Romney, who got a pretty enthusiastic welcome there during a recent campaign stop.
And the Winner of the Michigan Primary is….Barack Obama!
So let’s see, a lot of people in Michigan believe the Obama bailout of the auto industry worked, right? And we just had a Republican primary election where all four of the Republican candidates on the ballot were opposed to the bailout, right? Okay, so it shouldn’t be any surprise, then, that the polls show President Obama easily winning Michigan this Fall against any of the Republicans now running.
In fact the poll margins are large enough that some of the pundits say the Republicans should write off any hope of winning Michigan now and focus on some of the other key battleground states in the Middle West.
This is important because the more the Obama campaign can whittle down the number of battleground or swing states for the November general elections, the better its chances of winning.
The fact is that the upper tier of Midwest states from Ohio in the east through Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, and then south to Iowa, and maybe Missouri, is perhaps the key electoral ‘crescent’ that decides most of our presidential elections. Win most of those states and the White House is yours. The only other true battleground region is the Southwest where the growth in Hispanic-American populations has made things competitive in several states, including New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada.
Florida is in its own category as a swing state (see Bush v. Gore, 2000). Obama hopes to keep Virginia and North Carolina in his column from 2008, but that won’t be easy. The only true northeastern swing state looks to be New Hampshire this year.
As the Snowe Flies, or, ‘Dude, where are my moderates?’
Most people outside of her native Maine aren’t that familiar with Republican Senator Olympia Snowe. But she sent off some shockwaves in Washington this week when she announced she is retiring and won’t run for re-election later this year. Snowe cited an atmosphere of political polarization that has festered in the nation’s capital for years, but seems as though it has gotten exceptionally raw in the last few years.
Snowe is the latest in a steady stream of Senate moderates to announce their retirements. For 2012, that includes Democrats Ben Nelson from Nebraska, Kent Conrad from North Dakota and Jim Webb from Virginia. Connecticut Independent Joe Lieberman and Texas Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas are also headed for the exits.
The departure of Snowe and the others is a sad commentary on the political state of affairs in Washington and the endless gridlock that seems to depress the public and push congressional approval ratings to some of their lowest levels ever (like 9 percent at one point last year).
If there is one thing I’ve heard over and over from voters in the primary states this year, it’s a deep disappointment that Congress can never seem to get its act together and find ways to compromise and work out solutions. To be sure, some moderates are left in Congress, and it will be increasingly up to a new generation of centrists on both sides of the political aisle to lead the way in search of meaningful compromise in the years ahead. But the mass exodus of congressional moderates seems to signal a deepening frustration with Congress as an institution and the ability of lawmakers to put aside ideological and political concerns and come together for the good of the country.