Commentary Magazine


Topic: Wisconsin primary

Is Santorum Contesting 2012 or 2016?

Mitt Romney’s victories in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia will add more than 80 delegates to his total and extend his commanding lead over Rick Santorum for the Republican presidential nomination. That sets up Pennsylvania as the primary that has the chance to put the Republicans out of their misery and finally end the GOP race. Since the other states that will vote on April 24 — New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware — will almost certainly go for Romney, Santorum’s homecoming may be his last stand.

While Pennsylvania is being given the opportunity to finally put a fork in the long, agonizing Republican presidential race, listening to Santorum’s speech in his home state tonight one got the feeling the candidate was thinking as much about 2016 as he was the 2012 contest. By repeatedly invoking Ronald Reagan’s presidential runs in 1976 and 1980, Santorum seemed to be preparing more to tell the GOP, “I told you so,” if Romney loses in November, than about his own chances this year.

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Mitt Romney’s victories in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia will add more than 80 delegates to his total and extend his commanding lead over Rick Santorum for the Republican presidential nomination. That sets up Pennsylvania as the primary that has the chance to put the Republicans out of their misery and finally end the GOP race. Since the other states that will vote on April 24 — New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware — will almost certainly go for Romney, Santorum’s homecoming may be his last stand.

While Pennsylvania is being given the opportunity to finally put a fork in the long, agonizing Republican presidential race, listening to Santorum’s speech in his home state tonight one got the feeling the candidate was thinking as much about 2016 as he was the 2012 contest. By repeatedly invoking Ronald Reagan’s presidential runs in 1976 and 1980, Santorum seemed to be preparing more to tell the GOP, “I told you so,” if Romney loses in November, than about his own chances this year.

Though Santorum’s chances of winning the GOP nomination are rapidly diminishing, his anger at what he called the party “aristocracy” that backed Romney seems to be increasing. Rather than easing up on the all-but inevitable nominee as Republicans prepare to face off against the Obama re-election juggernaut, Santorum appears to be doubling down on his resentment at the fact that his party is choosing the more moderate candidate.

Part of that can be attributed to a desire on Santorum’s part not to have his remarkable primary run end with a humiliating loss in three weeks in his home state that would all but end the GOP competition. Yet it’s doubtful that even many Santorum’s backers are still under the delusion that he has a ghost of a chance to prevail in the “second half” of the delegate race. But by continuing to brand Romney as indistinguishable from Obama, Santorum may have more in mind than just trying to save face in Pennsylvania or winning a few more primaries in May.

During the course of his Tuesday night speech, Santorum compared himself to George Washington as well as Ronald Reagan. But when he brought up Reagan’s challenge to the moderate GOP establishment of his day, he didn’t limit himself to the example of the 40th president’s successful 1980 run but also mentioned his close loss to Gerald Ford in 1976. Reagan took the battle for the GOP nomination to the convention that year much as Santorum would like to do in 2012. The difference between the two is that the delegate race that year was almost evenly divided between Reagan and Ford while this year’s contest is a runaway for Romney.

Yet what Santorum seems to be doing is not so much comparing his chances this year to Reagan’s in 1976 as he is to the Gipper’s picking up the pieces of his party after Ford lost the general election to Jimmy Carter. Just as Reagan conservatives argued in 1980 that the party had erred by choosing the moderate four years earlier, Santorum appears more interested in being able to tell the GOP it is making a mistake on Romney than anything else. So rather than being a good “team player” for his party and laying off Romney as the race winds down, Santorum is increasing the volume of his attacks on the frontrunner.

Even though there are good reasons to believe Santorum’s shortcomings as a candidate will never enable him to win the presidency, should Romney lose to Obama, there’s little doubt that the Pennsylvanian’s name will be at the top of the list of GOP contenders for 2016 next January. Santorum may well believe his hopes for another run will not be enhanced by doing the right thing by the GOP and giving up once it’s clear he hasn’t a prayer to win this year. Instead, he will concentrate on a kamikaze run aimed solely at proving that Romney ought not to be the nominee.

Just as Romney appears to have pivoted away from beating his Republican competitors to  being solely focused on the battle with Obama, Santorum may well be running with 2016 more in mind than 2012. Should Romney win in November, all this will be in vain, but right now Santorum appears to be betting heavily on Obama’s re-election and another primary run four years from now.

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Polls Show Romney Headed for Victories in Wisconsin, Maryland

Public Policy Polling shows Mitt Romney with a healthy lead over Rick Santorum in Wisconsin and a very strong lead in Maryland, heading into the primaries tomorrow:

Mitt Romney looks to be headed for another pair of victories in Tuesday’s primaries. Maryland is likely to be a blow out with Romney at 52 percent to 27 percent for Rick Santorum, 10 percent for Newt Gingrich, and 9 percent for Ron Paul. Wisconsin should be a good deal closer. There Romney’s at 43 percent to 36 percent for Santorum, 11 percent for Paul, and 8 percent for Gingrich.

Romney’s starting to have some success with groups that have generally been key components of Santorum’s base over the last two months. For instance, he leads with Tea Party voters in both states, 43-34 in Maryland and 46-38 in Wisconsin. He’s also becoming more competitive with evangelical voters, leading 43-36 with them in Maryland and trailing only47-35 with them in Wisconsin. In the states where Santorum’s been victorious, he’s generally won evangelicals by a much wider margin than that.

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Public Policy Polling shows Mitt Romney with a healthy lead over Rick Santorum in Wisconsin and a very strong lead in Maryland, heading into the primaries tomorrow:

Mitt Romney looks to be headed for another pair of victories in Tuesday’s primaries. Maryland is likely to be a blow out with Romney at 52 percent to 27 percent for Rick Santorum, 10 percent for Newt Gingrich, and 9 percent for Ron Paul. Wisconsin should be a good deal closer. There Romney’s at 43 percent to 36 percent for Santorum, 11 percent for Paul, and 8 percent for Gingrich.

Romney’s starting to have some success with groups that have generally been key components of Santorum’s base over the last two months. For instance, he leads with Tea Party voters in both states, 43-34 in Maryland and 46-38 in Wisconsin. He’s also becoming more competitive with evangelical voters, leading 43-36 with them in Maryland and trailing only47-35 with them in Wisconsin. In the states where Santorum’s been victorious, he’s generally won evangelicals by a much wider margin than that.

The Santorum campaign is still holding out hope for an upset in Wisconsin tomorrow, but the polls out today by PPP and We Ask America make that possibility increasingly farfetched. The two states where Santorum most notably outperformed the polls and won an upset were Alabama and Mississippi, but he was still closer to the lead in those surveys. The polling in Wisconsin has been fairly consistent during the past couple of weeks, and Santorum has trailed Romney by a good seven or eight points.

The pressure for Santorum to drop out of the race is growing, in expectation for his likely loss in Wisconsin, Maryland and D.C. And short of a miracle for Santorum in Wisconsin, these calls are going to get much louder the day after tomorrow.

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Paul Ryan’s Timely Endorsement

Coming as it did months after the Florida primary, Senator Marco Rubio’s endorsement of Mitt Romney earlier this week could be said to be more an indication of the frontrunner’s inevitability than a gesture that provided any tangible assistance. But the same cannot be said of Rep. Paul Ryan’s announcement today that he is supporting Romney.

With just four days left before the Wisconsin Primary on Tuesday, Ryan’s backing is a telling blow to any hopes Rick Santorum might have harbored about an upset in the Badger state. Ryan is a popular figure in his home state, and while endorsements do not guarantee votes, there’s no denying it will give Romney a boost at a time when he is maintaining a steady but not overwhelming lead. The warmth of the endorsement and the way Ryan addressed the fears of conservatives about his candidate’s moderate tendencies should also go a long way toward putting a fork in a GOP race that appears to be winding down.

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Coming as it did months after the Florida primary, Senator Marco Rubio’s endorsement of Mitt Romney earlier this week could be said to be more an indication of the frontrunner’s inevitability than a gesture that provided any tangible assistance. But the same cannot be said of Rep. Paul Ryan’s announcement today that he is supporting Romney.

With just four days left before the Wisconsin Primary on Tuesday, Ryan’s backing is a telling blow to any hopes Rick Santorum might have harbored about an upset in the Badger state. Ryan is a popular figure in his home state, and while endorsements do not guarantee votes, there’s no denying it will give Romney a boost at a time when he is maintaining a steady but not overwhelming lead. The warmth of the endorsement and the way Ryan addressed the fears of conservatives about his candidate’s moderate tendencies should also go a long way toward putting a fork in a GOP race that appears to be winding down.

Given the fact that Romney has been more supportive of Ryan’s entitlement reform efforts as well as his proposed budget, the endorsement should have surprised no one. But Ryan’s attempt to draw a distinction between Romney and past GOP losers who tilted to the center is noteworthy. As Politico reports:

Ryan told Wisconsin radio host Charlie Sykes that Romney, unlike past GOP presidential nominees Bob Dole and John McCain, is a true conservative.

“I was not a fan of Bob Dole being our nominee in ‘96, I didn’t support John McCain throughout the primary, I supported other people last time,” he said. “This is not the same kind of candidate.”

Ryan also said that his decision to support Romney isn’t him “settling,” saying the candidate won’t “cut and run” from conservative principles if he’s elected.

“I do believe we’re not settling,” he said. “If I did, I wouldn’t do this.”

Of course, Democrats will regard the Ryan endorsement as a kiss of death to Romney as they fully intend on running in the fall on the same sort of Mediscare tactics that they have employed in the last year. Demonizing Ryan will be a cornerstone of the Obama campaign. But the idea that the reformist congressman will hurt Romney and the GOP nationally is based on an assumption that most Americans are more afraid of losing their entitlements than they are about the economic future of the country.

They would also be delighted should Romney tap Ryan for the vice presidential nomination. But while Ryan is not viewed as being as much of a potential asset as Rubio, Democrats would making a mistake if they think they can do to the Wisconsin congressman what they did to Sarah Palin four years ago. Ryan is brilliant, articulate and deeply principled. The more Americans are exposed to his ideas, the less Democrats are going to like it.

Ryan’s proposals may be controversial in Washington, but the Democrats’ belief that they can duplicate the success throughout the nation they had with this issue in one special congressional election in Western New York last spring may not be justified. His presence on the GOP ticket might play into Obama’s strategy of making the election a referendum on the GOP’s budget. But it would also allow Romney and his running mate to stake out a position on the nation’s future that could galvanize mainstream support.

Paul Ryan may be an important factor in the Wisconsin GOP primary. But he might turn out to be even more important in the fall.

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NBC/Marist: Romney Up 7 in Wisconsin

This poll is similar to one put out by Marquette Law School earlier this week, which also shows Mitt Romney with a small (but growing) advantage over Rick Santorum:

In Wisconsin’s April 3 Republican contest, the former Massachusetts governor gets support from 40 percent of likely primary voters, including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a particular candidate. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum gets 33 percent, Texas Rep. Ron Paul gets 11 percent,  and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich gets 8 percent. Seven percent of respondents are undecided.

The poll follows the trend we’ve been seeing in other states: Romney polls better with moderate Republicans, while Santorum polls better with Tea Partiers and evangelical Christians.

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This poll is similar to one put out by Marquette Law School earlier this week, which also shows Mitt Romney with a small (but growing) advantage over Rick Santorum:

In Wisconsin’s April 3 Republican contest, the former Massachusetts governor gets support from 40 percent of likely primary voters, including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a particular candidate. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum gets 33 percent, Texas Rep. Ron Paul gets 11 percent,  and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich gets 8 percent. Seven percent of respondents are undecided.

The poll follows the trend we’ve been seeing in other states: Romney polls better with moderate Republicans, while Santorum polls better with Tea Partiers and evangelical Christians.

Wisconsin is really the last state that will actually matter for Santorum in April. It’s the only state he has a chance of winning (though it does seem to be dwindling) before Pennsylvania. And the demographics are stacked against him. NBC points out that Santorum has been successful in states where evangelical voters have made up a high percentage of the electorate, and this isn’t the case in Wisconsin:

So far in all the GOP contests where there has been exit polling, Romney has won in every contest where evangelical voters have accounted for less than 50 percent of the electorate. And he has lost in every contest where that number has been higher than 50 percent.

The evangelical percentage among likely Wisconsin GOP primary voters, according to the NBC/Marist poll: 41 percent.

Of course, one of the reasons why the polls missed Santorum’s surge in Alabama and Mississippi was because some of them had actually underestimated the percentage of evangelicals in the electorate by as much as 10 percent. Perhaps those blunders prompted pollsters to be more careful with their estimates in future states, but it’s still something to keep in mind.

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Wisconsin Showing that 2008 was a Vacation from Political History

With only a week to go before the next crucial test in the Republican presidential battle, Mitt Romney seems in a strong position to take the winner-take-all contest. A new poll just published by Marquette University shows Romney holding onto a solid 39-31 percent lead over Rick Santorum. But of perhaps even greater interest to the GOP is that the survey shows embattled Governor Scott Walker leading all potential Democratic challengers in a likely June recall vote. Democrats have been counting on knocking off Walker but the Republican, whose approval ratings exceed those of President Obama in the state, may be about to deal his opponents a cruel disappointment.

Looking beyond next week’s GOP primary, the Marquette poll paints a picture of a state that is pretty evenly split between Republicans and Democrats and those who approve/disapprove of both Obama and Walker. But by precipitating the recall to gratify the desire of municipal unions for revenge on Walker for his successful effort to prevent them from further progress towards bankrupting the state, Democrats may have made a crucial mistake. If, as now appears more than likely, Walker survives the runoff, the result will give Republicans a leg up heading into November.

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With only a week to go before the next crucial test in the Republican presidential battle, Mitt Romney seems in a strong position to take the winner-take-all contest. A new poll just published by Marquette University shows Romney holding onto a solid 39-31 percent lead over Rick Santorum. But of perhaps even greater interest to the GOP is that the survey shows embattled Governor Scott Walker leading all potential Democratic challengers in a likely June recall vote. Democrats have been counting on knocking off Walker but the Republican, whose approval ratings exceed those of President Obama in the state, may be about to deal his opponents a cruel disappointment.

Looking beyond next week’s GOP primary, the Marquette poll paints a picture of a state that is pretty evenly split between Republicans and Democrats and those who approve/disapprove of both Obama and Walker. But by precipitating the recall to gratify the desire of municipal unions for revenge on Walker for his successful effort to prevent them from further progress towards bankrupting the state, Democrats may have made a crucial mistake. If, as now appears more than likely, Walker survives the runoff, the result will give Republicans a leg up heading into November.

In 2000, Wisconsin was a virtual dead heat with Al Gore squeezing out a narrow victory. That 48-48-percentage point standoff turned into a 49-45 Democratic advantage in 2004 before Barack Obama swept the state in 56-42 landslide. But Marquette shows Obama with only a 48-43 lead over likely Republican challenger Romney in Wisconsin right now. A GOP victory in an unnecessary recall vote motivated only by Democratic spite won’t make Obama’s task any easier. Moreover, once he has survived a recall attempt, Walker will be that much more dangerous a foe for the Democrats. He will have proven himself bulletproof against the hate-mongering campaign waged against him by thuggish union bosses.

The main point to be gleaned from this poll is that Wisconsin is showing that Obama’s “hope”-inspired cakewalk in 2008 was a vacation from political history that won’t have much bearing on the vote this year. If Wisconsin is again a toss-up state, that’s very good news for Romney and the GOP.

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Santorum Wants to be “Mr. May”

Byron York reports that Rick Santorum told a gathering of Washington reporters today while he knows the outlook for him isn’t bright in Wisconsin next week, he’s looking forward to winning in lots of states the following month. Given that the latest poll shows him losing badly in Wisconsin, his lowering of expectations there is smart. But the problem with his attempt to rationalize the defeats that are in store for him in the near future is that by the time May rolls around the landscape of the race may have been altered to his disadvantage.

The problem with being “Mr. May” is that even if Santorum can win some primaries that month — and even he concedes that running the table in a diverse group of states including some that Romney will probably win is unlikely — is that he really needed to be the man of the month in February and March when the nomination was still up for grabs. Santorum did win some states in those months, but he also lost some big ones, and the result is that waiting until deep into the spring to play catch up means he’s doomed himself to runner-up status.

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Byron York reports that Rick Santorum told a gathering of Washington reporters today while he knows the outlook for him isn’t bright in Wisconsin next week, he’s looking forward to winning in lots of states the following month. Given that the latest poll shows him losing badly in Wisconsin, his lowering of expectations there is smart. But the problem with his attempt to rationalize the defeats that are in store for him in the near future is that by the time May rolls around the landscape of the race may have been altered to his disadvantage.

The problem with being “Mr. May” is that even if Santorum can win some primaries that month — and even he concedes that running the table in a diverse group of states including some that Romney will probably win is unlikely — is that he really needed to be the man of the month in February and March when the nomination was still up for grabs. Santorum did win some states in those months, but he also lost some big ones, and the result is that waiting until deep into the spring to play catch up means he’s doomed himself to runner-up status.

In the wake of his victory during the weekend in Louisiana, Santorum is still pretending the Republican race is far from decided and that, as was the case earlier in the campaign, several more momentum changes are to be expected. But having already had the chance to really alter the dynamic of the GOP contest in states like Michigan, Ohio and Illinois and lost, it’s just not possible to go on pretending he has a ghost of a chance to win a majority of delegates. Even more to the point, by the time May arrives, he will have already lost another few contests that will make the current hole in which he finds himself (relative to Mitt Romney) far deeper.

If we concede, as Santorum already seems to have done, that he will lose Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia next week and almost certainly get creamed in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware later in the month, that leaves his home state of Pennsylvania as the only one where he has a chance in April. Even if he wins there, and that is by no means a certainty and will in any case be diminished by his failure to again field a full slate of delegates, Santorum will enter May even farther behind than he already is now. His prospects may be better in North Carolina, Indiana and West Virginia on May 8, but by then even most conservatives will have gotten the message that prolonging the GOP contest is pointless. Even if Santorum refuses to take the hint and pull out sometime that month, by June, Romney will be so close to winning the necessary majority of delegates that any decision on Santorum’s part won’t be significant.

Of course, being a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, Santorum may not be aware that the designation of “Mr. May” isn’t necessarily a good thing. Some 30 years ago, the late George Steinbrenner labeled outfielder Dave Winfield with that moniker–and didn’t mean it as a compliment. What the New York Yankees needed he said was another “Mr. October” (i.e. Reggie Jackson) not a “Mr. May” who played like a star when the chips weren’t on the line. In this case, most Republicans seem to have decided that Romney is their “Mr. November” this year. It remains to be seen whether he can deliver, but whether he does or not, Santorum’s boasts about potential victories in the spring will be long forgotten by the time the real action happens in the fall.

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