Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Deconstructing Michigan: No Home Run for Romney

The press and CNN are trying to make it sound like Romney won a smashing victory in Arizona and Michigan tonight. The facts don't really support that. Romney won 29 delegates in Arizona, a big win but in a state with half a million Mormons, not a surprise.  What was a surprise is that he got less than 50% of the primary vote.  In 2008 moderate Arizona Senator John McCain defeated him. This year showed a decline in Republican voting, although it was not especially significant given the lack of a favorite son on the ballot.

In Michigan, things were very close.  Both Romney and Santorum earned a miserable 15 delegates, essentially tying. In the popular vote Romney won by 32,000 votes, all but a few hundred of those were his margin of victory in Oakland County, where he grew up.   If there were skulduggery in the numbers, Oakland County is the place to look. Interestingly, Romney's margins in neighboring metro Detroit counties were much smaller. Oakland is reputed wealthy, and exit polls showed Romney losing all voters with family incomes under $100,000 a year to Santorum in Michigan.

What is interesting is what did not work for Santorum.  Santorum's opposition to abortion in all cases, even rape and incest, meant that pretty much all voters who didn't share that view, a large majority, preferred Romney.   Romney's failure to back the auto bailout also didn't hurt him.  I think Michigan Republicans in general favored bankruptcy as a way to break the UAW and invite Chinese and Indian car makers to pick over GM's bones, but it remains problematic for Romney in the Michigan general election.  Santorum also revealed a curious weakness among male voters compared to female voters, while male voters favored Ron Paul much more than female voters.

 There was a lot of noise about Democrats and Independents "crashing" the vote for Santorum.  Only 10% of the voters were Democrats, and while they favored Santorum, only 53% of their votes went to him.  While that was much more than Romney received (18%),   Independents (31%) actually favored Romney over Santorum, so it does not invalidate Santorum's success in winning more counties than McCain did in 2008.

The total vote did increase significantly from 2008, the first state in the entire primary process to do so.  The involvement of Democrats and Independents might have accounted for the 35% increase in votes, although these same Democrats and Independents referred to themselves as conservatives.   It could mean that the huge sums expended - Romney may have spent $25 million or more in Michigan alone - were able to generate some excitement.  For now, I will wait and see if there is reason to believe the vote totals inflated.

I think the bottom line is that Mitt Romney won despite the voters disliking him.  In Michigan, power and money count for everything, and Romney is the power and money candidate, essentially the gangster figure.  Wherever the Republican electorate flatters itself with mafia machismo, Romney is likely to win. However, his appeal is not broad, does not extend to the poor, to voters in rural areas or outside of rich suburbs. On the other hand, his gaffe production in the Michigan campaign may actually have helped him by distracting voters from the issues of the Medicare fraud one company engaged in while it was under his management; and his financial improprieties at another.  As long as Romney could make the election about his "Style" he had less serious negatives than the other candidates.

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