Mathematically, Santorum Has Easier Road to Beat Obama than Romney

Barack Obama

Something has been really weird about this GOP primary season. It’s easy to understand why the Republican Establishment has supported Mitt Romney from the start based upon their support of previous moderates like John McCain and Bob Dole. What hasn’t been as clear is why the Obama campaign team has been working on helping Romney get the nomination through their actions (or lack of actions in many cases).

Conventional wisdom would say that it would serve the Obama campaign to prolong the GOP primary season for as long as possible, allowing the candidates to soften up each other through attacks and drain the money that will eventually be pointed at Obama. The fact that they have not started to attack frontrunner Romney in full force in hopes of casting doubts on his abilities and extending the race has been viewed as a mistake by many analysts.

It has not been a mistake. They simply noticed something that the Republican Establishment, mainstream media, and GOP voters hadn’t: Rick Santorum is more popular than Romney in swing states.

Despite public perception, the winner of the presidential election is determined by a relatively-small number of states. Fourteen states are solidly Democrat and have voted such in nearly every election since 1988. Nineteen states are solidly Republican, with Indiana being the only one that Obama was able to pull in 2008. The other 17 states are up for grabs.

Among those are Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado, Iowa, and Minnesota. Assuming that Santorum wins Ohio and Pennsylvania, these are states that Obama won in 2008 that would more likely swing to Santorum (Pennsylvania is guaranteed) than they would to Romney. Romney brings New Mexico, Nevada, and Michigan.

Romney’s victory in Florida is the toss up, but Marco Rubio as the Vice President for either candidate will help win that state regardless of whether it’s Romney or Santorum. If anything, Romney might make the mistake of bringing on a more conservative VP, giving Florida to the Democrats again.

If Santorum wins the Republican states and pulls the five above plus Florida, he would only need to win the right-leaning Indiana (which Obama won in 2008) OR one of the three other swing states that George W. Bush won in 2004 (Virginia, North Carolina, or Nevada) to defeat Obama in November. Romney’s road to the White House would require more unlikely victories to become a reality.

In that scenario for Santorum, it would very likely be another case as with George W. Bush where he would receive fewer votes overall but would win the right states to take the presidency.

Mathematically speaking, Santorum is the tougher candidate against Obama. The Republican Establishment has failed once again at basic math.

The Broken System: Santorum Leads Nationally But Everything Hinges On Michigan

Santorum Over Romney

It’s an antiquated system designed before the internet and with the intention of allowing voters and delegates to see their nominees in person. It harkens to a day when trains crossed from sea to sea with candidates waving at people who were lining up just for a glimpse. Those days are behind us. The system should be as well.

The grind of the nomination process (and the state-based election system altogether) no longer make sense. Currently, Rick Santorum leads all GOP nominees in national polls, but most of those voters will not have a voice. If Michigan goes to Romney, this race has 10 days left. For people living in states who have primaries after Super Tuesday on March 6th, your votes won’t make a difference.

A win for Romney will give him the momentum he needs to wrap up the nomination. The fight will continue for a long time, possibly up to the convention, but everyone other than the hardcore supporters of each remaining candidate will lose interest.

How can someone better-represent a party’s choice but not have a chance of reaching the majority of the voters? Why is a vote in Michigan more powerful than a vote in Utah, a state that has more delegates but who has very little chance to make an impact with their primary in late June?

According to the most recent USA Today poll, Santorum is ahead of President Obama head-to-head by 3% while Romney is tied with the President. As you can see in the graphic above, Santorum also beats Romney in a nationwide poll. The fact that we still have this ludicrous system is asinine.

We have television. We have the internet. We have ways to see each candidate and have them speak to the people in each state. The primary system should be consolidated to one that makes more sense in the digital age. Standard conservative thinking is to allow the states to do what they feel like doing to select delegates, but for once we’re deviating from the norm. Regardless of who wins today, the fact that voters in Michigan are more empowered than voters in other states is absolute proof of a broken system.

Gingrich Win in South Carolina Makes Florida the “Tie Breaker”

Gingrich Wins South Carolina

Ronald Reagan was the last nominee to lose in South Carolina. Every candidate since has won South Carolina and either Iowa or New Hampshire, which makes this a special year that pushes the nomination process further than most expected just a week ago when everyone other than the nominees and their supporters were proclaiming Romney the nominee-in-waiting.

Florida now becomes the “must-win” for the four remaining candidates. Even Ron Paul, who has yet to win but still possesses the most passionate base, could make the race ever-more interesting with a first- or second-place showing in Florida, giving him the drive and momentum to mount a potential independent run if he doesn’t capture the GOP nomination. For Gingrich, Santorum, and Romney, Florida is now the place that will set the tone for the rest of the campaign period.

This is going to be the hardest-fought GOP race in decades. It has been uglier than most already and will only get worse over the coming weeks. Florida is the tie-breaker. The winner will be in the driver’s seat even with a weakened delegation in Florida this year. Normally awarded 99 delegates, they are only getting 50 this year because they broke the rules and moved their primary up to January 31st. It’s relevance over bulk; even if they don’t get as many, at least their state is a centerpiece to help decide the winner rather than in the past when their March primary was often meaningless by the time candidates made it around to them (that’s an entirely different issue and one of the biggest problems with the election system).

Regardless of who wins, we will see the same 4 candidates fight it out for weeks to come. A poor showing by Santorum could see pressure mount against him from the conservative base to bow out and point his votes at Gingrich. The opposite is true as well. Neither will let that happen until March at the earliest and by that time Romney may have the nomination locked up if he is the winner in Florida.

Here’s how the Florida scenarios play out:

  • A Romney win will carry over into Nevada and Maine and give him a chance to get Colorado in a concession-vote. If he gets Colorado in this scenario, the race is over.
  • A Gingrich win followed by losses in Nevada and Maine would prolong the contest further. He would likely win Colorado and Arizona (despite a Romney endorsement from John McCain), lose Minnesota to Romney, and fight for Michigan and Washington by pulling as many Santorum voters as possible. Going into the first Super Tuesday, he would be in good shape to take the race from Romney.
  • A Santorum win in Florida could get him Nevada as well with Romney getting Maine. Depending on momentum, he could conceivably sweep all of the states other than Minnesota going into Super Tuesday, at which time Gingrich would likely concede and back him either just before or just after.
  • A Ron Paul win would shake things up completely. A second-place finish would get him changing gears a bit, showing that there’s not enough support to get him the nomination but plenty of support within his base to start mounting a presidential campaign as an independent. He would remain in the GOP race as long as he continues to get exposure and invites to debates, and would position his lack of air time as the reasoning for running as an independent. This would, of course, put Obama in a good spot to win re-election.

The only thing that South Carolina cleared up was that nothing is cleared up at all.