Not-so-super Tuesday, predictions for what comes next

Not-so-super Tuesday, predictions for what comes next

Summary: After ten more states have cast their votes to determine the Republican standard-bearer, the definitive GOP winner is...uncertainty.

TOPICS: Government

Well, the votes are in (most of them, anyway). The delegates have been distributed (well, most of them, anyhow). After ten more states have cast their votes to determine the Republican standard-bearer, the definitive GOP winner is...uncertainty.

Back in January, when the field of GOP candidates consisted of eight men and women, I asked, Are these really the best America has to offer?.

Now, after Super Tuesday has run its course, America's Republicans are asking the same question.

The delegate math has Mitt Romney in the lead, followed by the astonishing run of Rick Santorum, followed next by Newt Gingrich, with Ron Paul bringing up the rear.

But the map tells a different story. The map tells a story of a front-runner who's more of a front-walker. Mitt Romney can't seem to capture the attention of the flyover states (with the barely-made-it exceptions of Michigan and Ohio). Rick Santorum has pretty much swept the Midwest. And Newt Gingrich (at least in his mind), is winning the South.

It's at this point in these articles I have to remind you that I'm an independent. I'm neither a Democrat nor a Republican, and I haven't decided who I'm going to vote for. I will admit, though, that if either Ron Paul or Newt Gingrich got the nomination, I'd probably have to vote for them.

I might vote for Ron Paul because I do have strong libertarian tendencies, a deep love of the Constitution, and believe our role in the current foreign wars is somewhat ill-advised and I find myself agreeing with much Paul says. On the other hand, I'd probably vote for Newt because I write about politics for at least part of my living and the man is a walking good-material generator.

That said, this isn't about my decision -- although the fact that I, too am undecided about the general election is telling in this election. It's the fact that the GOP is undecided. It's that the GOP is in a deep, angst-ridden identity crisis that's truly the most telling.

Let's face it. The idea that the super-rich, CEO, central-casting investment banker former governor can't seem to resonate with the rank-and-file GOPer means the GOP has really changed since the days of Ronald Reagan.

This makes it tough for us independents as well.

If the GOP were the old school, small government, money is good, fiscal conservative party, many of us moderately affluent independents might be willing to pull the elephant's tail. But the GOP is looking more like the super-religious, right-wing, in-your-face-and-in-your-bedroom party, where fringe issues like contraception somehow become more important than curing our economic doldrums.

Which brings us to the battle we saw yesterday. Let's run down the candidates again, shall we?

Mitt Romney

Not counting Alaska, as of last night CBS News gives Mitt Romney 299 delegates, more than three times that of any other delegate.

But Romney is having trouble "closing the deal". He doesn't connect with lower-income voters and he and his family continue to make off-key statements attempting to portray themselves as commoners when the indisputable fact is they're anything but.

Romney has tried to portray himself as the businessman with mad economic skilz, but that doesn't jive with the claiming he knows about how it feels to get a pink slip or his wife's claims they don't feel wealthy while owning a fleet of cars. Until he can make himself sound congruent with his personal financial reality, that connection is going to continue to be hard to make.

Romney also has one other issue, one that's been barely discussed, but is the true elephant to the elephant party. Mitt Romney is Mormon and while we in America celebrate religious freedom, many religious conservatives are still a little nervous about religions that, well, aren't theirs.

This may be why, in Tennessee and Oklahoma, where well over 70% of the population are evangelical Christians, Romney took under 30% of the vote.

Rick Santorum

As recently as January, I counted Santorum out. I considered him a rounding error on everyone else's election results. I, like most pundits, was quite wrong.

Although I am honestly quite freaked out by some of Santorum's social engineering agenda, I find I'm beginning to admire him as a person. Here's a guy, who pretty much out of pure willpower, went from rounding error to second place in the election. He's worked hard, spent far less than Romney, spoken from the heart (probably to his detriment), and kept on pushing.

Santorum's problem is that while he's been an admirable candidate, many centrists, left-leaners, and even moderate conservatives are worried by his almost fanatically right-wing social agenda. Not all Americans are uber-Christian conservatives, and yet he seems to want to remake America into a religion-first state.

When a candidate says he almost vomited when one of our most celebrated presidents in history talked about the separation of church and state, he's going to lose a lot of Americans.

Santorum still has a chance of winning the nomination, but unless far more Americans are far, far more religiously conservative than the demographics show, he probably can't win the general.

Newt Gingrich

There is still a numerical possibility that Newt can make it all the way to the nomination. And, if you fling a pig in a punkin' chunker, pigs can fly.

Newt would have to sweep the entire South, and then go on to take states like California and New York to win the nomination. Right now, he has 79 delegates. That's a tough road. It's going to be hard for him to make a sale in, say, Alabama and Texas, and then turn around and close the same deal in California.

Newt wants to be president, and he's also having the time of his life. But while I might pay to watch him debate Barack Obama in a Lincoln-Douglas style debate, I doubt that marquis event will ever happen.

Ron Paul

Ron Paul hasn't won a state. He won't win the nomination. Period.

Where do they go from here?

In the rest of March, we'll have primaries or caucuses in Kansas, Alabama, Hawaii, Mississippi, Missouri, Puerto Rico, Illinois, and Louisiana. If those elections follow the pattern of the recent primaries and caucuses, here's what we might see:

  • Alabama -- If Gingrich has his way, Alabama will go to him. Otherwise, Santorum will likely take the state.
  • Hawaii -- Tougher to call, but given the majority of the population is in Honolulu, this will probably go Romney. There's a chance there will be a Paul or Gingrich bump here, but unlikely.
  • Mississippi -- Once again, Gingrich if he can maintain his southern "sweep," otherwise Santorum.
  • Missouri -- Missouri's smack dab in the center of flyover territory. Missouri's weird, because it already had a "beauty contest" primary that awarded no delegates, but will now be having a delegate-awarding stream of caucuses. Since Santorum smoked Romney in the beauty, he's likely to repeat for real delegates.
  • Puerto Rico -- So far, we haven't seen anyone resonating with Latino voters, but since Romney won Florida, let's give him Puerto Rico as well.
  • Illinois -- Big, urban centers. Chicago. Romney.
  • Louisiana -- Another Southern state, but it's also home to New Orleans. Will Gingrich be able to grab the Big Easy? If not, this could go to Santorum, but I'd peg this as a Romney/Gingrich fight

As you can see, this is a make or break month for Gingrich. If he can do what he claims, which is win southern states, then he needs to take Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

It doesn't look particularly promising for Santorum, unless Gingrich melts. If that happens and Santorum winds up scoring the Midwest and the South, this will be a messy, messy, messy primary season.

For those of you who are political sports fans like me, now this is a ball game!

ZDNet Government's coverage of Election 2012:

Topic: Government


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • fyi

    He is not a Mormon, "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day saints".... Bit long winded i know... but none the less different, i believe people still call them Mormons to try and keep them attached to the old "multiple wives" days.

    I never see why people won't vote for somebody because of their religion, what somebody chooses to believe in is their choice, as long as they don't force it on others, i don't see why it makes a difference. In the UK i have never not voted, or used someones religion as a deciding factor on which way i voted, and never would.

    "Romney has tried to portray himself as the businessman with mad economic skilz"

    No, he has proven himself. Just look what he did to the winter olympics, making it the most profitable winter olympics ever... If i wanted somebody in charge of the country in a financial crisis... It would probably be him.
    • what?

      yes he is Mormon...

      Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the name for the Mormon church.
      • No, Mormon is a slang term used to describe

        the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It's an important distinction.
    • fyi

      He is a Mormon. Maybe you don't like the term, you can call yourself whatever you want. And the truth is, Romney is just like the church, willing to change what he believes in when it is expedient. ei. Giving up plural marriage so that Utah can become a state, (being way behind the civil rights movement) and allowing black people to become priest in 1978.

      What Romney did to the winter Olympics was to take millions in Federal money for Salt Lake City.
      • Do you even realize you contradicted yourself?

        You state the LDS church changes its beliefs when expedient then go on to cite them NOT changing their beliefs until well after it would have been expedient (civil rights movement). Abandoning plural marriage had nothing to do with Utah statehood. Were you aware that the Federal government had disincorporated the church (confiscated its property) and put its leaders in prison BEFORE the proclamation ending plural marriage occurred? Quite a bit past "expedient" in that situation as well.
      • Policies are not the same as beliefs

        John L. Ries
  • such...fine candidates

    good luck to the need it badly
    • They're going up against Obama

      Given the state of the US economically and socially I wonder how good the candidate needs to be.
      Richard Flude
  • Not religion

    The strong opposition to Romney comes from his imposition of an individual mandate in Massachusetts, not religion. Santorum's popularity comes from being not Romney and not Newt. I am going to vote for Paul myself, but the emphasis of religion is way overdone in the media.
    • The Media is controlled by

      The Democrats, as witnessed by their moratorium on following Nobama's family. Every time one of Bush's girls farted, it was on TV. But the current Ass-hat's wife is spending money like there is no tomorrow, and yet the press is eerily silent. How many vacation does that family need to take, 9 in three years sounds like a bit much to me. I don't know exactly how many, but it seems they're always going somewhere on a vacation, shopping trip.
      Jumpin Jack Flash
    • Not Religion

      @hayneiii, "The strong opposition to Romney comes from his imposition of an individual mandate in Massachusetts" not sure if you know it or not, but in Mass, the D's outnumber the R's in state gov't by about 4 or 5 to 1. Having lived there during that whole fiasco, he got the best deal he could at the time, because the democrats would have overrode his veto and passed it anyways.
  • One Christian tech's opinion

    As an evangelical Christian (gasp!), I could vote for Romney, except he is not the man for this time in America. If this were the late 50's, he'd be great. He would excel in a cabinet position (Defense?) to clean out the waste and pointless bureacracy.
    Santorum: Sometimes he is a 'ready, fire, aim' sort of guy, but he is real. The media is freaking out and distorting his moral positions/convictions. He is being honest where he stands, but would govern within the Constitution; no Theocracy there. To my fellow Americans who fear religion: stop beating a straw man that doesn't exist, from the Christian side anyway
    Gingrich: Big ideas and bold detailed plans. He would hit the ground running but would need a congress to work with/guide/correct some ideas. We don't need a 2nd Dear Leader in the White House.
    Paul: I wish he had more influence, simply to pull the GOP back to it's roots.
  • Independent is just a code word for liberal who doesn't have the guts to

    say so. And this line:

    "But the GOP is looking more like the super-religious, right-wing, in-your-face-and-in-your-bedroom party"

    Shows you are nothing but an uninformed useful idiot who has no ability to think critically. NOT A SINGLE REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE HAS EVER PROPOSED BANNING CONTRACEPTIVES. EVER.

    This is a 100% manufactured issue by liberals. And you fell for it. And it all happened because Santorum (rightly) said that states have the constitutional right (in theory) to do something NO ONE ACTUALLY SUPPORTS THEM DOING. In other words, Santorum was being small government Republican (limited federal power), but all you saw was the liberal propaganda machine, and you gulped it down so eagerly you have it dribbled all over your chin. And, ironically, liberals are the one who brought the question up. So who is focusing on fringe issues again?

    Meanwhile, your guy, Obama is making dictatorial decrees ORDERING religious organizations to violate their conscience by funding contraceptives and abortion pills. So, who is the one that wants to get in your face about what goes on in the bedroom again?
    • Patrick Buchanan is a liberal?

      You might recall that he went from the Republicans to the Reform Party to no party at all.

      But if you're right, then I'll remind you that Democrats and Independents combined outnumber Republicans.


      In reality, independent voters are all over the map, politically; many are centrist voters who found themselves out of step with their true-believing co-partisans (many former conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans fall in this category); others (like myself) simply became disgusted with partisan politics and decided they couldn't take it any more; others (like Mr. Buchanan) can't really be called "centrist", but still have serious policy disagreements with both major parties and all of the minor ones and therefore don't feel comfortable affiliating with any of them.

      Personally, I've been an independent for the last 22 years and have split my ticket in every election but one since I voted for the first time in 1980. I have started to doubt the wisdom of my decision to withdraw from partisan politics all those years ago, but I have enjoyed not having to apologize for my association with a party I only half agree with.
      John L. Ries
  • What comes next (at least for the RIGHT WING of American politics) ...

    ... is the realization that, at this point, Romney has more delegates than all the rest of the pack combined (by about 60-40). There have been enough contests in enough states, in different parts of the USA, to cross most demographic boundaries. In short, no one currently in the field of contenders can overtake Romney and while Romney's financial support is broad-based, two of the three remaining candidates are reliant upon SuperPACS backed by a small number of wealthy Americans. If they all stay in (and none have any reason not to stay in), this will go to the Convention and, after the first ballot, the delegates will be free to vote for the man most likely to beat Obama ... and that will be Romney. Romney could be forced to accept Santorum or Gingrich as a running mate but I doubt it because they cannot stand each other.

    Being a disenfranchised Republican myself, I will be voting for Obama (again). I wish I had another alternative but I have spent too many years voting for "the lesser of two evils" for me to put up with all of the half truths and out-right lies which have become the cornerstone of American politics.

    I know that Obama is too liberal for my taste but he is at least an honest man trying to do the right thing for America. He is pragmatic and, if the the Congress (members of both parties) were willing to meet him half-way, Obama would compromise on those issues which matter most.

    In the end, I don't think Romney can beat Obama either. If the RIGHT-WING of the GOP shows up to vote for Romney (instead of not showing up at all), just MAYBE but that is also conditional on the Independents voting for Romney and upon the LEFT-WING not showing up to vote AGAINST Romney (as opposed to voting FOR Obama).

    Romney has the tougher road ahead of him - and by the time that the GOP has settled on a nominee, Romney may be to damaged to win an election for dog-catcher. No other GOP candidate stands a chance against Obama.
    M Wagner
    • It could still go to the convention

      Since the last time a major party convention actually decided a presidential nomination was in 1976 (before that, it was routine), it would be a refreshing change, especially to voters who live in late primary states.

      I actually think it highly likely that Mr. Romney will end up with the largest number of delegates, but still be well short of a majority.

      Edit: According to Alan Lichtman (retired American University prof and creator of the Lichtman criteria), winning the nomination easily only helps the incumbent party candidate, not the challenging party candidate. It actually seems to me that keeping the Republican Party race in the news all the way to the convention probably helps the Republicans (extra publicity). And if the convention hangs, the Republicans might have to draft a candidate (would be hard to do worse than the people currently running).
      John L. Ries
  • Religion isn't Romney's Problem

    The whole religion and birth control thing, is a manufactured distraction by the left-leaning media. It's too bad that a number of conservatives have fallen into that trap and caused the subject to change from Obama's poor economic performance, his out-of-control cronyism and his unconstitutional actions.

    The real problem is the link between Romneycare and Obamacare. Republican voters want this unconstitutional monster repealed and they don't think Romney will lead the way to doing it. Beyond that, in spite of his business background, they see him as another Bob Dole and John McCain, aka a sure-fire wimpy loser. They're afraid that if he did manage to get elected, he would govern like more like a Bush than a Reagan.
    • Congratulations!

      You successfully disparaged all three of the Republican candidates for president I voted for (I assume that "Bush" is the first President Bush, rather than the second).
      John L. Ries