Sunday, January 20, 2008

Bedridden Primary Thoughts

I've been in bed sick all day Saturday with nothing to do but sift through the nauseating effluence that passes for political punditry these days. I've created a short list of things that the pundits have gotten wrong:

(Warning: lots of partisan political comments ahead. Stop now if you are sick of politics)

1. McCain has the most broad support and is the "consensus" Republican candidate.
Actually, more people have voted for Romney than any other republican- something like 350,000 for Romney and 300,000 for McCain.

2. McCain is now the frontrunner, and has the most "momentum" going into Florida and the primaries.
Actually, Romney has won 3 contests and two "silvers" compared to McCain's 2 wins and 1 silver. He has over double McCain's delegates, and for all the media and McCain sycophant whining about delegates being largely symbolic, that still doesn't change the fact that the winner will be the guy with the most delegates.

3. Huckabee has solid Evangelical support
Actually, he started off in Iowa as the guy who won with huge evangelical support, but that has been tapering off as the contests go on. His support among evangelicals in South Carolina was less than half, and looks to be dropping further. More troubling for him, his support among non-evangelicals is minuscule. At this point he really is running to be McCain's VP, and to siphon votes from Romney.

4. Romney only won Nevada because of Mormons- after all, they constituted 25% of the voters and voted for him 94% of the time.
Actually, if you subtract out every last Mormon voter, Romney still won with about 34%, compared to Paul and McCain in the low twenties.

5. Romney only won Nevada and Michigan because they were uncontested.
To which I say, whose fault is that? Winning primaries because your opponents cede them to you is not a sign of weakness, but one of strength. It says a lot to a voter about your competence and drive to win when a candidate says he will compete in every state, and actually does. And Michigan was hardly uncontested. McCain camped out there after New Hampshire and claimed he would win even a few days beforehand.

6. McCain is now the establishment Republican and is building on support from 2000.
Oops, wrong again. In 2000 he easily swept New Hampshire, but this time he only barely squeeked by Romney, getting far fewer votes this time around. In 2000 he lost South Carolina, but won this time. Interestingly, he had far more votes in 2000 than he did this time- he actually lost support between then and now. The only difference is that this time mainstream conservatives split between Thompson, Romney and HuckaVP (who is not exactly a conservative, but who cares, as long as his religion is right).

Other thoughts:

Romney is now the only leading candidate who has not lost to Ron Paul.

McCain has either tied or lost, often badly, among self-described conservative republicans in every primary so far.

If Mormons keep up this voting trend of going over 90% for Romney, that will be very important in Feb. 5th states in the west. California has large numbers of mormons, as does Arizona, and even though both are polling favorably for McCain (Arizona being his homestate), I can easily see how Romney can win them given his automatic Mormon support and his very high support among conservative republican. And it seems that Mormons are getting out to vote in disproportionately large numbers- last time I checked, Nevada is not 25% Mormon. So when a poll says McCain is ahead in a state with lots of Mormons I have to think that they must be undersampling mormons. In fact, one poll in Nevada a few days before the caucus had McCain up by about 8 points, and as I recall Romney won by 39 points with McCain coming in... 3rd.

I know that not every republican is a Rush Limbaugh fan, but he has pretty substantial influence with several million daily listeners, and several million more who care about his opinions. I check his website every few days to see what he has been saying about the race, and hardly a day goes by when he does not bash both McCain and HuckaVP. Hard. He says he is not endorsing a candidate, but he only ever has nice things to say about Thompson and Romney. Now that Thompson is out, that leaves Romney as the only guy that hardcore conservatives will be hearing positive things about from Limbaugh.

So what does all this mean? Even though I think Romney is the real front runner by any measure of actual voting you look at, the media is in love with McCain, and that has an effect. I stick to my prediction of this not being decided before the convention. Romney will win most of the western states and a scattering of other states. McCain will win several back east such as New Jersey and Connecticut and Vermont. HuckaVP will carry the south. (Giuliani is out- unless he eeks out a win in florida- then he will win new york, and little else). That will put Romney in the lead with delegates, but not enough to win outright. McCain might still win at that point if Huckabee is able to convince all of his delegates to switch to McCain in exchange for the vice-presidency. But no one really knows how that process works since it hasn't happened in 60 years- before the TV era.


Nick said...

Here's a question for you: is voting for Romney or Huckabee because of their religion an example of "identity politics"? Obviously, many of the votes that Clinton and Obama are getting are identity votes, and both of them have been unabashedly campaigning in their respective identity groups: "Hey, vote for me because I'm black/a woman!"

A few weeks ago I was ranting to Jenny about that about the democrats- how they always seem to be the party of identity politics, and she pointed out that its happening with Romney and Huckabee. Is it really the same thing? When I hear people say they will not vote for Romney because of his religion, its rarely because they simply hate Mormons, but because they see Mormonism as a religion of very odd, illogical beliefs, and anyone who believes in Mormonism must not have good judgement, and you need good judgement as a president. Now, thats pretty stupid reasoning since even mainstream Christian beliefs are pretty wild to outsiders, but thats not exactly identity politics, is it? What about those Mormons who vote for Romney because they see he has been a bishop and a stake president, and that therefore he must be a good, honest, honorable man? Is that identity politics? Same with evangelicals voting for Huckabee. While I concede that there are probably plenty of people who are voting for both because they think "Hey! He's just like me!", I think its a little more nuanced on the republican side and not the pure identity politics of the democratic candidates. You can choose your religion, but Hillary can't very well get a sex change and Obamas not going to be pulling a Michael Jackson on us any time soon.

apyknowzitall said...

Dude you're smart enough to know that's identity politics. I know at least 3 people that are voting for Romney because they see him as a stake pres, returned missionary etc. The funny thing is when I ask them about his platforms and how they agree with them, they're at a loss for words and usually respond with something like "Oh I just know he's a good person."

It's quite irritating actually. One person in particular was quite shocked I was leaning toward a Dem this election because of the pro choice/ homo friendly stance. When I brought up Harry Reid she didn't even know who he was. My point is that I think the majority of voters unfortunately don't put much effort into really finding out about a candidate.

I'm not looking for a heated debate with you but one of the things I like about Obama is that he doesn't play up the race card. I've never heard him say "vote for me I'm black" it's the media playing it up just like they play up Romneys religion. Perhaps it wouldn't be such a big deal if the media left it out of the picture but they continue to poke at it which brings more people wondering what's wrong with us if mags, tv and whatever play it up.

Nick said...

I have no doubt that there are people who are supporting both Romney and Huckabee because they identify with them: "This guy goes to my church, and I've got to support one of my own!"
But I'm suggesting that most, or much, of the Mormon support for Romney or the Evangelical support for Huckabee is because these people know what kind of values their churches teach, they see these guys as good, active members of their church, and that therefore they probably have these good, presidential qualities. That is something a woman or a black can claim because neither of those identities are something that necessarily informs your beliefs or your values.

If you doubt that people are voting for Clinton or Obama based on their identities, just look at the recent exit polls- blacks are voting for Obama by huge margins, as are women for Clinton. Black women? I hear reports that their heads, literally, explode while they're in the ballot box, leaving the poor poll workers to clean up the gooey mess.

The more I read up on Obama's policy positions, the more I see that he is further left than even Clinton, in terms of economic policy, foreign policy and others. I find it odd that for someone who proclaims that his candidacy is based on hope and unity and finding common ground, he is further left than anyone. I guess that goes along with the Democrats version of bipartisanship: agree with us or you are being divisive.

Nick said...

Here's a nice resource. If you scroll to the bottom you see the Feb. 5th states, and it tells you whether the state is winner take all, and if it is a closed primary. Here's the numbers I get, assuming McCain narrowly wins Florida. Romney will take just about every closed primary, because when you take out independents and democrats (and force the thompson fans to choose someone else), I can't see McCain winning those. Romney will also get a big boost in western states, and states close to western states like North Dakota and Oklahoma.

Romney wins: California (173), Maine (21), Arizona (53), Colorado (46), Oklahoma (41), Connecticut (30), Alaska (29), Delaware (18), Massachusetts (43), Utah (36) North Dakota (26), Montana (25).

McCain wins: Missouri (58), Tennessee (55), New Jersey (52), Minnesota (41), West Virginia (30), Illinois (70), New York (101)-probably, but it is a closed primary.

HuckaVP wins: Alabama (48), Arkansas (34), Georgia, (72)

Thats 12 states for Romney, 7 for McCain, and 3 for Huckabee, which is essentially 10 for McCain. Assume for the moment that all those delegates are awarded winner-take-all (they are not), here is the delegate total through Feb 5th:

Romney: 613
McCain: 502
Huckabee: 183
(needed to win: 1191)

Now, lets take into account the winner-take-all states, and assume that in the western states Romney dominates like in Nevada, but does poorly in the south, but decent elsewhere. Say in states that McCain wins like Missouri its more like 40% McCain, 32% Romney and 28% Huckabee, and that the delegates are distributed proportionally. Here are the new totals:

Romney: 464
McCain: 670
Huckabee: 164

That assumes a lot- that McCain wins Florida, that Romney does not spend a ton in all those states I gave to McCain, that Giuliani does not drop out before feb 5th, in which case I think he takes more votes from McCain than Romney- all of which could happen. Either way, it looks like after Feb 5th, there will still be no front runner, and that it will go to convention.

Cabeza said...


You're not giving equal treatment to the "identity" politics of the two sides you're talking about. To prove that Obama and Clinton supporters are voting based on identity, you merely cited the polling numbers. If you had stopped at the polling numbers for Romney, you would have come to the same conclusion.

The only difference between Romney-Huckabee/Obama-Clinton in what you're saying is that to you the Romney-Huckabee identity-based voters have some kind of rationale for voting based on identity. That doesn't make it any less real. Black people may say, "Obama knows my background and knows my needs. He can identify with the hardships of my race. He is one of my people and he will not forget about me when executing the law." Women may say the same about Clinton, only insert "gender" in place of "race."

Any way you cut it, people voting for a candidate based on race, gender, or religion is still identity politics. Rationalizing doesn't make it less so.

JennyW said...

Jared, I agree that I disagree with Nick's classification of identity politics, but I think the point he's trying to make is that whatever you make of identity politics/voting for someone because you think something about their identity lets you know something about them, he reads the core support for Romney as coming from the solid, self-identifying conservative vote and that as such, it gives him a good chance to win.

I just wanted to agree that I disagree.

Nick said...

Actually, wife lovely, my point that I guess I have failed to articulate, is that there is a fundamental difference between the identity politics being engaged in by the two sides. With Clinton/Obama, it is pure identity- who they fundamentally are and can't change, that appeals to certain segments of the population. With Romney/Huckabee, it is who they have chosen to be that attracts them to their identity groups, not a subtle difference in my opinion. Is it a form of identity politics? Sure. But I don't think it is quite as pernicious as the race/gender identity politics. For the record, I don't like either one. I roll my eyes when I hear fellow mormons say they are supporting Romney because his membership in the church means he'll be a great political leader or whatever. I back him, as I've laid out before, for entirely different reasons. (When Orrin Hatch was running- ughh. He was one of the last people I would have voted for. Great guy, and great mormon, but would have made an awful leader)

jenn w said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JonnyF said...

Jared, I would have expected you of all people to recognize the classic blunder of nearly all philosophers. I think you all are getting caught up in semantics. “Identity politics” does not have a precise definition, and so Nick is using it to mean one thing which excludes some of what’s going on with Romney and Huckabee supporters. The rest of you are using the term to mean something more inclusive. You are arguing over the definition of the word rather than the characteristics of the campaigns.

To explain what I mean, I will be using the following terms and definitions.
values/issues politics – concerned with a candidates values and where he/she stands on issues. e.g. John Edwards believes in universal health care, Ron Paul wants to reduce entitlements because he thinks the government should not have incentives for lack of success.
skills/accomplishments politics – concerned with what a candidate has done in his/ her life. e.g. Mitt Romney has had a successful business leadership career, Rudy Giuliani accomplished much as NYC’s mayor.
pure identity politics – concerned with aspects of a candidate which define him/her but over which he/she has no control. e.g. Ron Paul is white and grew up in Texas, Hillary Clinton is a woman.
I’m sure this could be refined further, but I think this will do for now.

If someone votes for, or refuses to vote for, Romney or Huckabee because of their respective religions, that would be an instance of values/issues politics by the above definition. If someone votes for, or refuses to vote for, Obama based on his race or Clinton because of her gender, that would be an instance of pure identity politics. I personally agree with Nick. I think there are fundamental differences between those two reasons for choosing a candidate. I also recognize that there is no reliable way to measure it. Like Jared said, you can’t judge the rationale people use just by looking at the exit polls by race or gender or religion.
With pure identity aspects, you often have to use the “to be” verb. That verb establishes identity and is, therefore, the reason that when people talk about “identity politics” they are talking about what I have called pure identity politics. The reason this can get confusing is that with skill, accomplishments, values, and beliefs, you can speak about them in terms of the “to be” verb as well as other verbs. Someone can say that the fact that Romney adheres to the values of the Mormon faith or that Hillary achieved some success as a director for Wal-Mart (describing them using non “to be” verbs) makes them want to vote for that candidate, and then claim they are not choosing based on identity politics. If you say the same person is voting for Romney because he is a Mormon or for Clinton because she was (using “to be” verbs) a corporate insider, then you can accuse them of choosing based on identity politics.
So what’s my point? Hold on, let me think about it…
I think that what I’m saying is that
1. All politics are identity politics because a candidate’s stances on issues, values, skills, and accomplishments are all part of their identity. “Identity politics” is a term so imprecise that it is useless.
2. There may be “pure identity” politics, but in order to talk about it we might need a more rigorous definition than what I have given.
3. Only then would anybody be able to convince anybody else to their view of whether the Democrats tend to engage in pure identity politics more than Republicans. That may involve a reliable way of measuring voters reasons for choosing candidates. It also may involve separating party or individual campaign strategies from media interpretations and bias.

apyknowzitall said...

(I've been lost in "the next two years of my life depends entirely on people I don't know" stress lately. ie. U decisions)

Dude I never said people aren't voting for Obama because he's black or Mrs. Pantsuits because she's a she. I just wanted to clarify that Obama never plays up his blackness, Mrs. Pantsuits, I don't know. That teary eyed blurp of hers may very well have been a slight irritation to her robotic sinuses.

apyknowzitall said...

at a pathetic attempt to play up her double X chromasome. Which, unfortunately, seems to have worked.