Saturday, March 17, 2012

Race for the White House

Happy St. Patrick's Day. The temperatures are unseasonably high here in the Land of Lincoln and the political action may be even hotter. It has been a long time since Illinois has mattered as much in a Presidential primary. The campaign and SuperPAC ads on behalf of one candidate are relentless and for loyal Republican primary voters such as myself, the robo-calls keep coming as well.

Over the past few days, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Mitt Romney have all been within a few miles of me. In fact, as I drove home from work yesterday, past a restaurant on the commute every day, I unknowingly passed by an event where Rick Santorum likely had just wrapped up. I did not even know he was going to be there as part of his schedule.

My candidate Mitt Romney, had one stop, very early yesterday morning in the Chicago suburbs, but I was unable to make it. However, this afternoon I have received notice of another close-by event tomorrow evening. If things work out as expected, I am going to get to see Mitt Romney in person for the first time and maybe even meet him! I will be sure to post about what happens next week. Hopefully, I will not faint like one of those Obama supporters.

Looking back though on the past week, I anticipated a close three way race in both Alabama and Mississippi on Tuesday. While some polling, including late exit polls suggested that Romney could have taken one of the states, both of them did go to Santorum, with Romney being edged by Gingrich for the silver medal in both as well. While disappointing at the surface to Romney supporters who want anything possible to help see this nomination race wrap up, the results cannot be that surprising. In fact, Romney came far closer to victory in those two Deep South states than anyone would have anticipated not long before. The results were of course very good news for Santorum and very bad news for Gingrich. For Romney, it was more of a status quo verdict, in spite of the negative headlines that came from not reaching the first place expectations that some had had.

In spite of finishing third in both southern states, Romney easily won American Samoa and Hawai'i the same day. Those contests received far less attention, but those wins, as well as the delegates that Romney did pick up down South, caused him to have picked more delegates on the week once again than anyone else, and expanded his sizable delegate lead. The race goes on though and with each passing contest, it will be worth looking at how closer Romney might be approaching to the magic number and if he is likely to be able to surpass it by the time of the last primary voting in June. If he is somewhat short, it is likely that the campaign can find a way to win over what is still needed. If another candidate is somewhat close, there may be a convention floor battle, but I still consider that very unlikely.

Today, delegates are being chosen in the Show Me State as Missouri holds a Presidential Caucus. The results are expected to be very favorable towards Santorum, although it is my understanding that the actual results are not expected to be released at this point. Tomorrow, is the primary in Puerto Rico, which has seen campaign appearances this week by both Romney and Santorum, the latter of whom made headlines by suggesting that English would have to be universally spoken on the island in order for it to potentially become the 51st state. Conventional wisdom is that Romney should win Puerto Rico tomorrow, taking even more delegates.

Then, it's on to my state of Illinois for the primary on Tuesday. The Romney campaign is heavily outspending Santorum, hammering him on the airwaves and on the robocalls. I really have never seen anything like it locally, but it is an extremely important state for Romney to win, and polls show him currently up by as much as nine points. I do expect him to win the "beauty contest" portion of the vote here on Tuesday, although it would be unwise to discount the support that Santorum has from many religious conservatives across the state, but especially Downstate. In order for Romney to win, he will need to hope that Chicagoland makes up as large portion of a portion as possible of the primary electorate. This is of course the absolutely opposite of what we Illinois Republicans hope for in a general election.

Of course, the delegate count is another important matter. In Illinois, voters have to cast actual votes for people running as pledged delegates to the various Presidential candidates. I anticipate this to be an even bigger win for Romney than the non-binding statewide ballot question listing the Presidential candidates. Romney has bigger names pledged to him in each Congressional district, and in four of them, Santorum will have no delegates on the ballot at all. In fact,the Romney campaign passed on a chance to step on the throat of the Santorum campaign even more a few weeks back, when they withdrew challenges to Santorum delegates in other districts. It seems clear that the Santorum campaign did not meet the ballot requirements in a lot of places, but when it looked like the Romney team might be trying to disqualify them from the ballot, some people complained, internal GOP politics came into play, and the Romney folks agreed to let things be. Hopefully, this will not come back to haunt them if Santorum delegates get elected from these districts.

On Tuesday, when Mitt Romney probably thought he had a chance to finish ahead of him in Alabama or Mississippi, he referred to a Santorum attack as evidence of the candidate being at the "bitter end" of his campaign. After twin victories in Dixie, Santorum has moved on though, and while he was unable to persuade Newt Gingrich to drop out, he continues to be Romney's chief obstacle to the nomination. There can be no doubt that Team Romney and the SuperPAC friendly to him are taking Santorum, who graduated from High School in the Chicago suburbs, very seriously.

I have been trying to do what I can to get more votes for the Presidential candidate I have long preferred. Being present at a Town Hall event with the candidate tomorrow might be pretty exciting, but I will really be looking forward to casting a vote on Tuesday for Mitt Romney, so that he can win the most support in the Land of Lincoln on behalf of the Party of Lincoln, as he is the strongest and most capable person to move on to the next phase and send Barack Obama into a retirement in this same state.