Mitt Romney’s financial and organization advantages in the 2012 Republican primaries were commanding, but conservatives who opposed him had faint cause for hope: Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich combined for more support than Romney for most of the primary season. If one of them conceded, then the other could consolidate Romney’s conservative opposition.
These hopes were far-fetched. Polls showed that Romney would have maintained his lead if either Santorum or Gingrich departed the race, since Romney was actually the second choice of many of their voters. Still, the theory was nearly put to the test. On Friday, Business Week reported that Santorum and Gingrich apparently discussed an unprecedented “unity ticket” to block Romney from winning the nomination. A Santorum-Gingrich ticket could have won critical primaries and led the national polls, but it still probably wouldn’t have won the nomination—a fact that should alarm conservatives heading into 2016.
The plan failed, not surprisingly, because Gingrich and Santorum couldn’t agree which one of them should be on top of the ticket. But let’s assume that they had. A unity ticket would have presumably done better than either candidate would have on his own, since a Gingrich voter who preferred Romney to Santorum might still support the combination of Santorum and Gingrich. But even if the unity ticket didn’t immediately consolidate the Gingrich-Santorum vote, the formation of an unprecedented primary alliance would have received tremendous media attention, potentially generating momentum. Indeed, polls can’t really predict how candidate dropouts will affect a race: In 2008, polls said that Hillary Clinton would maintain a clear lead over Barack Obama if John Edwards dropped out. Yet Obama surged in late January, after his win in the South Carolina primary, Edwards’ departure, and a wave of high profile endorsements.
The combination of a unity ticket and a few big primary wins could have given Santorum-Gingrich the lead in national polls. According to the article, Gingrich and Santorum mulled a unity ticket before three critical primaries in Florida, Michigan, and Ohio. Realistically, a Gingrich-Santorum ticket would have struggled to win Florida, since Romney’s 46 percent of the vote actually exceeded Santorum and Gingrich’s combined 45 percent. But a unity ticket would have done better in Michigan or Ohio.
After sweeping Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado, Santorum actually led the national polls until he lost the Michigan primary by a narrow 3 point margin. But Santorum held a lead in Michigan polls until just 5 days before the primary and Gingrich won 6.5 percent of the vote—the combination of Gingrich voters and momentum from a unity ticket announcement could have easily given Santorum a narrow win. Regardless of whether Santorum carried Michigan, a unity ticket probably would have won Ohio, where Romney won by just 1 point and Gingrich, who won nearly 15 percent of the vote, probably played the spoiler—especially since Gingrich excelled in the socially conservative southwestern part of the state. Either way, Santorum-Gingrich would have exited Super Tuesday with plenty of momentum and a lead in the national polls heading into a wave of favorable primaries and caucuses in Kansas, Alabama, and Mississippi.
Whether momentum would have allowed Santorum-Gingrich to breakthrough a Romney firewall like Illinois is hard to say. And it would have still struggled to actually win the nomination, even in the best case scenarios: The delegate math was stacked in favor of Romney. Romney would still have been favored to win a disproportionate share of the winner-take-all states, like Florida, Arizona, and New Jersey. The same was true for the big states using modified or conditional winner-take-all systems, like California and New York. In contrast, Santorum-Gingrich’s biggest wins would have been diluted by various methods of proportional delegate allocation in Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee (footnote: Tennessee is actually a conditional winner-take-all, but it’s condition is far more difficult than the other conditional winner-take-all states, since a candidate would need 66 percent of the popular vote). Neither Gingrich nor Santorum made the ballot in Virginia, giving all but 3 of Virginia’s 46 delegates to Romney. Unless Romney’s national support completely collapsed, Santorum-Gingrich would have been hard pressed to overcome the GOP primary system’s bias toward Romney’s coalition.
Conservatives should take note. The RNC’s Growth and Opportunity Project report’s proposal to end conservative caucuses for the purpose of allocating convention delegates has been panned as an attempt to help establishment candidates win the GOP nomination. But the RNC explicitly took “no position” on whether contests should be winner-take-all or proportionate, since “both methods can delay or speed up the likelihood of a nominee being chosen [depending] on who is winning and by what margins.” That’s technically true: A uniformly winner-take-all or proportionate system wouldn’t necessarily favor any type of candidate. But 2012’s mix of winner-take-all and proportionate states favored an establishment candidate. The same delegate allocation rules that would have doomed a hypothetical Santorum-Gingrich unity ticket could again doom a competitive conservative candidate.
By: Nate Cohn, The New Republic, March 25, 2013
Michigan’s Republican Party approved a resolution Saturday that would change the way the states award electoral votes from the winner-take-all system that has existed since the state’s admission to the Union.
A total of 14 votes would be awarded to the candidate with the most votes in each congressional district and two would go to the overall winner of the state’s popular vote.
Under this scheme, Mitt Romney would likely have won 10 of the state’s electoral votes to President Obama’s six — despite the fact that Obama carried the state by nearly 10 percent.
The resolution was introduced by Rep. Pete Lund (R), who offered electoral college reform legislation in 2011 that would have given Romney the state, but which state Republicans rejected because they assumed the GOP nominee, a Michigan native and son of a former governor, would win the state.
Lund will likely reintroduce the bill in 2013. Republicans have majorities in both state houses and Republican governor Rick Snyder is supportive of the plan, but questions its timing.
“The right way is to talk about it in a bipartisan way … just prior to a census,” Snyder said.
Snyder’s approval rating has declined rapidly since he signed anti-union legislation during last year’s lame-duck session. He’s since tried to move back to the center by saying he’d like the state to accept Medicaid expansion.
Michigan’s shift of 10 electoral votes to Romney would not have swung the 2012 election for Romney. However, if all the states that have suggested changing the way they award their electors — Michigan, Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — had done so, Romney would likely be in the White House now, which is why Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus endorsed the scheme.
The idea has been rejected by a few top Republicans — like Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Virginia governor Bob McDonnell (R-VA) — and thus faded from the agendas in Virginia, Ohio and Wisconsin.
But in Pennsylvania — the state where voter ID was supposed to give the election to Romney — the effort continues.
A new bill that would rig the state’s electoral votes has been introduced by 13 Republican state senators. That support represents half the total votes the bill would need to pass the Senate. The bill could be on the desk of Governor Tom Corbett — who would sign it — this week.
Pennsylvania, like Michigan, has voted Democratic in every presidential election since 1992.
By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, February 25, 2013
“When Republicans Were Problem-Solvers”: The Idea Of Politics As All-Ideology, All-The-Time Is A Relatively Recent GOP Invention
We interrupt this highly partisan and ideological moment with some contrarian news: President Obama is not the only politician who thinks that expanding access to pre-kindergarten is a good investment.
In Alabama, Republican Gov. Robert Bentley urged a 60 percent increase in preschool funding in his state, with the goal of having a universal preschool system in place within 10 years. “I truly believe by allowing greater access to a voluntary pre-K education,” Bentley declared this month in his State of the State message, “we will change the lives of children in Alabama.” The state Bentley leads is not a notoriously liberal place.
In Michigan, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder just proposed a large increase in preschool funding — from $109 million this fiscal year to $174 million in 2014 and $239 million in 2015.
Nobody should pretend that the president has found in pre-K education the key that will unlock bipartisanship. Right out of the box, Andrew J. Coulson of the libertarian Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom told the New York Times that Obama’s plan “just doesn’t make any sense” while Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), who chairs the House Education and Workforce Committee, sounded a skeptical note in saying the president “needs to explain how this program will be different.”
But by today’s partisan standards, Kline’s comment was remarkably restrained. So it’s worth pausing to wonder if we might be slowly opening an era when Republicans will be feeling a little less pressure to mouth tea-party attacks on government and more incentive to say that they, too, want to solve problems that concern the vast majority of Americans.
In pushing universal pre-K, Obama made a shrewd choice in both political and policy terms. There are enough studies to show that early childhood education programs make a real difference, which is why Republicans such as Snyder and Bentley embrace them. And Obama is structuring his initiative to work with the states to build on what many of them are already doing or would like to do.
This beachhead of cooperation might also serve as a reminder to Republicans that the idea of politics as all-ideology, all-the-time is a relatively recent invention. Education reform was a thoroughly bipartisan cause in the 1980s. Governors such as Democrats Bill Clinton in Arkansas and Richard Riley in South Carolina and Republican Lamar Alexander in Tennessee teamed up to push for higher standards. Alexander, who is now in the Senate, was willing to raise taxes to finance his education initiatives.
There is also the tale of Tommy Thompson, who as governor of Wisconsin in the 1990s tried to broaden health insurance coverage with his “BadgerCare” program. Early in the debate over Obama’s Affordable Care Act, Thompson called it “another important step” toward achieving reform.
Thompson had to eat those words when he sought the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate last year in the face of tea party opposition. The rebuke of Thompson from Chris Chocola, president of the conservative Club for Growth, was representative. “The world has changed since he was elected to office,” said Chocola, who had endorsed one of Thompson’s primary opponents. “Now we’re talking about how much less we’ll spend rather than how much more we’ll spend.” That was right-wing ideology speaking.
Thompson survived the primary but was then defeated by Democrat Tammy Baldwin. While liberals cheered Baldwin’s victory, there was something poignant in Thompson’s losing, in part because he traded in his problem-solving past for a new anti-government disposition that didn’t really fit him.
Despite the abuse of the rules on Chuck Hagel’s confirmation, you sense that Republicans such as Thompson and Alexander (there are many others) are exasperated with the view that the only point of seeking public office is to shrink government. But it will take considerable courage for such Republicans to move their party back to a time when conservatives and progressives did not have to disagree on everything — when causes such as helping 4-year-olds to learn and thrive could encourage politicians to lay down their arms at least momentarily.
There are other issues that ought to be like this: training and education programs to restore mobility and ease inequalities; immigration reform; and at least parts of Obama’s agenda to curb gun violence. But progress will require conservatives to give up certain recent habits and remember when they, too, believed that government could successfully remedy some of the nation’s ills.
By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, February 17, 2013
When did rural, Republican voters become namby-pamby whiners? A number of things have bothered me about the GOP plan to gerrymander the Electoral College, not least of which being the anti-democratic (as opposed to anti-Democratic) quality to it—what I have characterized as an iniquitous attempt to bargain with an unfriendly reality, and what New York Magazine‘s Jonathan Chait calls winning without actually having to win.
Sure the shameless power grab is deeply annoying. But so are the pusillanimous excuses foisted by its advocates.
In case you missed it, some swing-state Republicans want to change the way their states allot electoral votes. The states in question all went for Obama and have Republican governors; the scheme floated would allocate electors by congressional district, in many cases awarding the majority of electoral votes to the candidate who got a minority of the votes. Like I said, it’s a pretty transparent attempt to rig the Electoral College, and as such has mostly collapsed under its own weight as the media and the public focus on it.
But it’s worth listening to the excuses proffered for the idea. Virginia state Sen. Charles Carrico Sr., who sponsored the defunct bill in the commonwealth, told the Washington Post that his constituents “were concerned that it didn’t matter what they did, that more densely populated areas were going to outvote them.” And, as Chait relays, there’s Jase Bolger, the speaker of the Michigan house:
I hear that more and more from our citizens in various parts of the state of Michigan, that they don’t feel like their vote for president counts, because another area of the state may dominate that or could sway their vote.
Or to sum up Carrico and Bolger: “Wah!”
Their constituents worry that they might lose elections because their views are in a minority? Suck it up and try to talk your way back into the majority. They don’t feel like their vote counts because they might lose? Losing is a part of life and it’s concomitant with politics in a free society. Participating in the political system is a right—winning is a privilege that has to be earned by dint of getting a majority of your fellow citizens to cast their precious ballots for you. (And, by the way, voting is a right which tends to be much easier to exercise in rural areas than in urban ones where lines can stretch for hours.)
And guess what—the fact is that being in the political minority is neither an excuse not to vote nor an excuse try to rig the process.
By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, February 7, 2013
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has approved a controversial package of abortion restrictions that will limit abortion access for women who live in rural areas, require doctors to prove that mentally competent women haven’t been “coerced” into their decision to have the procedure, and enact unnecessary, complicated rules for abortion clinics and providers. The governor signed HB 5711 into law on Friday despite widespread protests against the omnibus anti-abortion measure.
Snyder claims that HB 5711 “respects a woman’s right to choose while helping protect her health and safety.” But women’s health advocates warn the law will seriously threaten women’s access to the health services they need by imposing harsh regulations on abortion clinics and providers:
Critics of the Michigan law fear its insistence on new, standalone facilities will hurt women in rural and low-income areas as it could force some clinics to close. They say questioning women on whether an abortion is voluntary subjects them to a type of interrogation.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, an abortion rights group that opposed the measure, said it could force many existing abortion providers in the state to either tear down their offices and rebuild from the ground up — or shutter their practices. [...]
“Safety was never the intention of this law. The only thing this law accomplishes is to make a difficult decision even more difficult,” said Rana Elmir, the communications director for the Michigan ACLU.
Michigan legislators were quick to capitalize on this year’s lame duck session to push through controversial abortion restrictions, potentially because five anti-choice state lawmakers lost their seats in November’s election. The majority of Michigan voters support legal access to abortion services.
By: Tara Culp-Ressler, Think Progress, December 31, 2012