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
So much for voter suppression. So much for the enthusiasm gap. So much for the idea that smug, self-appointed arbiters of what is genuinely “American” were going to “take back” the country, as if it had somehow been stolen.
On Tuesday, millions of voters sent a resounding message to the take-it-back crowd: You won’t. You can’t. It’s our country, too.
President Obama and the Democratic Party scored what can be seen only as a comprehensive victory. Obama won the popular vote convincingly, and the electoral vote wasn’t close. In a year when it was hard to imagine how Democrats could avoid losing seats in the Senate, they won seats and increased their majority.
Republicans did keep control of the House, but to call this a “status quo” election is absurd. After the 2010 midterm elections, Republicans had the initiative and Democrats were reeling. After Tuesday, the dynamics are utterly reversed.
Don’t take my word for it. Listen to the conservative bloviators who were so convinced that Mitt Romney would defeat Obama, perhaps in a landslide, and undo everything the president has accomplished.
Radio host Rush Limbaugh was almost wistful: “I went to bed last night thinking we’re outnumbered. . . . I went to bed last night thinking we’ve lost the country. I don’t know how else you look at this.” He then launched into a riff about Obama and Santa Claus that is too incoherent to quote. Apparently, we are all elves.
Sean Hannity, on his radio show, was angry: “Americans, you get the government you deserve. And it pains me to say this, but America now deserves Barack Obama. You deserve what you voted for. . . . We are a self-governing country, and the voice and the will of ‘We the People’ have now been heard. America wanted Barack Obama four more years. Now you’ve got him. Good luck with that.”
As is often the case, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly was a bit more perceptive: “The white establishment is now the minority,” he said Tuesday evening, before it was clear that Obama would win. “The demographics are changing. It’s not a traditional America anymore.”
No, Bill, it’s not.
African Americans made up a record 13 percent of the electorate in 2008. Many analysts attributed that spike in turnout to the novelty of being able to vote for a black major-party presidential candidate. This year, some pollsters factored into their projections the assumption that the black vote would decline to a more “normal” 11 percent.
But on Tuesday, African Americans once again were 13 percent of all voters — and probably played an even bigger role than this number would indicate in reelecting Obama.
Look at Ohio, arguably the most hotly contested swing state. African Americans make up only 12 percent of the state population but, according to exit polls, constituted a full 15 percent of the Ohio electorate Tuesday. Blacks, in other words, were more motivated to vote than whites.
Ohio also happens to be a state where Republican officials sharply curtailed early voting. If, as many suspect, that was a transparent attempt to depress minority turnout by making it harder for working-class Ohioans to vote, it didn’t work. In fact, it backfired.
Look at Colorado. In 2008, Latinos were 13 percent of the electorate; about 60 percent voted for Obama. On Tuesday, Latinos made up 14 percent of Colorado voters — and, according to exit polls, three-fourths of them supported the president. Think that might have something to do with Romney’s “self-deportation” immigration policy? I do.
Nationwide, roughly three of every 10 voters Tuesday were minorities. African Americans chose Obama by 93 percent, Latinos by 71 percent and Asian Americans, the nation’s fastest-growing minority, by 73 percent.
These are astounding margins, and I think they have less to do with specific policies than with broader issues of identity and privilege. I think that when black Americans saw Republicans treat President Obama with open disrespect and try their best to undermine his legitimacy, they were offended. When Latinos heard Republicans insist there should be no compassion for undocumented immigrants, I believe they were angered. When Asian Americans heard Republicans speak of China in almost “Yellow Peril” terms, I imagine they were insulted.
On Tuesday, the America of today asserted itself. Four years ago, the presidential election was about Barack Obama and history. This time, it was about us — who we are as a nation — and a multihued, multicultural future.
By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, November 8, 2012
Sean Barry showed up at the same polling place in Mount Airy, Pennsylvania, where he cast his ballot for Barack Obama in 2008. But when he got there, the poll workers informed him that his name was nowhere to be found on the voter rolls. They also told him he wasn’t alone; other regular voters had arrived only to find their names missing. All of them had to submit provisional ballots. Allegations of an illegal voter purge were already swirling, and Barry felt uneasy. “I feel unsteady about my vote being counted,” he said. But in the end, with or without Barry’s vote, Obama won Pennsylvania easily.
Voter suppression was only going to have an electoral impact if the race got within spitting distance, and in the end, the attempted voter purges, voter ID laws, and partisan decision-making by elections administrators were not enough to swing the 2012 presidential election to Republicans. It was supposed to pick off the votes of poor and minority voters who vote disproportionately Democratic. Instead, the efforts seemed to have the opposite effect, in some places, galvanizing communities of color. But the issue is far from resolved, and were it not for court orders in many states limiting the suppressive policies, the situation could have been much scarier. Voting rights activists now need to do what they can to keep awareness high post-election. If they do, they may have a chance to reframe the entire debate around casting ballots.
There’s little doubt that the plan to make voting harder backfired in several swing states with large minority communities. Turnout among voters of color, those most likely to be impacted by suppressive tactics, was high, particularly in swing states. African Americans matched their record vote in 2008, while Latinos came out in even higher numbers than last time. In minority precincts in Virginia, Florida, and Ohio, voters waited for hours to cast their ballots. People rarely stand for six or seven hours just to vote for a candidate—this was about their rights, too.
It probably wasn’t a shock to the grassroots organizers spreading the word about the new voting changes. In August, when it appeared Pennsylvania’s voter ID law could disenfranchise a huge chunk of the minority community, I spent time with Joe Certaine, a longtime community activist who was leading the effort to get people IDs. He told me turnout would be higher with the law than without—because no one wanted to see their hard-earned franchise taken away. “The people united will never be defeated,” he said. “It’s just that simple.”
But it wasn’t just people power—Pennsylvania’s voter ID law, like those in Wisconsin, Texas, and elsewhere, was not in effect on Election Day thanks to legal battles. A voter purge in Florida, which targeted disproportionately minority voters, stopped before a court could order it not to, while courts intervened in similar purges in Texas and Colorado. Many of those ongoing court battles will resume next year, and help set the tone for the next election.
Those same people who stood in seven-hour lines to make their voices heard would be well-served to get involved in the efforts to reform the election process as a whole. Given the outcome of the presidential race, there won’t likely be any major post-election legal challenges. But make no mistake, around the country there were plenty of problems—ones with easy solutions. For instance, if there were stricter national standards surrounding how voters are registered and how voter rolls are maintained, we wouldn’t have seen the disturbing reports across Philly of regular voters showing up to discover their names weren’t listed—possible evidence of a last- minute purge. (A spokesperson from the Pennsylvania Secretary of State said the “list maintenance” was “nothing more intensive than normal.”)
Removing partisanship more generally would make an even bigger difference. In Ohio, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted restricted early voting hours and made a series of decisions about provisional ballots that may result in some legitimate voters losing their vote. By moving election administrations to a non-partisan process—like the one in Wisconsin—rules about where, when, and how to vote would be made without regard for which party they help. It’s hard to imagine a reason other than partisanship for why long lines are particularly prevalent in minority precincts, for instance, where there seems to be a perpetual shortage of machines.
After elections, most people stop caring about provisional ballots and voting hours, the seemingly drier aspects of the democratic process. But this election may have illustrated bluntly what’s at stake. Fights over strict voter ID laws around the country helped show that in-person voter fraud is largely a myth, and exposed the partisan Republican agenda behind those laws. The first evidence of a shift in public opinion already came last night, when after polling showed the measure would win, Minnesota voters killed a proposal to create a voter ID law. Voting rights activists may be able to build on the unprecedented coverage of voting issues this election and the organizing they’ve already done to make fair elections a policy issue going forward. Just because the election is over doesn’t mean the battle for voting rights is.
By: Abby Rapoport, The American Prospect, November 7, 2012
Not long ago, Jay Rosen memorably dubbed Mitt Romney’s bid for the presidency a “post truth” campaign. Within 48 hours, we may find out whether a “post truth” candidate can be elected president.
If there is one constant to this campaign, it’s that Romney has startled many observers by operating from the basic premise that there is literally no set of boundaries he needs to follow when it comes to the veracity of his assertions, the transparency he provides about his fundraising and finances, and the specificity of his plans for the country. On the dishonesty front, this has grown more pronounced in recent days, with Romney’s embrace of the Jeep-to-China lie as a closing argument in Ohio and his absurd attacks on Obama for urging people to vote.
But the key to this is how elemental it has long been to his campaign. Romney’s entire bid for the presidency rests on a foundation of evasions and lies. David Corn explains:
The Republican presidential candidate built much of his campaign on basic untruths about the president. Romney blasted Obama for breaking a “promise” to keep unemployment below 8 percent. He claimed the president was “apologizing for America abroad.” He accused Obama of adding “nearly as much debt as all the previous presidents combined” and of cutting $500 million from Medicare. None of this was true. (See here, here, here, and here.)
All of these apocryphal statements have been essential parts of Romney’s fundamental case against Obama: He’s failed to revive the economy and he’s placed the nation at risk. Rather than stick to a discourse premised on actual differences (he believes in government investments and would raise taxes on the wealthy to fund them; I want to shrink government and cut taxes) — and bend the truth within acceptable boundaries to bolster the argument — Romney has repeatedly relied on elemental falsehoods.
But this goes well beyond Romney’s claims about Obama. It also concerns what he would do as president. Romney’s own campaign has proven unable to back up the promises in his 12 million jobs plan, even though it is the centerpiece of his governing agenda and his response to the most pressing problem facing the nation. And that’s only the beginning. Jonathan Cohn:
Here we are, a day left in the campaign, and Romney still hasn’t told us how he’d offset the cost of his massive tax cut — except to say he’d do it through deductions without raising taxes on the middle class, an approach that independent analysts have said is mathematically impossible. Romney still hasn’t provided details on his “five-point plan” to boost the economy, even though his central claim as a candidate is that he’d do more to improve growth. Romney still hasn’t told us which programs he’d cut in order to cap non-defense federal spending at 16 percent, even though independent analysts have suggested doing so would require draconian cuts few Americans would find acceptable. Even in the spotlight of a nationally televised debate, when confronted with these questions, Romney wouldn’t answer.
And let’s throw Romney’s “47 percent” comments into the mix. Within 48 hours, we may find out whether it’s possible to get elected president after advancing a set of policy proposals that amount to a sham; after openly refusing to share basic governing intentions until after the election; after shifting positions relentlessly on virtually every issue the campaign has touched upon, including the one (health care) that once was seen as central to his case for national office; after refusing to share the most basic info about his own massive fortune and about the mega-bundlers that are fueling his enormous campaign expenditures; and after writing off nearly half the nation as freeloaders.
By: Greg Sargent, The Washington Post Plum Line, November 5, 2012
Lately I’ve traveled with Bill Clinton as he barnstorms the country to elect Democrats — especially including President Obama. On Sunday night, the former president and the man he is trying to re-elect together addressed the largest crowd ever recorded in New Hampshire’s political history when they drew 14,000 people to a rally in Concord.
On Monday, I watched Clinton speak before thousands of energized, cheering voters at rallies in Pennsylvania, where the presidential race seemed to grow tighter in the final hours before Election Day. He landed first in Pittsburgh, flew to Montgomery County, then drove down to Philadelphia and ended the day in Scranton – always with the same message:
“I want you to go out tomorrow and make Barack Obama president for four more years!”
Unlike some of the president’s more reluctant supporters — who affect a fashionable disenchantment with the bruised champion of “hope and change” – Clinton says he feels far more enthusiastic this year than in 2008. That difference might reflect the years elapsed since Obama defeated Hillary Rodham Clinton in a tough primary battle, although Clinton certainly worked hard to elect him in the general election last time.
Whatever he felt four years ago, Bill Clinton can readily articulate why Obama earned his fervent backing this year – and why he finds Mitt Romney utterly unacceptable. (See his detailed essay rebutting the Des Moines Register’s Romney endorsement.) In Pennsylvania, he repeatedly mocked Romney for refusing to say whether he would sign the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. “It’s a simple yes or no answer,” chortled Clinton. “But he says, ‘I had a binder full of women.’” Laughter, catcalls, and applause exploded from the audience.
Clinton scolded Romney for advertising lies about Jeep moving American jobs to China that were so blatant they evoked protests from the presidents of General Motors and Chrysler. “You don’t have to be from Ohio to want a president who tells you the truth when it comes to jobs for the future,” he roared.
For two months, Clinton has jetted across the swing states from Florida, Virginia, and Ohio to Nevada and Colorado, talking himself hoarse. During the campaign’s closing hours, however, he recorded dozens of robocall messages to voters in the non-swing states, specifically in New York and New Jersey — promoting Democratic Senate and Congressional candidates, and simply encouraging voters in the storm-wracked Northeast to find a way to cast their ballots.
In what pollsters predict will be such a close contest, Clinton’s message is not just another civics lecture, but terribly urgent. Whether you live in a blue state, a red state, or a purple state, it is vital for you to vote in this election. The reason is simple. Although President Obama appears likely to win enough electoral votes for a Constitutional victory, he could quite conceivably receive fewer popular votes than Romney. That prospect is more likely now because Superstorm Sandy has badly damaged voting sites and processes in New York and New Jersey, where the president may be deprived of hundreds of thousands of votes as a consequence.
If President Obama wins the electoral vote but loses the popular vote, nobody should expect the Republicans to behave as magnanimously as Al Gore and the Democrats did in 2000, when George W. Bush lost the popular vote but was awarded the electoral vote — and the presidency — by a partisan, truth-twisting Supreme Court majority of one.
There is a danger, in fact, that a popular vote margin for Romney, no matter how small, might embolden a Republican governor in a state where Obama had won — perhaps Ohio or Florida — to instruct his Republican-dominated legislature to choose electors committed to Romney rather than the president. The right has rarely hesitated to violate Constitutional and democratic principles for the sake of power. Indeed, the Ohio secretary of state — like Republican officials across the country – has already sought to deprive citizens of that state of their voting rights.
So wherever you live, do not fail to vote. Make sure that your family and friends and neighbors vote. The focus on swing states is understandable, but it is only half the story of this election. Every ballot cast, in every state, is certain to make a difference this time.
By: Joe Conason, The National Review, November 6, 2012