Green Room

Is there a “Romney effect”?

posted at 11:47 am on March 10, 2012 by

Contrary to Supernarrative Wednesday (which spilled over to Thursday), Mitt Romney is likely not as weak as much of the media claims. Political scientist Seth Masket notes that Romney has about 43% of the delegates to date, less than McCain racked up by this point in 2008 — but under the 2008 delegate allocation rules, Romney would have roughly 60%, just as McCain did. National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar notes Romney has won a larger share of the vote than McCain in 14 of the 22 states that have held binding primaries or caucuses so far — and some of the primaries where McCain did better were held after McCain locked up the nomination. Nate Silver looked at the likely result if Newt Gingrich dropped out, concluding that even after receiving most of Gingrich vote, Rick Santorum would still have trailed Romney in the overall popular vote — about 45 percent to 38 percent. Indeed, if Romney stays on his current track in the different regions of the country (including pulling only 25% in the South), he will likely amass the 1,144 delegates needed for the GOP nomination. Tim Cavanaugh argues Obama would be a lock to beat Romney, mostly based on low turnout in the GOP primaries; however, high primary turnout has not consistently predicted general election success in the past.

Nevertheless, as Sean Trende notes, it remains possible that Romney will fall short of winning 1,144 delegates and may need the GOP equivalent of superdelegates to put him over the top.

Romney’s underlying problems are demographic. The Romney/Santorum narrative is built on Mitt’s weakness with the working class. However, Karl Rove notes that on Super Tuesday, Romney nearly erased the gap with non-college graduates. If Romney is nominated, he may yet carry a “wealth problem,” but he would be running against someone unloved by the bitter clinger demographic.

The demo Romney has yet to crack is white evangelicals (assuming African-Americans again vote overwhelmingly for Democrats). As Harry Enten and Sean Trende were among the first to note, states with large evangelical populations tend to vote more heavily against Romney (although Trende also notes that this may be a proxy for the difference between Northern and Southern conservatism; that black Republicans prefer other candidates to Romney also suggests this, but the sample is small). Pew notes Romney has fared significantly better among non-evangelical voters than among evangelicals in every state for which data are available (ironically, Santorum has not won the Catholic vote in any state for which data are available, which suggests Romney’s weakness with evangelicals is not pure anti-Mormon bias). Considering the percentages of white evangelicals and Catholics by state, it should surprise no one that Romney lost states like Oklahoma and Tennessee on Super Tuesday (although the delegate allocation ultimately mutes this effect).

The remaining questions are whether Romney can make inroads with white evangelicals during the primaries and if not, what it means should Romney win the GOP nomination. Mitt gets a number of opportunities to try to win evangelical votes this month: Kansas, Alabama, Mississippi and Missouri all tilt significantly more evangelical than Catholic. Louisiana and Illinois tilt Catholic, but not by the sort of margin these other states lean evangelical. The sparse polling to date suggests competitive races, but the topline results tell us nothing about the evangelical vote.

What happens if Romney becomes the GOP nominee? A November 2011 Pew poll showed Republicans who say Mormonism is not a Christian religion were less likely to support Romney for the GOP nomination, but seemingly would overwhelmingly back him in a run against Obama in the general election. Might evangelicals stay home? A January YouGov poll found 31% of Southern evangelicals say they would not vote for a qualified Mormon for president, yet only 12% said they whould stay home if Romney is the nominee — a similar result as that given for Gingrich and Rick Perry. Moreover, Romney did as well against Obama as Gingrich or Perry in this poll.

That 12% number may be comforting, but the 31% number may give some pause to consider whether an anti-Mormon “Bradley effect” might lurk for a Mitt Romney candidacy. Obviously, the answer to that question is unknown at this time. However, the states in which a “Romney effect” would be most likely also tend to be the reddest of the Red States, won heavily by McCain in the face of a political perfect storm favoring Barack Obama. Any Romney effect would have to be shockingly large to matter in most of the South. A Romney effect could conceivably make North Carolina and Virginia more difficult to win. But even in that unlikely scenario, it is unclear that Santorum or Gingrich would be a better candidate in either state.

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But even in that unlikely scenario, it is unclear that Santorum or Gingrich would be a better candidate in either state.

…based on what, Karl?

alwaysfiredup on March 10, 2012 at 1:12 PM

If Romney is the nominee and he loses to Obama because white evangelicals refuse to vote for him because he’s Mormon, I predict that would be such revulsion at such bigotry that the GOP would implode and a new libertarian leaning party would take it’s place. There is already a fairly large schism with regard to gay marriage/civil unions. (Wanna stop gays from having sex? Let ‘em get married! Badabump!) The “Constitutional Party” perchance?

DocinPA on March 10, 2012 at 1:20 PM

alwaysfiredup on March 10, 2012 at 1:12 PM,

Based on the most recent polling in NC (PPP) and VA (NBC/Marist). The major GOP candidates do about the same vs Obama in each state, with Romney maybe a point or two better. A Romney effect of even a few points would be within margin of error, making it difficult to say whether Sanotrum or Gingrich would be stronger there.

Karl on March 10, 2012 at 4:00 PM

It just hit me about Hot Air as I am reading this article…it never ONCE mentions what is RIGHT with Romney and WHY he is in FIRST PLACE! Almost every article written about Romney on this site is ALMOST ALWAYS what is wrong with Romney and yet he continues to win Primaries and Caucuses DEFYING ALL of these articles. Maybe HA needs to realize the meme they keep pushing is NOT how Americans really feel about Romney because the FACTS say differently by their votes.

Karl, take this comment back to the board room with you and Allah, Ed, Tina, et al and maybe have a paradigm shift that your articles DO NOT REPRESENT what is actually happening out there. I do not care what polls say as people can say whatever they want in a poll. People speak with their VOTE and they are voting for Romney. So let’s start writing articles on WHY people are voting for Romney…heck, it could even be they are voting AGAINST Obama but Romney definitely has appeal DESPITE what HA writes or projects. :o)

g2825m on March 10, 2012 at 4:58 PM

Seriously, we don’t need to wonder about Virginia and North Carolina. There is just no way they go for Obama again.

g2825m has a point – there is so much of the anti-Romney stuff, a lot of people actually believe some of it. Who was the most conservative Governor of Massachusetts in the last 50 years?

Adjoran on March 10, 2012 at 9:22 PM

Fear not:
Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 25% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as president. Forty-four percent (44%) Strongly Disapprove, giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -19

With the perception growing that he will be the GOP nominee, Romney leads President Obama by five points in a hypothetical 2012 matchup. Today’s numbers show Romney at 48%, Obama at 43%. That’s Romney’s largest lead since December.

Rovin on March 10, 2012 at 9:29 PM

My reasons for not voting for Romney under any circumstances have nothing to do with his religion.. I would vote for the right candidate if he were a catholic druid or an agnostic pentacostal. My reason for not voting for Romney is simple.. RomneyCare. period. If he is the nominee, I’ll vote indy/libertarian, fight for conservative GOP senate/house seats and shore up my stockpiles.

kringeesmom on March 10, 2012 at 10:00 PM

Well written Mr. Karl. I appreciate your analyses, as always.

Kriggly on March 10, 2012 at 10:07 PM

g2825m has it exactly right. The far right /evangelicals/social cons blame it on Romney’s money and his attacks on their guys but it a LOT more than that.
1. Character…unblemished and stong personal values.
2. Competence…and success in everything he has done.
3. Calm under fire…Presidential
4. In command of the facts & able to state them. 1st or 2nd in every debate.
5. Rational & non-threatening to non-conservatives.
6. An excellent ans achievable plan for turning the country around.
7. Deeply flawed opposition.
8. Toughness…wins the battles he absolutely must.

camaraderie on March 10, 2012 at 10:09 PM

(ironically, Santorum has not won the Catholic vote in any state for which data are available, which suggests Romney’s weakness with evangelicals is not pure anti-Mormon bias)

This is what I learned from the pro-life book catalogs I used to get in the mail. The Catholics have a BIG PROBLEM with Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Evangelicals have a BIG PROBLEM with Mormons.

So, while it is surprising that Santorum isn’t doing better with Catholics, that doesn’t mean the Evangelicals don’t have a problem with Romney because he’s a Mormon.

I think I got all those negatives right.

ABO folks, A.B.O.

Jocon307 on March 10, 2012 at 10:18 PM

Romney has been showing strength in appealing to upper middle class suburbanites who are one of the major swing constituents that swung to Obama in 2008.

Santorum has proven great appeal to the working class that is more Republican leaning but also can swing elections.

It made me wonder what a Romney/Santorum ticket could do. Particularly in a state like Pennsylvania.

Sackett on March 10, 2012 at 10:19 PM

g2825m on March 10, 2012 at 4:58 PM

First, there’s no HotAir board room… not any I’m invited to in any event. Indeed, when I have filled in for AP or Ed in the past, it was actually difficult to try to coordinate things.

Second, this post starts off with a litany of facts rebutting the notion that Mitt is a weak candidate, and the remainder is devoted to examining, and largely rejecting, one of the reasons some offer as to why Mitt would be a bad general election candidate.

Third, my general position is that I haven’t liked any of the candidates running. I have written pieces critical of virtually all of the major candidates (except for a couple I gave no chance of winning). So if you’re looking for a Romney cheerleader, this ain’t the spot. However, I have and will continue to defend any of the candidates against unfair attacks, Mitt included.

Adjoran on March 10, 2012 at 9:22 PM

Romney the most conservative Mass governor in the last 50 years? Arguably, Weld, Celluci and Swift were better.

Karl on March 10, 2012 at 10:27 PM

Romney is a Democrat and a lover of the individual mandate (both state and federal) ….that is why he is a horrible choice as a Republican nominee.

Pragmatic on March 10, 2012 at 11:22 PM

Romney takes Obamacare off the table. Only a party operated by morons would make him the nominee.

Romney will never beat Obama as Axelrod is just salivating ready to roll out poor, little, abused people who are living in indigent misery thanks to getting laid off because of the predatory vulture behavior of Gordon Gecko. Only a party operated by morons would not be aware of this and make him the nominee.

Romney will never get conservatives to make the effort to go to the polls and vote for him. The result will be a loss in Republicans in the Senate and House. Only a party operated by morons would not admit the obvious, Romney sucks!

Romney’s leftist campaign now seeks to brand anyone who doesn’t vote for him as prejudiced because he is a Mormon. Kind of reminds one of another leftist who called people racist if they didn’t vote for him doesn’t it?

A Romney nomination makes zero sense to anyone with the smallest amount of brain cells and no amount of name calling by Karl Rove can get anyone but a fool to submit.

Thank the Lord conservatives are individuals and not sheeple.

It’s back to the drawing board Tokyo Rove.

Jayrae on March 11, 2012 at 8:30 AM

I agree that Karl’s tone is fairly neutral here, but in general Mitt has been framed by the right wing media as a “moderate” and Santorum has been labeled the “true conservative”. These labels are marketing tactics from the Santorum camp and represent spin not reality. Consider Santorum’s anti-tea party comments, his “folks, sometimes you have to vote against your principles” comments. His lack of conservative leadership credentials after 20 years in Washington. Yes, Romney care is a problem for Mitt, but balance that with the fact that he is the only candidate with private sector experience and he is the only candidate with executive level experience. As currently enunciated, his views are clearly conservative. The pressure will be on him to follow through with his promise to ax Obama care.

Senators are compromisers. Governors and CEOs are leaders. We do not need a compromising, sweater vested Washinton insider with no private sector or executive leadership experience. Romney has been successful in every endeavor, and has a reputation of the highest integrity. He has also been thoroughly vetted. Santorum can’t even successfully register his campaign in every state and doesn’t have enough common sense to refrain from comments such as “I’m against contraception”. Obama would skewer him in a debate. Romney is the only candidate I’ve see actually get the best of Newt in a debate.

Romney can win and be a successful president.

essequam on March 11, 2012 at 8:49 AM

This is a political party, remember. We are not passive onlookers. Those of us who consider ourselves part of the the conservative movement do it no good by sitting it out when our first choice doesn’t win. The truth still applies that national politics requires money on a bigger scale than most of us feel comfortable talking about and organization beyond any we’ve ever run. Add to that all the tricks and falsehoods employed by the left to mislead people of good will, and the task before use may seem too corrupt and hopeless to be involved in.

The success of the party depends on the quality of our candidates, true, but more importantly it depends on the energy we constribute. Whatever you think of Mitt Romney, you have to think of the alternative if we sit this out and pout because Santorum or Perry or Gingrich didn’t get chosen. There are a lot of reasons why Romney is a good candidate. And we much stand with and for him and make his case: the issue now is quit spending on what we can’t afford, and none of the candidates has more experience and expertise in turning failing enterprises around than Mitt Romney. He’s been slandered viciously by people who should be on his side for whatever reasons. He’ll get plenty of that from the Democrats.

The negativity in these primaries has to stop. Let’s accept what is and begin engaging the real opponent for this fall.

flataffect on March 11, 2012 at 10:25 AM

It made me wonder what a Romney/Santorum ticket could do. Particularly in a state like Pennsylvania.

I’m thinking this, if we get to the convention and Mitt has the most delegates (or even a majority) and Rick has a whole lotta delegates too, it would make sense to pair them up.

It WOULD be a total white boy pubbie ticket, but it should have broad appeal to the entire base, middle and even fringe of the Republican party.

Now, the question is: would they have enough appeal to the “Regan dems” and the “Soccer Moms and Dads”?

Jocon307 on March 11, 2012 at 6:08 PM

It is utterly dishonest for people to say Romney must be held to 2008 standards with the primary delegates now allotted by proportional representation.

scotash on March 12, 2012 at 4:39 AM