They’ve hatched a diabolical plot to support the guy whom few people think is electable over the other guy whom few people think is electable.
Why would we do such a crazy thing? Lots of great reasons!
Republican turnout has sucked, and appears to be getting worse by the contest. Unlike the 2008 Democratic primaries, which helped President Barack Obama and the Democrats to build a national organization, the GOP is an organizational disaster, with waning voter interest. That means that it takes fewer votes to have an impact than if Republican turnout was maxed out.
Several of the contests have produced razor-thin margins of victory. Rick Santorum won Iowa by 34 votes, Mitt Romney “won” Maine by 194 votes. It won’t take many of us to swing contests the way we want them to swing.
The longer this GOP primary drags on, the better the numbers for Team Blue. Not only is President Barack Obama rising in comparison to the clowns in the GOP field, but GOP intensity is down—which would have repercussions all the way down the ballot.
The longer this thing drags out, the more unpopular the Republican presidential pretenders become. Just look at Mitt Romney’s trajectory, which followed Herman Cain’s trajectory, and Newt Gingrich’s trajectory, and Michelle Bachmann’s trajectory, and so on.
Their choice, of course, is Santorum, since he’s easier to demagogue on social issues and more poorly funded than Romney is. The first target: The increasingly important state of Michigan, which has an open primary. Rush pioneered this idea four years ago to drag out the Democratic primary by boosting Hillary when it seemed Obama had the Democratic nomination locked up. It might or might not have helped her; there’s some reason to believe that it did but no way to know for sure since Hillary was viewed as the slightly more conservative candidate head to head with O. She was more overtly hawkish than he was at the time (although that distinction has since faded) and she had the centrist cred Bill earned from welfare reform to make her arguably more appealing to moderates than Obama was. As such, it could be that Republicans were crossing over for her on the merits, because they thought she’d govern more like a third-way Democrat than Obama would if elected. We’ll have the same problem deciphering the results in Michigan if Santorum wins. Revisit the data I posted earlier from the CNN poll; RS is by far a more blue-collar populist candidate than Romney is. If he wins Michigan with help from Democrats, is that simple mischief-making by the left or rural, more socially conservative Democrats responding to a Republican who seems to understand the working class a lot better than Romney does?
Exit question: Why do we have open primaries again, anyway? Is there any reason to believe that the independent voters they attract remain loyal to the party in the general election?