The First 2012 Projections: Why Palin May Not Win a Single State

February 22, 2010 at 8:40 pm Leave a comment

I’ve always considered the ability to offer projections and insight into ongoing elections one of the most important elements of political commentary. Current events will always be covered by the news media, and most people following political websites are already fairly set on where they stand on the major issues – for all the attention they get, websites specializing in political debate are often little more than echo boxes for one side or the other. Not everyone, however, has the time or analytical skills to put together accurate projections. So, from now until the results actually start coming in, you can expect occasional looks at how the election is shaping up.

Before I reveal the actual analysis and explanation, I must offer some caution: there is very little hard evidence available to us at this time, and most of what is available has to be taken, for various reasons, with a considerable grain of salt. Although I will not hide the fact that I have a history of making good calls about how things will unfold, predicting the results of a multi-month election still more than 18 months away is difficult business. These projections may and most likely will change as time goes on.

It is worth mentioning that, at this early stage, nationwide polls for Presidential primaries are interesting, but only somewhat meaningful. We are fortunate in the sense that all of the top three are well known, but unfortunate in the sense that most voters still aren’t focusing on the 2012 race. Statewide polls, however, are a little more reliable – not only in that each contest is actually held at the state level, but in that it allows direct comparison to the 2008 results. Of four states to have thus-far been polled, three had competitive primary races in the last election (North Carolina, though it held a primary, did not vote until May, well after McCain had secured the nomination). Our only Utah poll similarly must be thrown out, because it polled only a head-to-head match between Mitt Romney and John Huntsman. In short, we can use the results from New Hampshire and Alabama to begin laying the ground for accurate projections of the 2012 race. My analysis so far has come to one serious conclusion: Sarah Palin may very well go winless in actual contests.

Here is the map – Red is Romney, Blue is Huckabee, Gold is Palin, and Green is NM Governor Gary Johnson:

As you can see, the race largely results in a Romney blowout, although not before legitimately competitive races in Iowa and South Carolina, both of which may be won by Mike Huckabee. Sarah Palin, despite being the star of the Tea Party Movement, wins only her home state – a victory I would rate about only about 50/50. But why? To understand, we must analyze the two useful statewide polls we’ve received thus far:

New Hampshire 2012 Republican Presidential Primary – August, 2009 – LINK

Romney – 50%, Palin – 17%, Huckabee – 17%, Gingrich – 13%

Alabama 2012 Republican Presidential Primary – February, 2010 – LINK

Huckabee – 33%, Palin – 23%, Romney – 12%, Undecided – 24%

These two states represent two important groups in Republican primaries. Alabama is southern, religious, and relatively rural. Social Conservatism and personal character reign. New Hampshire is exactly the opposite: wealthier, northern, and more independent. Freedom is valued, as is personal independence from the government, particularly on matters of money. Policy and experience are critical.

If “common knowledge” is to be believed, Palin should have significant appeal in both states, as she has supposedly breached the divide between the evangelical, socially conservative, Religious Right; and the independent-minded, financially-oriented Libertarians. Yet she is failing miserably at attracting either group – in Alabama, she barely makes a dent in Huckabee’s 2008 support, and in New Hampshire, both Romney and Huckabee (who has virtually no appeal to libertarians) increase their totals. What support Palin is able to manage in either location seems to come from one fraction of McCain voters.

Inevitably, this will surprise some people – but it probably shouldn’t. Although Palin does have a certain amount of pull within both groups, neither has much reason to “seek alternate route” if both Huckabee and Romney enter the race. The vast majority of fiscal libertarians are either socially conservative, or socially indifferent  – they like Romney’s background on the economy, and his history of sound fiscal principles. Most are more than happy to accept his support of traditional values, and for those who aren’t, Palin is no alternative. In the South, among Evangelicals, there is little need for additional candidates once a Baptist Minister enters the election.

But, enough back story. What does Alabama have to do a sea of Red for Romney? The answer is Iowa. Despite its location (as you can see) well outside any traditional definition of “the South”, it functions in Republican primaries largely as a southern state, more tolerant of populist economic policy, more concerned about social issues. Palin’s failure to attract a significant following in Alabama spells trouble for any attempt to win in Iowa, and with Romney poised to sweep MI, NV, NH, and WY, Palin will head into South Carolina (should she stay in the race that long) without any claim to momentum. SC may go for either Romney or Huckabee, but if this race plays out in the first few states as I just described, it will be nearly impossible for her to pull off a late win to get back into the game. Once again assuming she does not drop out before Super Tuesday, she will still have problems winning anywhere besides her home state.

In the end, Romney will do well on Super Tuesday, pulling in most of the big states and those in the Mountain West. Huckabee may be able to ride a Southern wave to a late victory in the Potomac Primary in Virginia later in the month, yet it is unlikely he will be able to find significant momentum after CPAC 2010. In the end, Romney should be able to wrap up the competition by mid-March.

At least for now.

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Entry filed under: Nation, Politics. Tags: , , , , , .

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