Low voter turnout spells problems for Republicans

Nothing decisive has happened since I last blogged about the Republican primary election campaign. That was after the Florida primary. And nothing decisive is likely to happen for a long time yet. But the campaign is now taking a break until February 28 so let’s take a quick look at the race.

Mitt Romney won in Nevada and Maine, while Rick Santorum came first in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri. But it was all mostly symbolic victories, without much importance for the battle about the electoral votes which decide U.S. presidential elections.

It is worth noting that Santorum has now taken over second place after Romney. For Newt Gingrich the week was not fun – he came last in three of the four elections in which he participated.

However, most notable was the low voter turnout, which means that the results in all five elections should be taken with a big grain of salt.

In Maine last night, for example, with a population of 1.3 million, only 6,135 people voted. That’s nothing – only two percent of its registered Republicans. Romney won with 2,190 votes against Ron Paul’s 1,996 — that is 194 votes. And it’s been the same all week: in Nevada 12,000 fewer people voted than in 2008; in Minnesota 15,000 fewer; in Colorado 5,000 fewer; , and in Missouri over 50 percent fewer voted compared to 2008.

That tells the story of a Republican electorate both uninterested in the process and lukewarm towards the party’s candidates. That does not bode well for the Republicans in the decisive battle against President Obama, where enthusiasm and a strong, joint effort will be needed to win.

Today, Obama has the upper hand in the polls against all four Republican candidates — over Romney by 48 percent to 43 percent, Santorum by 50 to 40, Gingrich by 51 against 40, and Paul by 48 to 41.

And in the battle for the crucial electoral votes, — it takes 270 to win in November – RealClearPolitics has Obama in the lead by 217 to 181 with eleven toss up states. In 2008, Obama won in ten of these eleven states — Missouri the exception — and defeated John McCain with 368 electoral votes to 173.

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“Sabato’s Crystal Ball” explains it all

What’s the situation in the Republican presidential race? Who’s ahead? Who’s behind? What’s next? How long?

I doubt if anyone can explain it all better than Larry Sabato in his “Sabato’s Crystal Ball.”

Sabato is a political science professor at the University of Virginia and the director of its Center for Politics.

Take a listen — it’ll save you a lot of reading!

The favorite won in Florida — order is restored

In South Carolina ten days ago, Newt Gingrich won with 40 percent of the vote against Mitt Romney’s 28 – the numbers in Florida today were completely the opposite. The favorite won, order has been restored in the republican primary and a strengthened Romney can confidently look forward to future battles.

The Florida election turned just as the polls predicted – Mitt Romney won with 46 percent of the vote against Newt Gingrich’s 32, Rick Santorum’s 13 and Ron Paul’s 7 percent. According to CNN, Romney won in nearly all voter groups, even among the Tea Party supporters by 41 percent to 37 for Gingrich, among women by 52 to 28, and among Hispanics, who accounted for 14 percent of the more than 1.6 million voters, by 54 percent to 29. Only among those who called themselves “very conservative” and among the evangelicals did Gingrich beat Romney.

Romney’s victory came through an outrageously expensive TV campaign totaling 15 million dollars, against Gingrich’s 3 million, mostly through the so-called Super PACs, which so far during the campaign’s four weeks have spent over 44 million dollars on television advertising.

Almost all TV ads in Florida were negative. And the candidates were not throwing pies; they were throwing knives from deep down in the mud. The question now is how this ruthlessly negative campaign in Florida will affect the continuing campaign. There is a lot of bad blood between Romney and Gingrich, as noticed in their speeches tonight. None of them was particularly generous, no warm congratulations, and that cannot be good for the GOP in the long run, ahead of the battles against President Obama.

Republicans answer these concerns by saying that we will come together in the end, we will unite around our party’s candidate, whoever he is, in order to defeat Obama. That remains to be seen. But the White House cannot but be delighted with the bitter internal Republican campaign and hopes it goes on for a long time. That depends on money, of course, and only Romney has plenty of that.

For Gingrich, the future must now seem bleak, even if he boldly announced tonight that 46 States remain in the campaign. His negative tactics to insult Romney – a moderate, yes, a liberal from Massachusetts – did not seem to go over well. Neither did his tactics to appear as the conservative heir to Ronald Reagan, as an anti-establishment and anti-Washington candidate when, in fact, he is the archetype of a political insider, the archetype of Washington insider with a long career in the capital both as a politician and a lobbyist.

The message did not fit the messenger. Florida’s voters seem to have realized this. And that does not bode well for Gingrich’s future in this campaign.

Romney can expect a big victory in Florida

The uncertainty and excitement are gone ahead of tomorrow’s Republican primary in Florida. All opinion polls have Mitt Romney in the lead, some by as much as 20 percent, and political statistician Nate Silver on his blog FiveThirtyEight writes that Romney has 97 percent chance of winning and is expected to capture nearly 45 percent of the vote.

So, a big victory for Romney, according to Silver, well ahead of Newt Gingrich’s 29 percent, Rick Santorum’s 13 percent, and Ron Paul’s 11 percent.

If Silver’s predictions come true, Gingrich will have serious difficulties to continue his campaign. He is already short of money and a big loss in Florida will make it much more difficult to raise more funds, while the situation for Romney would be the exact opposite.

Romney is also the favorite in most of the contests in February — in Nevada and Arizona because of their substantial Mormon populations, and in Michigan because Romney was born there and his father was once its governor.

The road ahead for Gingrich after the expected loss in Florida tomorrow is not easy. However, he has already said he intends to continue until the party convention in Tampa, Florida this summer. But we have heard such declarations before during this campaign, and they have often been followed by a somber press conference with the candidate giving up and going home.

The two remaining candidates, Santorum and Paul, have barely campaigned at all in Florida, and it is hard to understand why they are still in the race, other than to continue to promote their ideas and to make PR for themselves. For Santorum, there might also be with something else in mind, such as a cabinet post if Romney beats Obama, or another attempt to represent Pennsylvania again in the U.S. Senate.

And now the war of the TV ads is starting….

Political television ads have not played a particularly important role up to now in the Republican primary election campaign.  That’s different from previous years and an interesting phenomenon.

Instead, the campaign’s focus has been the constant panel debates between the eight, well, now seven, candidates, which have benefited those who can talk, like Newt Gingrich, and those without much money, again, like Newt Gingrich.

But Gingrich has now launched his first TV-ad in Iowa, at a cost of 250,000 dollars, and soon political TV ads will flood the media in the State ahead of the January 3 caucuses. There are many similarities with Gingrich’s ad and Ronald Reagan’s classic “Morning in America” from 1984. Take a look!

Gingrich:

Reagan:

But Gingrich will surely not be allowed to play Reagan. Just take a look at Ron Paul’s scathing attack on the former Republican Speaker called “Serial Hypocrisy.” It takes me back to 1988 and the vice presidential debate between Loyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle.

Bentsen to Quayle: “you are no John Kennedy.” It seems to me that Paul is saying about Gingrich: you are no Ronald Reagan…

And now Newt Gingrich will save the Republican Party…

The Republican primary voters seem to have found yet another new savior of the party. Let’s see how long that lasts.

This time it’s the political veteran and former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, who suddenly has caught a strong wind in his back judging from the latest opinion polls after a long period at the bottom of the field.

In contrast, Mitt Romney continues to languish around 20 percent. The support for Herman Cain has dropped significantly and Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann are stuck in single digits.

The question is whether Gingrich’s rise means anything more than that the search among the Republican primary voters to find a candidate who can seriously challenge President Obama — now with renewed momentum — has entered a desperate stage. For just like Perry, Bachmann and Cain before him, the grumpy, unpredictable and condescending Gingrich, who loves to complain about the media and their questions, has little chance in the end to capture the nomination.

The twelve television debates to date with the eight candidates have been an embarrassing, yes, a sorrow spectacle, and it’s not over yet – another 14 debates wait until March next year …

Is this the best the GOP has to offer? It is a question many Republican voters also must ask themselves when watching Rick Perry’s brain freeze recently, when he could not remember which three departments he wants to eliminate, or Herman Cain’s brain freeze the other day after a question about Libya.

The foreign policy debate on Saturday in South Carolina was particularly illustrative of how weak the field is. Their superficial foreign policy knowledge, with the exception of former Ambassador Jon Huntsman, was astonishing. Everyone wanted to prove tough – yes, bomb Iran!

And Cain’s, Bachmann’s and Perry’s support of waterboarding when interrogating terrorist suspects was downright shocking. Thankfully, they were met with opposition by Huntsman and Ron Paul.

And afterwards, former Republican presidential candidate and prisoner of war, John McCain, called the waterboarding statements “disappointing, ” and President Obama stated forcefully:

“They’re wrong. Waterboarding is torture. It’s contrary to America’s tradition. It’s contrary to our ideals. That’s not who we are. That’s not how we operate. We do not need it in order to prosecute the war on terrorism. And we did the right thing by ending that practice. If we want to lead around the world, part of our leadership is setting a good example. And anybody who has actually read about and understand the practice of waterboarding would say that that is torture. And that’s not something we do – period. “

Of course! How could anyone say anything else?