Iowa and New Hampshire solved nothing — and that’s good!

Two down but no end in sight. Iowa and New Hampshire solved nothing.

That’s the only conclusion to draw after the first two contests in the American presidential election campaign.

And maybe that’s a good thing. Iowa and New Hampshire are not representative of today’s multi-cultural, multi-ethnic America. How can they be when 95 percent of New Hampshire’s population are white and when two thirds of the Republican voters in Iowa are evangelical? That’s not today’s America.

At least, the candidates in both parties are fewer than before. Among the Democrats, it’s now a real race between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Who would have thought just a short time ago that Bernie Sanders, who sounds like a good Swedish social democrat like Olof Palme, would capture such enthusiasm and support among American voters? As someone who has grown up in that northern European political culture, much of what Sanders says sounds right: basic fairness, health care for all, income equality, free education. But is it a sign of something new in American politics? Is it a sign that a “democratic socialist’’ all of a sudden is acceptable, maybe even mainstream? Or is it more an indication of the country’s voters so desperately seeking something new, and fresh, that even a 74-year old Senator can symbolize this?

Still, in today’s America, his vision is politically completely unrealistic, and, I believe, will only carry him so far. In the end, Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. But the fact that Sanders won 83 percent of the voters between 18 and 29 years of age while Clinton only won among those over 65 and failed to win the women’s vote must be most worrisome. Is America ready for a woman president, or is Hillary Clinton the wrong female candidate?

That depends, largely, on who the Republican nominee is. Right now, it could be Donald Trump or Ted Cruz or one the so-called establishment candidates, if one of them catches fire. If not, the Republican Party will be led by either the chief clown, Trump, or the chief spokesman of evangelical America, Cruz, the most conservative nominee since Barry Goldwater in 1964. We know how that ended. And that’s what worries the establishment in the Republican Party, but can they do anything about it? So far, no.

Both Sanders and Trump are outsiders, and, ironically, both have no chance in realizing their vision of America. Trump plays the strong man with an enormous ego who thinks he can solve all the problems. His message is fool’s gold and he should not be taken seriously. It’s sad to see so many do, that two thirds of the Republican primary voters in New Hampshire agreed with his proposal to bar Muslims from entering America, or that Trump, a man with zero foreign policy experience, is the best man to handle an international crisis. Unfortunately, the Republican voters, at least so far, seem to listen to what David Brooks calls the “pornography of pessimism” among the Republican candidates about of the state of affairs in America. Will that last? We don’t know.

It’s now Romney vs. Obama

Rick Santorum withdrew today, finally, from the Republican presidential campaign. His dream of becoming the party’s candidate and then beat President Obama in November remains a dream.

Instead, it’s now official, or semi-official until the Republican Convention in Tampa, that president Obama’s opponent in November is Mitt Romney. No surprise there. Still, Romney must be happy. Santorum’s vicious attacks had forced Romney further and further to the right, something that could seriously hamper his chances to beat Obama in the fall.

See Think Progress’s compilation of Santorum’s attacks.

Few, if any saw it coming, including myself. Santorum’s campaign was one big surprise, from the role almost like a movie extra at the beginning, when no one could explain why he even ran after his humiliating defeat in 2006 when he tried to get re-elected to the US Senate from Pennsylvania, to becoming Romney’s foremost rival. He had no money, no party endorsements, no election organization, and a message much too far to the right. He never had a real chance to win the nomination — his right-wing message had few excited beyond the Christian Right and the Tea Party movement — but he ran a good race, to a great extent it should be added, because of Romney’s weaknesses as a candidate.

Today, when Santorum gave up and paved the way for Mitt Romney’s final victory, he had won in eleven states, received a total of 3.2 million votes, and collected 272 delegates. He was the runner-up, although far behind Romney with 656 delegates and 4.6 million votes, but well ahead of Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, both with no chance of final victory but still, inexplicably, in the race.

Santorum gave as the main reason for today’s decision ruling his daughter’s illness, but surely he also wanted to avoid a threatening, and humiliating, defeat in Pennsylvania’s primary on April 24, where Romney had been gaining strength lately. A defeat there could have had serious repercussions for Santorum’s future political career.

The U.S. presidential election campaign, which already seems to have lasted an eternity, still has seven months to go. The battle is now between Obama and Romney. Today, Obama leads. Check out how it all looks like, according to today’s survey by Washington Post/ABC News.

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.

“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.

Mitt Romney with new momentum after New Hampshire

It will now have to take something special and unexpected to prevent Mitt Romney from becoming the Republican Party’s presidential candidate.

Mitt Romney’s victory in New Hampshire’s primary election today was expected, but it was the first time a Republican presidential candidate has won in both Iowa and New Hampshire. He won because the voters saw him as having the best chance to beat president Obama in November.

The victory was big, although not overwhelming, and it gives Romney fresh momentum for the next battle in South Carolina on January 21. The victory was also revenge for his loss in the New Hampshire primary in 2008 to John McCain, who received 37 percent of the vote to Romney’s 31 percent.

Today, Romney got 38 percent of the vote against 24 percent for runner-up Ron Paul and 17 percent for the third-place Jon Huntsman. The other three, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Rick Perry, came far behind with 10, 10 and 1 percent of the vote.

For the libertarian Ron Paul, his second place was a clear success, and his neoliberal/isolationist message will be heard loud and clear for a long while still in the Republican primary campaign.

New Hampshire was also a success for the third-place Jon Huntsman, but not enough of a success. He needed to come in second. He will go on to South Carolina, but it’s difficult to see him do well in that conservative, Tea Party-friendly state in the deep South. New Hampshire will likely be the high point of Huntsman’s presidential campaign.

And for the remaining three, Gingrich, Santorum and Perry, New Hampshire was no fun. They tried but could not shake Romney. So three personal disappointments but also a great disappointment for the conservatives in the Republican Party, who still view Mitt Romney with great suspicion. But what can they do? There is not enough time to stop Romney.