A wrote a long response to one of the comments of my last post, and since I did so many back-of-the-envelope calculations and so much research for it, I thought I should repost and expand upon my response here.
The comment suggested that since Mitt Romney will have the highest percentage of the vote, no one would stand for having a brokered convention, and Romney must at all cost be made the GOP nominee. I beg to differ. Here are some of my reasons why.
Currently, Romney has only 40% of the popular vote in the GOP primaries and caucuses, which means that a plurality of GOP voters have not voted for him. Unless the other candidates drop out, this should still hold to be true by convention time. When is the last time a candidate with only 40% of the vote received the nomination? McCain had about 46% in 2008, and his lack of support by Republicans is one reason he lost the general election. Gerald Ford received 53% of the primary vote in 1976, and it crippled him in the general election. While Richard Nixon lost the popular vote tally to Ronald Reagan in 1968, this was in a political era when primaries were thought of as more advisory than binding, and there were in fact only 15 state primaries that year. Nixon won most of these contests, which is why he became the nominee.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton carried the popular vote in 2008. However, Mike Dukakis had 43% in 1988, Walter Mondale had 38% in 1984, Jimmy Carter had 40% in 1976, and George McGovern lost the primary popular vote in 1972.
While this does not prove that Romney cannot win the general election in 2012, unless he is able to start pulling more than 40% of the GOP vote, it bodes very poorly for his chances. This is a good reason to want a brokered convention–it may be our only chance to win the White House.
Now, the onus is not on the voters to hold their noses and support a candidate that they do not like and would not otherwise vote for, simply to win an election and kick the other guy out. The onus is purely on the candidate to make the case and win support. In this regard, Romney has not even tried to win conservative support, and is sending out signals through his surrogates that he will moderate his positions once the convention is over.
If he does this, odds are that he will lose the general election.
Romney currently has 4,595,303 votes to Santorum’s 3,209,129 votes. This does not put Santorum in a strong position at the moment. However, this can change. On CNN some political pros were speculating that if Santorum can keep up his current pace, he may well be the popular vote winner, even while losing the delegate math. While this may seem farfetched, looking at the primary map it is possible, provided that Santorum does not falter.
Since the Florida primary, Santorum has received 32% of the vote, versus 17% for Gingrich, 10% for Paul, and 40% for Romney. Gingrich has not been able to match or exceed his average vote since March 16, in Mississippi (31%) and Alabama (29%). Meanwhile, Santorum has been able to consistently match–or nearly match–his average percentage of the vote in nearly all the states. In Wisconsin, for example, he got 38% of the vote. Even in Maryland, which Santorum was not expected to do well in, he was still able to get 28%. If this trend were to continue, then we would expect Gingrich to range between 5-15% in the remainder of the primaries, with Santorum getting the bulk of the support that Gingrich was getting prior to the Florida primary. We should expect Santorum to get at least 40-50% (or more) of the vote in southern states, with Romney holding steady at around 30%. Meanwhile, in blue states Romney will continue to pick up about 45-49% of the vote, and Santorum and Romney will fight to a draw in the Midwest. Essentially, even though Romney will likely pick up more delegates, Romney and Santorum would pretty much split the vote in the remaining contests, if these contests follow the current pattern. If Gingrich falters still more and Santorum were to do even slightly better in April and May, and then get a clear victory in Texas, then suddenly he might well be ahead in the total vote count. It is conceivable that Santorum will defeat Romney in the total percentage of vote, even while losing the delegate math. While this is unlikely to happen, if voting trends continue as they have been, barring a complete Santorum collapse, the popular vote total will be much closer by convention time than it is now, and the momentum will be on Santorum’s side.
All of this depends upon a number of factors, not the least of which is conservatives not losing hope, and coming out to support Santorum rather than giving up.
Romney and his supporters appear to have exactly this in mind. They want people to “bow to inevitability” and support Romney so that we can defeat Obama in November, even though Romney still has not given conservatives a reason to vote for him. Of course, if we don’t support him in the general election, he will try to pin the blame on us, rather than himself.
Romney has run a whole campaign of negative advertising against Rick Santorum because Santorum made one or two mistakes “for the good of the team”. If Santorum was wrong to do so, if he really betrayed the conservative cause by supporting Arlen Specter in return for a promise to help get conservative, pro-life judges confirmed by the Senate, if this is the standard Romney wishes conservatives to be held to, then how on earth can Romney demand that we support him, when he has done little or nothing to earn conservative support? If we support Romney merely “for the good of the team” without getting anything in return from him, then we are every bit as compromised as Romney appears to be.
If Romney wants to wrap this up, instead of attacking Santorum, other Republicans, social conservatives, and conservatives in general, he can start talking about issues we care about. Instead of using surrogates to hint that he will abandon conservative positions and the pro-life movement once he is nominated, he can double down on conservative issues and start reaching out to conservatives to try to get them on board with his campaign.
The onus is on him to reach out and get support. Until he does that, there is every reason to wish Rick Santorum the best of success, and hope for a brokered convention so that we can get a candidate who does not stink.
- The Fat Lady Has Not Sung: Latest Official RNC Delegate Count Shows Romney Only Halfway There (treeofmamre.wordpress.com)
- Mark Levin and the Omens of Doom (theothermccain.com)
- Why Conservatives Should Support Santorum (treeofmamre.wordpress.com)