How Well Would Santorum Do Without Gingrich?

There have been, and will be, increasing calls for Newt Gingrich to drop out of the race, with the assumption that he cannot win the nomination, and that he has been siphoning votes and delegates from Rick Santorum and keeping him from being competitive.

Are these assumptions true?

The first assumption, that Gingrich cannot win, seems obviously on the mark. The only state he won on Super Tuesday was his home state. In no other state was he even close. Polls show him far behind in Alabama, which puts his southern strategy into question. Further, Gingrich has blown the few opportunities that he has had to gain good publicity. For example, his Super Tuesday speech has to rank as one of the most long-winded, narcissistic, and bat guano crazy performances in the history of American politics. So no, Gingrich does not have a chance. And by staying in the race and behaving this way, he is frittering away whatever political capital he still may have had.

The second assumption, that Gingrich is hurting Santorum by staying in, appears to be common sense, even though some people dispute it. Fortunately, Nate Silver has crunched the numbers and now has an answer as to how badly Gingrich has been hurting Santorum. His work, based upon Public Policy Polling data, suggests that Santorum would get 57% of Gingrich’s support, with Romney receiving 27% and Ron Paul 16%, if Gingrich dropped out.

If this data were applied to the races held thus far, here would be the results and the delegate math:

Silver believes, based upon this data, that Santorum would have carried South Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, and Alaska, and that Santorum would have received a much higher proportion of the vote in most of the races that have been held. Contrary to what appears to be conventional wisdom, he believes that  Romney still would have won Michigan. Where possible, Silver based his calculations on a district-by-district analysis of the results. (Nice to know that someone has the time to do this legwork.)

The bottom line is that Santorum would have picked up just about all of the delegates that Gingrich has won thus far. Further, he would have received a bigger bump in Iowa, and a huge bump in South Carolina and on Super Tuesday. While Santorum might still be behind in the delegate count, with his Super Tuesday wins most people would now be considered him the frontrunner and the momentum would now be on his side. By being in the race, Gingrich is literally taking the wind out of Santorum’s sails.

Most of the primaries in the next month or so are on ground favorable to Santrorum and Gingrich, so if Gingrich continues this trend, effectively he will destroy any chance that Santorum has of gaining momentum and challenging Romney.

Indeed, it may well already be too late.

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3 Responses to How Well Would Santorum Do Without Gingrich?

  1. I would make two points about Silver’s analysis. One, he makes himself– that his numbers ignore the Gingrich supporters who would not vote (or who would go third party instead). There’s a significant psychological push to support the guy in the lead. Those still with Gingrich (and Paul) dislike the two frontrunners enough to resist that psychological push–and who can blame them?

    Two, the PPP polls his analysis is based on seem to have been taken during Santorum’s late February peak. For example, the Wisconsin poll was released on March 1st, so presumably it was taken at least a couple days prior, when Santorum was still polling ~5% higher than Romney. Like all the Not-Romneys before him, Santorum has peaked and is now falling. Romney now leads Santorum by more than 10% nationally, which would surely change the results of Silver’s analysis if those same polls were conducted today.

    Finally, even with Gingrich never having been in the race, and even with those two points which both bias the results in Santorum’s favor, Santorum would still be losing both the popular vote and the delegate count. He might have a little bit of momentum after winning Super Tuesday 6-4, but not anymore than Romney now has after actually winning Super Tuesday 6-3-1, which isn’t much at all.

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