Wednesday, February 1, 2012
The Florida GOP Presidential Primary Results: Mitt-mentum!
First off, let's take a quick look at last night's results:
Mitt Romney (771,842, 46.4%, 50 delegates)
Newt Gingrich (531,294, 31.9%, 0 delegates)
Rick Santorum (222,248, 13.4%, 0 delegates)
Ron Paul (116,776, 7.0%, 0 delegates)
There were no real suprises in the final vote totals given the polls. But Romney did cross an important threshold, as his vote total edged out the combined vote for Gingrich and Santorum. This was the first time that the vote for Romney (46.4%) totalled more than the vote for his main rivals (31.9% + 13.4% = 45.3%). Romney didn't climb above 50% due to the Ron Paul vote, but I don't think it's accurate to include the Ron Paul vote in the Anybody-But-Romney vote totals.
To provide a little accountability, here was my forecast from last week:
Romney: 38% (actual was 46%)
Gingrich: 27% (actual was 32%)
Santorum: 24% (actual was 13%)
Paul: 11% (actual was 7%)
I was wrong when I forecast that the the torrent of negative advertising between Romney and Gingrich would give late momentum to Santorum. That didn't happen. One factor that likely contributed to the relatively low vote totals for both Santorum and Ron Paul was the desire of voters to cast their vote for either Romney or Gingrich, since those two seemed to be the only two candidates with a chance to win in this winner-take-all state.
Perhaps more importantly for Santorum, he decided to entirely bypass Florida once it was clear he wouldn't gain any delegates here. A bit of candidate-positive advertising spend in Florida wouldn't have bought Santorum any more delegates, but it might have bought him some momentum heading into the February caucus states that will vote in the next week (Nevada, Maine, Colorado, and Minnesota.) A better finish here would have at least bolstered the Santorum campaign's argument that he's a viable candidate. Given the high cost of advertising in Florida, the wisdom of that expenditure for a cash-strapped campaign like Santorum's is dubious. The next week's caucus results should tell us whether pulling out of Florida altogether was good strategy on Santorum's part.
Also on the ballot:
The Others (21,538, 1.3%, 0 delegates)
Rick Perry (6,742, 0.4%, 0 delegates)
Jon Huntsman (6,182, 0.4%, 0 delegates)
Michele Bachmann (3,947, 0.2%, 0 delegates)
Herman Cain (3,481, 0.2%, 0 delegates)
Gary Johnson (1,186, 0.1%, 0 delegates)
Watching 1.3% of the vote go to the dropouts might seem a bit high, but Florida does a lot of early voting, so the odds are good that most of these votes were cast before these candidates dropped out of the race.
One other item of note in the results is that turnout for Florida's 2012 GOP presidential primary was down about 14% from 2008. I don't want to read too much into the turnout totals, but that substantial drop could easily mean there was a loss of enthusiasm from a Florida Republican electorate that was by all accounts awash in negative advertising for the last two weeks.
Now that Romney gave Gingrich a drubbing in the first big state and finally produced a vote total higher than the Anybody-But-Romeney vote, is the 2012 GOP Primary essentially over? No, but Tuesday was another big step forward for Romney's campaign.
Here are the current delegate totals, with percentages of the total of 112 delegates thus far awarded:
Mitt Romney - 71 (63%)
Newt Gingrich - 23 (21%)
Rick Santorum - 13 (12%)
Ron Paul - 3 (3%)
Jon Huntsman - 2 (2%)
That's a nice early start for Romney, but the 112 delegates awarded thus far are just 4.9% of the 2,186 delegates to the Republican national convention. Another way to look at those totals is as a percentage of the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination:
Mitt Romney - 71 (6.2%)
Newt Gingrich - 23 (2.0%)
Rick Santorum - 13 (1.1%)
Ron Paul - 3 (0.3%)
Jon Huntsman - 2 (0.2%)
Romney has thus far only secured 6.2% of the delegates that he'll need to be the nominee, so he has a long way to go, especially given the high number of states in the early going that will award their delegates proportionately. However, his advantages in terms of resources and organization showed well in Florida, and are likely to give him a considerable advantage as the primary race ramps up nationwide. Campaigns that aren't built to scale up by now are likely to be left in the dust. Mitt Romney has thus far looked like the only candidate whose campaign is built to scale.
What would be the #1 thing that could wrap up the race for Romney? If Santorum does poorly in the next week's caucuses, it could be time for him to drop out of the race. If Santorum drops out and endorses Romney instead of Gingrich, then Gingrich would be in a heap of trouble. If Santorum drops out and does not endorse, or endorses Gingrich, we could see this go quite a while longer.
Before I close, I'd like to mention one other race worth paying attention to this week. Fundraising totals as of Dec. 31, 2011, have been released for the SuperPACs that are closely affiliated with one of the candidates, including Obama. (Check out the details from the New York Times: Who’s Financing the ‘Super PACs’. The big-donor lists are especially interesting.)
These SuperPACs unleashed a torrent of negative advertising in Florida. They'll have a big impact on the final outcome of this race:
Mitt Romney - $30.2 million (Restore Our Future)
Rick Perry - $5.9 million (Make Us Great Again, $5.5 million; Restoring Prosperity Fund, $433K)
Barack Obama - $4.4 million (Priorities USA Action)
Jon Huntsman Jr.- $2.7 million (Our Destiny)
Newt Gingrich - $2.1 million (Winning Our Future. Note: this does not include the $10 million+ donated by billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his wife in January.)
Ron Paul - $1.0 million (Endorse Liberty)
Stephen Colbert (!) - $825K (Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow)
Rick Santorum - $730K (Red White and Blue Fund. Note: this predates his Iowa win.)
Herman Cain - $433K (9-9-9 Fund)
More on the fundraising state of the campaigns and their associated SuperPACs later.