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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Next Up for Romney and Santorum: Arizona and Michigan

As predicted, Rick Santorum has moved up in support among Republicans nationwide.  Meanwhile Newt Gingrich is down and Mitt Romney has slipped modestly. We are now in a situation in which Romney and Santorum are statistically tied. Santorum's meteoric rise is, of course, a direct reaction to the results of his Feb. 7 victories in the caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota as well as the primary in Missouri.

Now when I say direct reaction, I’m underscoring the fascinating way in which Republican support has played itself out all year. Generally speaking, a sizable segment of Republicans nationally have been willing to shift their preferences from candidate to candidate extremely quickly, based on the latest events on the campaign trail. These events have mostly been debates and actual voting in primary and caucus states.

When Gallup reaches a person by phone who identifies themselves as a Republican or says that they lean Republican, it seems like we essentially find them figuratively scratching their heads and scanning the news environment to figure out whom they support. As in “Hmmmm, I see in the news that Rick Santorum won in Minnesota, Colorado, and Missouri Tuesday night, so I guess I will support him.” This suggests that Republicans nationally are letting the process provide them with a continuing flow of information that they take into account when constantly adjusting their support preferences. The fact that they are open to this type of movement, of course, allows us to rule out the hypothesis that large numbers (i.e., a majority) of Republicans across the land are excited by Romney and eager to get behind his candidacy.

This is not exactly how the Mitt Romney campaign team had hoped this would play out. They were hoping that Republicans nationwide would coalesce around Romney in the same way the coalesced around John McCain by February 2008.  By late February 2008, over 6 in 10 Republicans nationally supported McCain. We certainly have not seen that level of support for any candidate so far this year.

The next two big events that could shake the race up -- once again -- are the looming primaries in Michigan and Arizona. Romney, in theory, could do well in both. He was born in Detroit and his father was governor of the state. Arizona forms the entire southern border of Utah, a state to which Romney has a number of ties.

I've been looking at the composition of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in those states, based on our state-by-state analysis of 2011 Gallup Daily tracking interviews.

Republicans in both states look roughly the same in terms of ideology. About 66% of Michigan's Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are conservatives, compared to 69% of Arizona's Republicans.

Ethnically, the vast majority of the Republicans on both states are white. But 11% of Arizona's Republicans are Hispanic, compared to just 2% of Michigan’s. Michigan has 3% black Republicans; Arizona 1%.

Religiously, Romney has a little bit of an edge in Arizona, where 9% of Republicans are Mormon, compared to less than 1% in Michigan. (Remember that entrance polling in the Nevada Republican caucus showed that over 9 in 10 Mormon voters went for Romney, and that Mormons turned out to vote in numbers that were much higher than their population percentage).  On the other hand, Michigan is slightly more positive for Santorum (and, in theory, Gingrich), in that its Republicans are 27% Catholic, compared to 19% Catholic in Arizona.

1 comments:

Murrah said...
February 17, 2012 at 2:07 PM  

If Santorum wins Michigan, it will be a big blow to Romney's campaign...And if Santorum eventually wins the GOP nomination, general election will be a cake walk for President Obama..

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