In terms of the delegate math, apart from a few states tweaking their threshold mark and a few states going back and forth about what to do with their CD delegate allotment, the structure of the delegate math has been stable overall. However, as most now know, back in November, VA tinkered with the amount of signatures needed to get on the ballot and than we found out just before Christmas that only two candidates have enough signatures to get on the VA ballot. Like many states throughout the country, VA give 3 delegates per CD and its statewide delegates are elected proportionately. A candidate must also have at least 15% statewide to get statewide delegates. That is no problem for Mr. Gingrich or Mr. Romney, but the only other person who could possibly crack 15% in VA would be Dr. Paul. Now that it appears that Mr. Romney and Dr. Paul will be the only two on the ballot, cracking 15% will be no problem for either. However, like various other states on the Atlantic coast, VA has a provision that if one candidate gets 50%, they get all statewide delegates. With only two in the race, one of the two will crack the 50%. Apparently, there are no write in allowed, but I assume that there is nothing that says voters cannot spoil there ballots.
In 2008, Mr. McCain did not get enough signatures to technically be put on the Ohio ballot, but he ended up winning all of the state’s delegates. So we will see how it goes in the courts and what other loopholes exist. In any event, this situation makes things interesting for my delegate count. With so many candidates potentially out of the race in VA, which way would all of the non-Paulites and non-Romneyite turn? Will they just stay home, spoils their ballots, vote in the Democrat party or just choose one way or the other? I would split the different for now and assume that those who will vote will vote for Mr. Romney over Dr. Paul by a 5 to 2 margin, but that there will be several spoiled ballots. However, over the weekend it appears the powers that be in VA are going to fix the situation. In this case the statewide delegates would be split between Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Romney as Dr. Paul would no longer has the 15 % needed to crack the threshold.
In the final week of 2011, Mr. Gingrich loses several delegates, but still sits in first place in the delegate count with 910. Mr. Romney is now in a strong second. Adding about 100 delegates this week, he sits at 885. Dr. Paul is Third with 160 (a bit of a drop.). Mr. Perry is fourth with 93. Mr. Santorum actually surpasses Mrs. Bachman for fifth place in the delegate race for 39 delegates; he still is not gaining a whole lot yet outside of Iowa, but some. Mrs. Bachmann is down to 34.
As of right now, I believe things are close in Iowa. My model gives Mr. Romney a slight lead with 22%. Dr. Paul is close behind with 20.4%. I tweaked my Iowa model to give Mr. Santorum 16.9%. We shall see if his mini-surge continues to grow or not. Mr. Gingrich appears to be losing steam to sit in fourth at 14.6%. Mr. Perry also cracks the 10 % mark to sit at 11.2% in Iowa for fifth. With things so close, voter turn out is key. As many as 4 candidates could win Iowa and while Mr. Perry won’t win, he could reach the top 3 or 4 if he can turn out his voters. Back in 2008, as soon as it was announce that the edges of Polk county and the surrounding counties had a good turn out, I for one knew that Mr. Huckabee won with waiting for actual results. This time it will be for complex and we will have to wait for several counties to give actual results before we see the lay of the land.
No doubt, either Dr. Paul or Mr. Romney will get a lot of positive publicity for winning Iowa. However, Mr. Santorum will also get notice just for doing well and beating expectations. One knows something is up when Mr. Perry through his advertisement and his Bloggers go after Mr. Santorum instead of the other candidates. It is also interesting that Mr. Romney is going after Dr. Paul instead of Mr. Gingrich. Who would have thought this a few weeks ago? In view of the fact that various state polls this week point to a gain for Mr. Santorum in Iowa, he has certainly won the right to continue the hurt for further delegates beyond Iowa. However, I for one am not convinced that his luck will continue. Hey, I like to have the chance to vote for him on Super Duper Tuesday, but realistically, I’ll probably be stuck with the same choice as Virginians; having to choose between Dr. Paul and Mr. Romney. Yes, Mr. Gingrich will still likely be in the race because of his strength in the South, but I cannot see myself backing him. Voter turnout will be key on Tuesday, but it will be interesting to see who it will benefit. The Conventional wisdom is that Dr. Paul and to a degree, Mr. Romney are really organized and both t to bring in new voters into the Iowa GOP. Thus it is felt that a poor voter turn-out will help Dr. Paul and Mr. Romney to a lesser degree because, they will have gotten their people out while the others and the Undecideds will have stayed home. I would question how good each camp’s ground game is if voter turn out is that low. Further, it will be a chance for both camps to prove that they can get Undecideds to join them. It will be interesting to see how much influence Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have on the rest of the country. Will the rest of us follow their lead or just tune them out. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle and it will take at least a little while for us to see how the cookie will crumble.
Win lose or draw, it appears that the two leading non-Romney candidates out of Iowa will be Dr. Paul and Mr. Santorum. This does not change the national landscape as much as one might think. Whether Mr. Romney wins Iowa by a slight margin or loses by a slight margin, he will be a weak front-runner. He will be definitely favored to win, but it won’t be with a knock out punch, at least not yet. Dr. Paul will stay in double digits win or lose and he has the resources to stick it out. Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Perry are not in a position to win the race currently, but because they are sons of the South, they will be able to stick around and win at least some delegates in the South. Mr. Santorum will not do well in the South in part because he is viewed there as just another Northerner. While he was a great legislator, he is a boring weak candidate. Nevertheless, he is the most Conservative person in the race and has enough momentum to give the rest of the field a run for their money for a month or two. An honorary Gingrich friend of mine for one told me this afternoon that he’d vote for Mr. Santorum if he is still in on Supper Duper Tuesday. Even though Mr. Santorum cannot win, I am glad that he is doing well. As much as I want to beat Mr. Romney, Mr. Gingich is worse, Mr. Perry is at best only marginally better and Dr. Paul’s extreme monetarism is not the best answer to Mr. Romney’s extreme anti-monetarism. So at least Mr. Santorum’s presence in the race will force Mr. Romney to move to the right and slow down his pandering to the Left side of the party. This could be a win win. If Mr. Romney can actually come away from some of his moderate antics, he will be acceptable to more Conservatives in the general election. We will eventually see if this process can put Mr. Romney more in line with Conservatism. His base will have a cow to an extend, but many will accept it in the end.
As an aside, in my professional life, I have to change budget forecasts all the time. Things unexpectedly change people resign from their positions and we save money until they are replaced, a piece of equipment breaks down and all of a sudden we have to spend money. While this is apples and oranges, my delegate count is not a forecast per se, but a snapshot in time and I am certainly that the political landscape will continue to change as voters continue to change their minds. Predicting exactly how it will change is another story.
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