Lousiana not a game-changer

By |
Politics,Beltway Confidential,Michael Barone

Yes, as Jeffrey Anderson argues in the Weekly Standard’s Blog, Rick Santorum did win an impressive 49%-26% victory (the official numbers are here)   over Mitt Romney in the Louisiana primary but, as my Examiner colleague Timothy Carney has explained, Santorum’s delegate lead will be miniscule since Mitt Romney made the 25% threshold and thus is entitled to a proportionate number of delegates. I am inclined to agree with Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin that Santorum’s impressive victory does not mean that he has any realistic chance of getting the 1,144 delegate majority.


A look at the contests ahead will suggest why. Romney seems likely to have a good month in April and the good days Santorum may have in May will not result in big delegate harvests. Santorum is obviously the favorite in the forthcoming primaries in West Virginia, Kentucky and Arkansas and in his home state of Pennsylvania, and he looks to be competitive in North Carolina and Indiana, and perhaps in Nebraska, South Dakota and Montana. But Romney is a heavy favorite in California, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and the District of Columbia--and the only question about Utah, the last state to vote, on June 26, is whether Romney's percentage will exceed 90% (he just missed doing so in 2008).


The tantalizing contest is Texas: will it be more like Florida, which Romney won over Newt Gingrich 46%-32%, with 13% for Santorum, or more like Louisiana, where Santorum beat Romney 49%-26%? Somewhere in between, I think. Florida’s electorate was less culturally Southern than Texas’s will be, though you should keep in mind that Texas has had lots of people moving in from all over the country. But it is also much more metropolitan than Louisiana or Alabama and Mississippi. The two big metro areas—the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and greater Houston—cast 47% of its votes in the 2008 Republican primary and are likely to be more favorable to Romney than Baton Rouge, Jackson or Birmingham. I’ve set down the primary contests below, with an indication of the number of delegates to give you a sense of the magnitude of each state, though you should note that some states have winner-take-all contests, especially on April 3, and many don’t. I’ve made a brief comment on each.  


April 3                                    98           Great for Romney, if his Wisconsin poll lead holds.

District of Columbia               19           Romney expected to win; McCain got 60% here in 2008.

Maryland                               37           Romney expected to win; was 55% for McCain 2008.

Wisconsin                              42           March polling Romney 46%-33%.


April 24                                231           Big delegate haul for Romney except in Pennsylvania.

Connecticut                          28           March polling Romney 42%-19%.

Delaware                               17           Romney expected to win; affluent suburban electorate.

New York                               95           February polling 35%-22%; Santorum not connecting with Italians.

Pennsylvania                         72           March polling Santorum 40%-23%. Metro Philly only 18% of vote.

Rhode Island                         19           As goes Massachusetts, so goes Rhode Island: Romney.


May 8                                  132           Outcome unclear: could keep Santorum in or oust him from coverage.

Indiana                                  46           Unclear: demographically in between Ohio and Illinois.

North Carolina                       55           Unclear: March polling Santorum 30%-28%.

West Virginia                         31           Coal miner’s grandson: Santorum.


May 15                                   63           Romney’s most favorable day in May.

Nebraska                               35           Unclear. Next-door Iowa was a tie.

Oregon                                  28           March poll Romney 38%-31%.


May 22                                   81           A good day for son-of-Appalachia Santorum.

Arkansas                                36           Santorum country.

Kentucky                                45           Santorum country.


May 29                                  155         Santorum has a chance here.

Texas                                    155         March polling 32%-29% Santorum. DFW 25% of vote, Houston 22%.


June 5                                   299          Should be a great day for Romney: may put him over 1,144.

California                              172          March polling Romney 42%-23%.

Montana                                 26           Unclear.

New Jersey                             50           Similar to New York, Chris Christie a plus for Romney.

New Mexico                            23           Unclear. Metro Albuquerque 44% of vote.

South Dakota                         28           Unclear.


June 26                                   40           Romney’s best primary day.

Utah                                        40           Romney got 89% in 2008.


A couple of additional notes. The regional split in this contest tends to look like that in the 2008 Democratic race. Mitt Romney, like Hillary Clinton, is tending to do best in the Northeast and the West, while Rick Santorum, like Barack Obama, is tending to do best in the South and the Heartland. But Santorum, unlike Obama, has not managed to amass a big delegate edge in caucuses and, despite his campaign’s claim that unpledged and uncommitted delegates and superdelegates will come out for him because of what they say is his greater potential to win the general election, I doubt very much that that will happen.


Louisiana was carried by Bill Clinton in the 1992 and 1996 general elections, but it has since trended Republican and Obama lost it 59%-40% in 2008. In this primary he lost three of Louisiana’s 64 parishes (=counties) to a man named John Wolfe—Cameron, Grant and LaSalle. He ran under 50% (there were two other candidates on the Democratic ballot) in 10 additional parishes--Beauregard, Caldwell, Jefferson Davis, Lafourche, Livingston, Sabine, Vermillion, Vernon, West Carroll and Winn. Some of these have been hugely impacted by the Obama administration’s slowness in issuing offshore drilling permits. Livingston Parish is a fast-growing suburban area just east of Baton Rouge. Winn Parish was the home of Huey P. Long, the legendary governor and senator who became a nationally prominent figure until he was murdered in September 1935. That was just one month before George Gallup conducted the first random sample public opinion poll. As a result, we don’t know for sure whether Long was as popular a figure as Franklin Roosevelt feared; people’s feelings about a man who was assassinated will likely differ from their feelings while he was still alive.  

View article comments Leave a comment