Monday, January 30, 2012

Pre-Primary Florida Analysis: Latinos, and Seniors, and Women, Oh My

After an upset loss to Gingrich, thanks largely to weak debate performances in South Carolina, don’t expect Romney to drop the ball in Florida. It’s the biggest state up to this point, but Florida was part of a bloc of states that were penalized by the RNC for moving their primaries earlier.

The following states lost/will lose half their delegates: New Hampshire (from 23 to 12), South Carolina (from 50 to 25), Florida (from 99 to 50), Arizona (from 58 to 29), and Michigan (from 59 to 30). Iowa kept their full delegation (28), as will Nevada (28), Maine (24), Colorado (37), Minnesota (50), Missouri (52), and Washington (43). Those are all the states leading up to Super Tuesday.

Florida will be a study in demographics. As well as being the biggest state in the race until Texas’ primary on April 3rd, Florida is arguably the most diverse voter population thus far. While there has been considerable attention given to the Latino vote, this is a closed primary, and Latinos are not traditionally registered as Republican.

While the Latino vote is worth considering, I think the important group to go after will be seniors and women, which are actually linked in Florida. Because women have a longer life expectancy, and Florida is full of retirees, there’s a lot of older women expected to hit the polls Tuesday. This bodes well for Romney, who is notably well liked among women, more than the other candidates (especially Gingrich).

Gingrich also had weak, often unfocused performances at the post-South Carolina debates. It’s looking like Gingrich will still take second place, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Santorum nips at his heels or even overtakes him.

A second place finish for Santorum just might provide him the momentum to stay in the race longer than he ever should have. Santorum is basically running on fumes, and his very presence in the race serves only to split the neoconservative vote with Gingrich. A poor showing in Florida (which he is projected to experience) may be the nail in his campaign’s coffin.

Some analysts are also picking Paul to have a good showing, so long as the historically unreliable youth/college vote experiences good turnout (he will benefit from this later date, compared to South Carolina’s primary, when many colleges were still out for Winter break). Paul has largely ignored Florida, wisely citing the delegate penalty and the sheer cost of trying to compete in a race as large and expensive as Florida. He has primarily focused on upcoming races in Nevada and Minnesota, but he is also expected to perform well in Maine.

The biggest story is not so much who will win Florida, but how will the survivors continue? Gingrich and Romney have run nasty campaigns, and while Romney is still likely to be the nominee, it’s hard to believe he will come out of this race for the nomination as popular as he was going on… and this is Romney we’re talking about.

Romney was so universally unappealing, everyone from Trump to Palin to Perry to Bachman to Cain to Santorum has spent a moment in the limelight as the “ideal” opponent to supplant the bitter medicine that is Mitt Romney. Romney needs a spoonful of sugar to make his campaign palatable at this point, and a solid VP pick may be just the trick .

Even if he makes all the right moves from here on out, Romney will have a tough, uphill climb to overtake an incumbent Obama, who has more money for propaganda advertising. I’ve already seen Obama commercials on TV, and my wife has seen banner ads on websites. I live in a swing state, so I’m just now getting a small taste of the crap people in South Carolina and Florida have dealt with.

Is it November yet?

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