Romney revives floundering campaign with victories in Michigan and Arizona.
On Tuesday, February 28, 2012, Mitt Romney revived his floundering presidential campaign by prevailing in two hypercritical primaries: Arizona and Michigan. With Tuesday evening’s victories, Romney obtained much needed momentum heading into Super Tuesday, and solidified his position as the Republican frontrunner. Despite prevailing in the aforementioned states, innumerable voters are still chagrined with the prospects of a Romney candidacy. For example, Romney won his native state of Michigan with just forty-one percent of the vote. In early January, the former Massachusetts governor held a resounding lead over Newt Gingrich in Michigan, fifty-five percent to seventeen percent. As the reader can discern, Romney is a weak frontrunner. In this article, the author provides an epigrammatic analysis of the factors that contributed to Mitt Romney’s victories in the Arizona and Michigan primaries. Subsequently, he examines the impact that these victories will have on forthcoming primaries and caucuses.
The Arizona Primary
The results of Tuesday evening’s Arizona Republican presidential primary were never in doubt. In fact, moments after the polls closed, Fox News Channel projected a decisive victory for Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney prevailed with forty-seven percent of the vote, compared to just twenty-seven percent for Rick Santorum. Additionally, Romney won every county in “the Grand Canyon State.” Three factors contributed to Romney’s decisive victory in the Arizona primary: a large Mormon population; his immensely popular immigration reform proposal and endorsements from numerous Republican leaders. Each of the aforementioned factors will be addressed in the next section.
Arizona’s Mormon population
Akin to Nevada, a large percentage of Arizona Republican voters are Mormon. According to the Pew Research Center (2012) Arizona has the third largest Mormon population in the United States. In Tuesday evening’s primary, Mormon’s accounted for fourteen percent of the electorate (The New York Times, 2012). What is more, ninety-three percent of Mormons supported Mitt Romney (Pew Research Center, 2012). What this author found most intriguing was that Mitt Romney won every major religious group (excluding white born-again Evangelicals), in the 2012 Arizona Republican primary. Mr. Romney was supported by fifty-two percent of Protestants; ninety-three percent of Mormons; forty-four percent of Roman Catholics; and fifty-four percent of all other religious affiliations. As the reader can discern, Romney’s decisive victory was precipitated by the overwhelming support he received from religious voters. For the second time in the 2012 Republican primary, Mitt Romney won decisively in a state with a large Mormon population.
The second factor that contributed to Romney’s victory was his hard-line stance on illegal immigration. Throughout the course of the campaign, Mr. Romney has articulated an assertive proposal for combating illegal immigration. Romney’s proposal for combating the threats posed by illegal immigration is threefold: secure the border by developing a twenty-five foot high fence along America’s southern border and supplying western state’s with ample border patrol agents; turn of all “magnets” that entice illegal immigrants to stay in the United States; and the establishment of a tamper-proof employment verification system akin to E-verify, that will enable employers to hire only those who are legally permitted to work and deny those that are illegal (Romney, 2010; Romney, 2012). Mitt Romney’s assertive, yet common-sense immigration reform proposal was immensely popular with Arizona voters and contributed to the former Massachusetts governor’s resounding victory in the “Grand Canyon State.”
It is evident from the myriad analyses this author read about Tuesday evening’s Arizona primary, that endorsements contributed to Mitt Romney’s resounding victory. Mitt Romney received the endorsement of several prominent Arizonans, including Governor Jan Brewer; Attorney General John Horne; Senator John McCain; Representative Jeff Flake (a Tea Party favorite and candidate for the United States Senate); and former Vice President Dan Quayle. Senator McCain, the most popular political figure in Arizona, and Mitt Romney’s chief rival during the 2008 Republican primary, worked assiduously to ensure that the former Massachusetts governor prevailed in the Arizona primary.
More importantly, Romney was endorsed by Governor Jan Brewer and Representative Jeff Flake two stalwart conservatives and Tea Party favorites. Representative Flake, one of the most conservative members of the House of Representatives, wrote of his decision to support Romney, “Mitt Romney has the experience and vision to get our country on the right path again. Whether it was his time as governor or as a successful businessman, Mitt Romney has shown that he has the economic knowledge to create the environment for businesses to start hiring again” (Huey-Burns, 2011, p.1). The aforementioned endorsements contributed to Romney’s resounding victory in the Arizona primary.
With his victory in Arizona, Romney received all twenty-nine of the state’s delegates. Unlike Michigan, Arizona was a winner-take-all primary state. To better understand why Romney prevailed, it is imperative to examine his base of support. Governor Romney was supported by forty-nine percent of white’s; thirty-eight percent of Hispanics; every age demographic (Fifty-seven percent of Millennials, those in the eighteen to twenty-nine year old demographic), supported Romney; fifty-one percent of Republicans and thirty-four percent of Independents; fifty-two percent of self-described moderates, and forty-one percent of those who consider themselves to be “very conservative” (Fox News, 2012). As these statistics indicate, Romney’s landslide victory was precipitated by a diverse electoral coalition. If he can maintain this diverse coalition (Hispanics, Millennials and Independents), Romney will have an excellent chance of defeating Barack Obama on Election Day. Mitt Romney appears poised to carry Arizona—a state that has voted for a Democratic presidential candidate (Bill Clinton in 1996), just once since 1972—in the 2012 general election.
The Michigan Primary
Tuesday evening’s Michigan primary was decided by just three percentage points. The “Wolverine State” was referred to by leading political pundits as a “must win, do-or-die primary for Mitt Romney” (Memoli, 2012, p.1). Mitt Romney escaped what would have been a titanic blow to his campaign, by narrowly defeating Rick Santorum in the Michigan primary, forty-one percent to thirty-eight percent. Romney, a Michigan native, and son of the state’s popular former governor, George Romney, was expected to win handily in the “Wolverine State.” As aforementioned, Romney held a fifty-five percent to seventeen percent lead over Newt Gingrich (who finished fourth in the primary with seven percent of the vote), in early January. Subsequently, four years ago, Romney prevailed in his native state by nine percentage points. A victory in Michigan provided Romney with much needed momentum heading into Super Tuesday, and revived his floundering campaign. Mitt Romney’s narrow victory in Michigan was precipitated by four factors: his perceived electability, economic policy, endorsements, and family history.
Mitt Romney’s greatest advantage as a candidate is his perceived electability. At this writing, Romney is considered by Republican voters to be the most electable and most likely to defeat President Obama in a head-to-head matchup. Thirty-two percent of Michigan voters indicated that electability was the driving force behind their vote (Fox News, 2012). Sixty-one percent of voters, who considered electability to be the most important candidate trait, supported Mitt Romney in the Michigan primary (Fox News, 2012). Conversely, just twenty-four percent supported Rick Santorum (Fox News, 2012). Among those who cast their vote based on the candidates’ conservative credentials, fifty-eight percent supported Santorum, whereas just eighteen percent supported Romney (Jones, 2012; Fox News, 2012). Those who based their vote on the candidates’ conservative credentials comprised just sixteen percent of the electorate. As the reader can see from the aforementioned statistics, stalwart conservatives still have reservations about Mitt Romney’s candidacy. An overwhelming majority of Republican voters, however, contend that Romney has the best chance of defeating Barack Obama in the 2012 general election. In fact, fifty-three percent of Michigan primary voters posited that Romney has the best chance of defeating Barack Obama in a head-to-head matchup. In contrast, just twenty-six percent of voters believe that Rick Santorum could defeat Barack Obama (Fox News, 2012). Mitt Romney, if he intends to capture the Republican nomination, must continue to argue that he has the best chance of defeating Barack Obama in the general election.
At this writing, Michigan’s unemployment rate is a whopping 9.3 percent (this does not include those who have stopped looking for work) (Michigan Bureau of Labor, 2012). As such, Michigan voters are most concerned with the economy, jobs, and taxes. Fifty-five percent of primary voters indicated that the economy was the most important issue. Of this total, forty-seven percent voted for Mitt Romney, and thirty percent supported Rick Santorum (The New York Times, 2012). Subsequently, twenty-four percent of Michiganders indicated that the federal budget deficit was the driving force behind their vote. Forty-seven percent of these voters supported Romney, whereas thirty-one percent voted for Rick Santorum (Fox News, 2012). Just fourteen percent of voters considered abortion to be the most important issue during the 2012 presidential election. Santorum overwhelmingly won this segment of the electorate with seventy-seven percent of the vote (Fox News, 2012). If jobs, taxes, spending and the economy remain the most important issues in 2012, it appears certain that Mitt Romney will win the Republican nomination.
Mitt Romney’s narrow victory over Rick Santorum in his native state was precipitated by a series of endorsements by prominent “Wolverine State” politicians. At this writing, Romney has been endorsed by Governor Rick Snyder, Attorney General Bill Schuette, and Representatives: Dan Benishek, Dave Camp, Bill Huizenga, Mike Rogers, Candice Miller, Thaddeus McCotter, Fred Upton, and Tim Walberg. Just one Michigan Republican Representative, Justin Amash, refrained from endorsing Mitt Romney. Representative Amash, a libertarian-leaning Republican, endorsed Ron Paul. Endorsements, despite palling in comparison to electability and the economy, contributed to Mitt Romney’s victory in the Michigan primary.
Michigan Roots/Family History
As a Michigan native, it was expected that Mitt Romney would easily win the “Wolverine State’s” primary. In addition to being born in Detroit, Mitt Romney was educated and spent his formative years in Michigan. Subsequently, his father, George, served as a governor from 1963-1969. What is more, Romney’s mother, Lenore, ran unsuccessfully for the United States Senate (she captured just thirty-two percent of the vote), in 1970. Throughout the campaign, Romney spent copious time discussing his Michigan roots. It appears from Tuesday evening’s results that Romney’s Michigan roots contributed to his narrow victory over Rick Santorum.
Despite his family connections, Mr. Romney could have a difficult time winning Michigan in the general election. The last Republican candidate to win Michigan in the general election was George Herbert Walker Bush in 1988. Barack Obama won fifty-seven percent of the vote in Michigan four years ago. Cost (2012) maintained that Romney’s opposition to the auto industry bailout could prevent him from winning Michigan in the general election. Cost (2012) posited, “Consider that the favorable/unfavorable rating of the auto bailout was forty-four to fifty-one, and this is among an overwhelmingly conservative, Republican group. In all likelihood, the entire Michigan electorate views it favorably and overwhelmingly so. Thus, President Obama has a major leg up in the Wolverine State, even though bailouts remain generally unpopular nationwide” (p. 1). In 2008, following President Obama’s decision to bailout the American automobile industry, Mitt Romney wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times that advocated for a “managed bankruptcy” (Romney, 2008, p.1). Mr. Romney has been castigated by liberal Democrats and his Republican challengers for his belief that a managed-bankruptcy was the only viable solution for reviving the dilapidated American automobile industry. If he intends to become the first Republican presidential candidate since George H.W. Bush to win Michigan, it is imperative that Mitt Romney explains the myriad reasons why he opposed the automobile bailout. Reassuring blue color voters that he represents their views on seminal issues should be one of Mitt Romney’s foremost priorities.
The author scrupulously analyzed the Michigan primary results, so as to better explain Mitt Romney’s narrow victory. Unlike Arizona, Michigan divided its delegates on a proportional basis. In addition to two statewide delegates (awarded to the popular vote winner), each congressional district received two delegates. Michigan’s thirty delegates were divided evenly between Romney and Santorum. At this writing, Romney has one hundred sixty-seven delegates, Santorum has eighty-seven and Gingrich has thirty-two (The Wall Street Journal, 2012). To capture the nomination, one must win at least 1,144 delegates (Silver, 2012). If one candidate fails to capture the maximum number of delegates, party leaders and national convention attendees will choose the nominee. The Republican Party has not had a brokered convention since 1976, when Ronald Reagan nearly defeated incumbent President Gerald R. Ford. A brokered convention would fracture the Republican Party, and make an Obama victory all but certain.
Mitt Romney won just two age groups in the Michigan primary: forty-five to sixty-five year olds (forty-three percent to forty-one percent for Santorum); and those sixty-five years of age and older (forty-nine percent to thirty-three percent for Santorum). Combined, these two age groups comprised seventy-eight percent of the electorate (Fox News, 2012). Conversely, Ron Paul won eighteen to twenty-nine year old voters and Santorum narrowly defeated Romney among thirty to forty-four year olds (The New York Times, 2012). Perhaps most intriguing was Santorum’s support among Democrats. On Monday evening, the Santorum released a robocall urging Michigan Democrats to vote for him rather than Romney. Rick Santorum was the favorite of “Reagan Democrats” (socially and fiscally conservative blue color Democrats). As such, Santorum received fifty-three percent of the Democratic vote (just nine percent of those who cast their vote in the Republican primary were Democrats). Conversely, forty-eight percent of Republicans and thirty-five percent of Independents supported Mitt Romney.
Among those who consider themselves to be liberal or “somewhat liberal,” Santorum received thirty-two percent of the vote. Forty-five percent of moderates supported Romney, whereas just thirty-one percent voted for Santorum (The New York Times, 2012). Those who considered themselves to be “somewhat conservative” overwhelmingly supported Romney, fifty percent to thirty-two percent (Fox News, 2012). On the contrary, fifty percent of staunch conservatives voted for Santorum. Just thirty-two percent of staunch conservatives supported Mitt Romney (Fox News, 2012). As the reader can discern, Democrats, liberals and staunch conservatives overwhelmingly supported Rick Santorum. Conversely, Mitt Romney’s base of supported was limited to moderates and those who consider themselves to be “somewhat conservative.” Members of this demographic [somewhat conservative voters] comprised thirty-one percent of the electorate. Just thirty percent of voters, however, considered themselves “staunch conservatives.” If Romney intends to capture the Republican nomination, it is imperative that he improve his standing with conservatives and “Reagan Democrats.” Mitt Romney, by discussing his views on fiscal policy and accomplishments as governor (excluding Romneycare), can increase his percentage of the conservative vote.
Mitt Romney won just one religious group in the Michigan primary: Roman Catholics. The author found this intriguing for two reasons. First, Rick Santorum is a devout Roman Catholic who strictly adheres to his church’s teachings on abortion and homosexuality. Second, Santorum received fifty-five percent of the devoutly Catholic “Reagan Democrat” vote. Despite the aforementioned factors, Santorum received just thirty-seven percent of the Catholic vote (Pew Research Forum, 2012). Romney, in contrast, received forty-four percent of the Catholic vote. White Evangelical Christians overwhelmingly supported Santorum (fifty-one percent to thirty-five percent). Subsequently, Santorum received forty-two percent of the Protestant vote, compared to just forty percent for Romney (Pew Research Forum, 2012). Just thirty-nine percent of Republican primary voters were Evangelical Christians. Of the sixty-one percent of voters who did not affiliate with Evangelical Christianity, forty-five percent supported Romney and thirty percent support Santorum (Fox News, 2012). This statistic makes it abundantly clear that religious voters favored Mitt Romney over Rick Santorum. Mitt Romney, if he intends to defeat Barack Obama, must work assiduously to court Evangelical Christians, a group that overwhelmingly supported John McCain (seventy-three percent to twenty-six percent in 2008) (Ceaser, Busch, & Pitney, Jr., 2009).
Mitt Romney’s victories in the Arizona and Michigan primaries solidified his position as the Republican frontrunner, provided him with much needed momentum heading into the forthcoming “Super Tuesday” primaries and revived his floundering campaign. A loss in Michigan would have been calamitous for the Romney campaign. While the Republican race is far from over, Mitt Romney, by prevailing in Arizona and Michigan, moved one step further to capturing the nomination. The author hopes that you make PAI your leading source for in-depth analysis of the 2012 presidential election. As more information becomes available about the upcoming primaries and caucuses, PAI will keep the reader abreast.
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