The Political Forecast & Review – January 16, 2012
By Jim Ellis
Massachusetts former Gov. Mitt Romney’s New Hampshire win clearly defined him as the front runner for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, but his 39% showing before the Granite State electorate isn’t the reason. Rather, Pennsylvania former Sen. Rick Santorum’s failure to build upon his strong Iowa showing further muddles the rest of the field, and that plays directly into Romney’s hands.
It has long been believed that one conservative alternative to the Bay State former chief executive and venture capitalist would defeat him, almost irrespective as to the identity of such candidate. Conversely, Mr. Romney wins if all of the more conservative candidates split the right-of-center vote, and this is the scenario currently unfolding.
Going forward to South Carolina on Saturday, January 21, Mr. Romney has the opportunity of cementing his lead by possibly winning a state that has, heretofore, been one of his weakest in the nation. Without the prospect of either Santorum or former House Speaker Newt Gingrich gathering enough steam and momentum to overtake him, Romney could claim first place with well under 35% of the vote.
This type of performance will likely propel him to victory in Florida ten days later. With a virtual sure win coming in the Nevada Caucuses on February 4 - the Silver State has been one of Romney’s strongest dating back to the 2008 campaign - it is possible that he could sweep the first five early states, thereby likely clinching the nomination.
If the other candidates concede after Nevada, the general election would begin in earnest. Based upon John McCain’s 2008 performance, the eventual Republican nominee will have to convert a minimum of six states in order to deny President Obama a second term. Indiana, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, and Ohio are all states with a robust Republican history. President George W. Bush carried all five places twice. All must return to the GOP column if Obama is to be defeated. On the other hand, all the President must do is blunt the Republican offensive in any one of these places and he likely wins.
Even if these five return to the Republicans, one more state must also be converted. Swing states like New Hampshire, Iowa, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania appear to be in play for 2012.
The Great Lakes region, probably the most important manufacturing geographical sector in America, will be pivotal in the coming presidential election. Expect Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Indiana to become huge political battlegrounds in what will likely be a defining national election.
A rather quiet week transpired in the US Senate races.
The biggest story was the release of the new Quinnipiac University Florida poll that again forecasts a very close race between two-term incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and Rep. Connie Mack IV (R). Mack’s father, Connie Mack III, served in the Senate from 1989 to 2001.
The Florida campaign is a curious one so far because the ballot test question is consistently close - the Q-Poll shows Sen. Nelson clinging to only a one-point, 41-40%, lead - but the incumbent’s personal numbers are actually quite good. The Senator’s personal image, job approval, and re-elect scores are all positive, yet the same polling sample projects him into a virtual tie when pitted against Rep. Mack, the likely Republican nominee. Therefore, this race is certainly in play for November. There will be much more to come from the Sunshine State in the coming months.
California retirements dominated the US House news for the week. With veteran GOP Reps. Jerry Lewis (San Bernardino County), Elton Gallegly (Los Angeles and Ventura), and Wally Herger (north state area) all saying they won’t seek re-election, and Rep. David Dreier (Los Angeles) likely being not far behind, it is possible that California Republicans could lose a combined 118 years of congressional seniority.
The biggest ramification of Mr. Lewis retiring is Rep. Gary Miller (R) jumping over to contest what would have been an open San Bernardino County seat. Miller currently represents an Orange County based district but has been paired with fellow GOP Rep. Ed Royce in the new 39th District. Though the Lewis seat is marginal, Miller obviously believes he has a better chance of surviving in a lean Democratic district than going head to head with a fellow Republican. With as many as nine open US House seats in California alone this year, the Golden State could become ground zero for congressional campaigns.
Jim Ellis is a professional election analyst who has worked in national campaign politics and grassroots issue advocacy since 1978. He currently writes and speaks as a member of the PRIsm Information Network.