The Political Forecast & Review
March 16, 2012
By Jim Ellis
Another eventful week occurred on the presidential campaign trail. Pennsylvania former Sen. Rick Santorum again surprised the pollsters and analysts with major come-from-behind victories in the Alabama and Mississippi primaries. National front runner Mitt Romney finished a disappointing third in both states. He rebounded with wins in the Hawaii and American Samoa caucuses, however.
The major media indicates that even though Romney lost both Alabama and Mississippi, he gained ground against Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on the delegate count. True and false. While Romney’s cumulative total of delegates for last Tuesday’s voting events equaled 42, as compared to Santorum’s 36 and Gingrich’s 26, he still lost ground as it relates to committing the bare majority of 1,144 of the 2,286 Republican National Convention delegates. It is this number that a candidate must achieve to attain the party’s presidential nomination.
Since Super Tuesday, according to the best delegate estimate available, (and remember all of these counts are estimates because most of the delegates haven’t even been chosen by the various states) Romney gained 71 delegates cumulatively from Alabama, American Samoa, Hawaii, Mississippi, Kansas, Guam, the Northern Marianas Islands, and the Virgin Islands. But, to continue pursuing his trajectory to reach the magic number of 1,144 committed delegates, Mr. Romney needed a minimum of 75.
Failing to meet his base goal in the last eight states and territories puts further pressure on him to do better in upcoming primaries and caucuses and to work the remaining uncommitted delegates even harder.
On Tuesday night, twelve delegates in the four voting entities fell into the “uncommitted” category. Does Mr. Romney automatically convert all of the uncommitted delegates to his column? A large number of these individuals are state party officials, and the remainder haven’t even been chosen. So, who can tell, particularly in this election year when we have already seen so many things that most thought couldn’t even remotely happen (i.e. Santorum winning ten states and becoming the clear second place contestant, Gingrich rebounding from certain political death twice and now maybe even three times, and Romney having a hard time breaking 40% in most states let alone 50% and still being considered the front runner).
Clearly, this campaign is far from over.
One Senatorial primary was held this past Tuesday and Al Gore won his party’s nomination in the state of Mississippi. Al Gore returning to the Senate? No, not that Al Gore. While an Albert Gore did win the Democratic nomination to face Sen. Roger Wicker (R) in the Mississippi general election, this Albert N. Gore, Jr. is not former Vice-President Albert A. Gore, Jr. The Mississippi Al Gore is the chairman of the Oktibbeha County Democratic Party and he will lose later this year to Mr. Wicker as his party’s Senatorial nominee.
More action occurred in Maine, as the field of candidates is sorting itself out in the wake of Sen. Olympia Snowe’s (R) surprise retirement announcement. Now, former Gov. John Baldacci (D) has joined Democratic Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1) and Mike Michaud (D-ME-2) in not running for the Senate. This likely leaves the Democrats with former Secretary of State Matt Dunlap as their general election candidate. Republicans will likely field current Secretary of State Charlie Summers. Neither are viewed as being particularly strong, so the favorite to win the seat becomes Independent former Gov. Angus King. He says he won’t likely caucus with either the Democrats or Republicans if elected, so much more intrigue will unfold here over the long term.
A great deal of action occurred in New York. The legislature passed compromised state Assembly and Senate redistricting maps, so the court-drawn congressional plan will likely stand. The development pushed GOP Rep. Bob Turner (R-NY-9) into a long shot run for the Senate, but now that Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY-5) surprisingly announced his retirement, Turner again has a House seat for which to run, albeit a very heavily Democratic one, so he may retreat there. For a state that typically lacks much congressional competition, the new map suggests that as many as 14 of the 27 districts may be up for grabs.
On the primary front, all incumbents were re-nominated earlier this week. Three, however, Alabama Reps. Jo Bonner (R-AL-1) and Spencer Bachus (R-AL-6), and Mississippi freshman Alan Nunnelee (R-MS-1) all won their races with less than 60% against weak competition. Though the trio avoided respective run-off elections and all are prohibitive favorites in November, it is an indication that the anti-incumbent era ushered in six years ago still has not ended.
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.