Five takeaways from yesterday’s primaries

February 29, 2012

1. The margins

Mitt Romney did what he was supposed to do in Arizona, winning by almost 20 points and pocketing all 29 delegates in the winner-take-all primary. That gives him a commanding lead over his nearest rival, Rick Santorum, for the GOP nomination, 145 to 82.

But in Michigan, Romney topped Santorum just 41 to 38 percent, an embarrassment by all accounts except Romney’s, who’s calling a win a win after playing down expectations all week long. In reality, if Romney’s playing the delegates-are-what-counts game in Arizona, then it’s a tie in Michigan: He and Santorum look to get 11 delegates each from that state.

Ultimately, both these Romney victories may prove pyrrhic: To get them, he veered dramatically anti-immigrant, which won’t help him in the generals in Latino-heavy Arizona and elsewhere. And in Michigan, he ended up having to defend his position that the auto industry should have been allowed to go bankrupt.

I thought that Santorum could weather a close loss in Michigan (he didn’t really campaign in Arizona) but his motor-mouth may have killed him in the last few days, particularly calling the president a snob for wanting every American to go to college. Besides just plain getting it wrong -- the president’s position is for every American to have a chance at some sort of advance training, including the kinds of vocational training that Santorum’s Michigan audience might appreciate -- I think he just plain misread blue collar aspirations, if not for themselves, then for their children, to pursue higher education and do better in the job market. If wanting to go to college makes you a snob, he’s probably lost Ohio.

2. Romney remains incredibly weak

See all of the above. Significantly, Romney continues to be unable to break the 50 percent bar in a single Republican contest. Even when he wins by large margins, as he did in Arizona and New Hampshire, there’s still a greater vote against him than for him.

3. The Latino vote

I haven’t been able to find Latino totals in Arizona yet (Michigan only has a 2 percent Latino registered voters and I suspect their presence in the GOP primary is minimal) but the Washington Times reports that Romney “won only 28 percent of the Hispanic vote, which was well behind his share of the overall vote. Both former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who have taken the least restrictive stances on illegal immigration, did better among Hispanics.” That doesn’t bode well for the fall.

4. Turnout/Democrats

Both primary contests last night had slightly higher turnout than in 2008 but, at least in Michigan, it’s probably attributable to high Democratic crossover. In Michigan, 1 in 10 voters was a Democrat -- and most of those folks will be in President Obama’s column come November. In addition, there’s little good news for Romney in their presence: they tilted to Santorum 53 to 17 percent.

5. Paul Babeau

I screwed up on this one. Last night’s Arizona contest was strictly presidential. The Arizona congressional and state primary is August 28. Besides the fallout of being outed by his ex lover, Babeau is now implicated in a second scandal involving abuse at a reform school in Massachusetts that he used to run. His GOP primary opponent, naturally, is calling for his resignation. I suspect Babeu, who had a chance to challenge the GOP on its homophobia in brutally butchy form, may not make it. My apologies, though, for the mistake in yesterday's blog.