The Romney Effect?

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Following weeks of turmoil and growing discontent within the Republican Party, concerning the state of the 2016 Republican primaries, Mitt Romney, on behalf of the “establishment Republican party,” also known as the Republican party, stood up in front of the Conservative Political Action Convention to proclaim Donald Trump to be a phony, con-man, prejudice, misogynistic phony who did not stand for Republican beliefs and was not only a danger to the party, but a danger to the country. I’m paraphrasing, but I think I nailed it.

The aftermath of this speech brought on political pundit and spin doctor criticism, as well as a maniacle retort from Mr. Trump, at a Portland, Maine rally he was scheduled to speak at. The view was all but unanimous – Romney and the “establishment” were making a desperate plea in order to try to save the party from Trump. Trump went a little further, not only declaring it a mistake, but firing back insults at Romney for half an hour in front of a Maine crowd that wanted to hear his views. Soon after, the media started echoing and repeating Trump’s jargon, as if somehow fearful of reporting anything negative about the current front-runner.

While unprecedented in its coverage, it is hardly new for any party member to speak to colleagues concerning candidates and races, whether it be endorsement or criticism. Any claims by any candidate or person insinuating this is an interruption to democracy is being wildly hyperbolic with their insinuations. Media sources, office holders, celebrities, entertainers, businesses and a host of other representatives always endorse or criticise candidates, in every single election. Mitt Romney has just as much of a right to speak to a crowd as anyone else. Afterall, it’s still a free country for the time being. So let’s hush that nonsense.

Whether one was to believe whether Romney’s speech would have a positive, negative, or no impact on the race was in many minds when we headed into Super Saturday, with four states holding their caucuses or primaries. All of the polling pointed toward a sweeping win for Trump’s camp, with him projected to net the most popular votes in each state, as well as the majority of delegates.  However, once the voting began and returns started flowing in, a different picture began to form. While Trump was projected to win by almost double digits in each state, he ended up losing 2 states to Ted Cruz, and won two races by less than a 5 point margin in two other races.

Predictions and results for three out of four races are shown below (Maine did not have official polls prior to their primary):

kansas

Here is a charted difference in the predicted versus actual vote for each candidate, to make things easier:

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Basically, as the data shows, the Trump percentages are fairly accurate (with exception to Kansas, which has Trump and Cruz essentially flip-flopping their predictions), but the rest of the field is highly skewed. Cruz picked up a monumental amount over the previous polling, racking up double-digit gains over the previous week’s polling. Kasich had widespread gains in Kentucky, and Rubio failed to live up to any predictive polls. So, as expected, Trump’s base of support remained pretty constant and unchanged, but the remaining voters seem to be mobilizing in great strides to combat Trump’s lead. Some of this could be seen on Super Tuesday earlier in the week, but a big change was noticed post-Romney speech.

With a sampling of four states, it’s hard to directly attribute these results to Romney’s speech on Friday – Trump’s consistently poor showing in the previous debates when actually being challenged on his platform could play into this – it’s also hard to deny there is any effect. One could also argue that Ben Carson’s suspended campaign may have played a part in the skewed results, but with his average net of voters being at about 5%, this doesn’t explain the sudden shift over the past week. Voters are beginning to mobilize, and attach to the main Republican front-runner. I say main Republican front-runner for obvious reasons – someone who wants bigger government and universal healthcare isn’t a Republican.

Interestingly enough, while the delegate allocations have not been a direct reflection of the popular vote, there still are three camps legitimately splitting the race in the popular vote so far. The Trump camp has just over 34%, the Cruz camp has just over 28%, and – here’s the kicker – the “establishment” moderate vote is just over 28% as well. I label the Rubio/Kasich votes as the “establishment” moderate for what should be an obvious reason, for those who want to argue that the majority of voters want either Cruz or Trump. No, they do not, and the establishment does not. In fact, you can see that the majority of voters want neither Trump or Cruz.

The danger really lies ahead in the “winner-take-all” states, where even a sad 35% of the votes can declare a candidate all of the delegates in the state. However, this could play well into a brokered convention, since the popular vote would be more reflective of the people’s voice than the delegate count – if no single candidate gets the majority. Even if a candidate does technicially win a majority through the primaries, there is always a range of unbound delegates who head to convention. Most caucus votes are relatively unbound, as well as a few delegates in each state. In 2012, 25% of all delegates were unbound – a total of almost 600 delegates that did not have to vote per their state’s designation.

So, even a few delegates over the required majority doesn’t necessarily equate to an automatic nomination. What, you think Romney didn’t understand this when he spoke out? He said enough to likely send this race to a brokered convention at the end. The story may change over the next few weeks, depending on how the voters start to line up, but the message sent was a clear message to keep a majority from happening. And folks, if there is no majority delegates, the popular vote will be more reflective of the eventual victor, especially if two moderates can run on the same ticket.

 

 

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