Republican Primary: Who Has the Numbers?

There’s been lots of talk about the changing winds of the Republican primaries, but let’s take a careful look at the numbers from all of the contests that have been held so far and see where that leaves the final four contenders.

1) Total votes – Romney wins in this category. He is the only candidate who has accumulated over a million votes. He has received 1.4 times as many votes as the second place finisher in this category.

Romney = 1,183,979
Gingrich = 837,611
Santorum = 569,488
Paul = 337,894

Note: if you want to review the state-by-state results, 2012 Election Central has a convenient summary page.

2) Average percentage of the vote – Romney wins in this category. Taking the percentage of votes he earned in the nine contests that have been held so far and averaging that number, Romney has averaged 34% of the vote. This is 1.3 times better than the second place finisher in this category.

Romney = 34%
Santorum = 26%
Paul = 19%
Gingrich = 18%

Note: I boosted Gingrich’s numbers by only averaging the 8 contests he participated in. If I had counted his 0% Missouri finish, that would have dropped his average to 16%.

3) Average Place (i.e., first, second, third, …) – Romney wins in this category with an average place of 1.7, putting him comfortably ahead of the second place finisher in this category, who scored an average place of 2.4. The breakdown of this tally is telling: Romney had only one finish that was not a 1st or 2nd place finish, while Santorum had 5 finishes that were 3rd place or lower, Gingrich also had 5 that were 3rd place or lower, and Paul had 6.

Romney = 1.7
Santorum = 2.4
Paul = 3
Gingrich = 3

Note: I again boosted Gingrich’s numbers by only averaging the 8 contests he participated in. If I had assigned Gingrich a 4th place finish in Missouri, that would have dropped his score to 3.1.
4) Delegate count – Romney wins in this category also. You would have to combine every delegate from all three remaining contenders to tie with Romney’s total.
Romney = 123
Santorum = 72
Gingrich = 32
Paul = 19
My conclusion is that Romney can still safely be considered the Republican front-runner.
  • Gingrich has done well in two high-population states (South Carolina and Florida).
  • Santorum has done well in four states that involved relatively low numbers of voters (the most votes he received from a state that he won was 138,957 in Missouri) and relatively high percentages of Evangelical voters (all his victories came from states where Evangelicals make up more than 20% of the population). He has placed 3rd, 4th, or 5th in the states where Evangelicals make up less than 20% of the population. That may not bode well for Santorum in the evangelical-poor but delegate-rich states of California, New York, Illinois, and possibly even Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania (the latest poll in Pennsylvania shows Santorum and Romney in a statistical deadheat). See the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life for religious composition summaries by state.
  • Romney is the only candidate who has consistently scored 1st or 2nd place finishes almost entirely across the board. He has won all three contests in the states where Evangelicals make up less than 20% of the population, but he has also placed 1st or 2nd in 5 of the 6 states where Evangelicals make up more than 20% of the population.

With the most total votes, the highest average percentage of the votes cast, the best average place in the first 9 contests, and the highest delegate count, Romney is clearly the best-positioned to do well in the long haul.

#3: Gingrich’s Favorability Ratings Would Hobble Him in General Election

The numbers in the recent New York Times / CBS News Poll clearly indicate that Romney would be a stronger general election candidate than Gingrich.

1. Favorability Scores

Romney scores pretty well among Republican voters on the favorability scale, with favorable = 37% and unfavorable = 19%. Gingrich doesn’t score quite as well among Republicans as Romney, with favorable = 31% and unfavorable = 34%.

However, the real difference comes when you look at the favorability ratings among all registered voters. Romney scores 21% favorable and 35% unfavorable, while Gingrich scores 17% favorable and 49% unfavorable (i.e., Gingrich has a much higher unfavorability percentage and a somewhat lower favorability percentage).

The important point to note here is that, although Romney has a higher unfavorability score among the general electorate than he does among Republicans (not too surprising), Gingrich’s unfavorability scores far surpass Romney’s. In fact, Gingrich was the only Republican candidate with a higher unfavorability score than President Obama himself (who had 45% rate him as unfavorable).

2. Likelihood of Republicans to sit on the sidelines

14% of Republican primary voters said they would not support Gingrich if he becomes their party’s nominee, while only 10% of Republican primary voters said the same of Romney. The numbers are closer here, but Gingrich may do slightly worse than Romney within the Republican party in a general election.

3. Possible Obama-Republican match-ups

Among those surveyed, Romney was the only one of the Republican candidates who would break even with Obama in a head-to-head match (45% Obama vs. 45% Romney).

A Gingrich-Obama match would put Republicans at an 11% deficit (50% Obama vs. 39% Gingrich).

Among all of the Republican candidates, Romney fared best against Obama in the head-to-head contest.

4. Best chance of beating Obama

56% of Republican primary voters said Romney would have the best chance of beating Obama, while only 17% said Gingrich would have the best chance of beating Obama. These numbers tell the same story as Gingrich’s high unfavorability ratings among the general electorate (Republicans believe that Romney is stronger than Gingrich, while non-Republicans view Gingrich with much higher unfavorability than Romney).

5. Business vs. government experience

44% of Republican primary voters said they would prefer a candidate with mostly business experience, while only 12% said they would prefer a candidate with mostly government experience. If independent and swing voters have any of these same sentiments, Republicans may do well to put their money where their mouth is.

Since 56% of everyone surveyed said the economy is the most important issue in the campaign and 54% said they disapprove of the way Obama is handling the economy, the Republican candidate who scores better on the favorability scale could make a very competitive bid for the White House.

Conclusions:

Gingrich clearly succeeded at appealing to a plurality of the Republican party base in South Carolina, but Republicans should be very wary of a candidate who appears slightly more likely than Romney to leave Republicans at home if he becomes the party’s nominee and who appears far less likely than Romney to draw independent and cross-over voters into his camp.

With an unpopular president in the White House, one has to question whether Republicans would be wise to choose as their standard-bearer a man who has an even higher unfavorability rating than the current president.

Top 10 Reasons Perry May Not Be Electable in General Election

Some thoughts on why Rick Perry may not be the most competitive candidate for the general election campaign.

1. Perry’s claims of creating a million jobs don’t stand up to scrutiny.

2. Perry’s government subsidy of banks doesn’t inspire confidence in his financial acumen.

3. Perry’s knowledge of foreign policy does not seem very impressive based on his performance at the Orlando debate.

4. Perry’s transportation policy has provided Texas the most expensive solution possible for building new roads.

5. In 2002, Perry promised to reform school financing, but by 2011 school financing is in such a mess that school districts in Texas are faced with signficant layoffs.

6. Perry exercised poor judgment when he levelled harsh charges against Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

7. Perry will likely have a tough time selling himself to the large bloc of senior voters, because of his views on Social Security.

8. Perry supervised a big-government action that stripped all 468 children from their parents in the Texas community of an unpopular religion (FLDS).

9. Perry claims to be a supporter of small government, even though – as Governor of Texas – he was willing to sign a big-government executive order that was widely unpopular.

10. Perry is running to be President of the Union, but he appears to think the Union is an optional club.

Click image to enlarge – Click on #8 (above) for details

#1: Perry’s Claims of Job Creation Don’t Stand Up to Scrutiny

1. Perry’s claims of creating a million jobs don’t stand up to scrutiny.

Because the number of jobs in Texas rose from 9,537,900 in December 2000 to 10,619,800 in July 2011, Perry claims to be responsible for creating 1.08 million jobs since he became governor.

Even if we grant that he is personally responsible for creating these jobs, a deeper examination of these numbers shows that they provide nothing to crow about:

Conclusion:

With Perry, there’s a lot to be nervous about. Even if his “provocative language” appeals to conservatives in the Republican Party, they may just find out that he doesn’t have the ability to generate traction in a general election campaign, in which he would need to impress more than just the great state of Texas.

#2: Perry’s Subsidy of Banks Doesn’t Inspire Confidence in His Financial Acumen

2. Perry’s government subsidy of banks doesn’t inspire confidence in his financial acumen.

An AP article reported that – under Perry’s leadership – Texas subsidized two of the banks that were major contributors to the subprime lending crisis (Countrywide and Washington Mutual) to the tune of $35 million. The article also reported that, after receiving grants from the Texas Enterprise Fund, the two banks increased their risky lending practices, and that the two banks contributed to Perry’s campaign fund. In 2007:

As credit-rating agencies continued downgrading hundreds of billions in mortgage-backed assets on Wall Street, Perry’s spokeswoman described Texas as ‘one of the hottest housing markets in the nation’ and dismissed concerns about the looming economic implosion as ‘slightly alarmist.’

NPR reported that:

Perry has been repeatedly accused of cronyism during his time as Texas governor in which both Perry and companies doing business in or with his state appear to benefit financially from the arrangement.

The allegation that cronyism was behind his 2007 executive order to have 12-year old Texas girls receive the HPV vaccine (his former chief of staff lobbied for the drug maker Merck) is at the heart of that controversy. And there are a number of other allegations that the Texas Enterprise Fund, meant to help bring jobs to Texas, was used to reward companies linked to Perry supporters.

Given the current state of the national economy, it seems that Republicans would be better served to pick a candidate with a more impressive financial resume.

#4: Perry’s Transportation Solution in Texas Worse than High Taxes

4. Perry’s transportation policy has provided Texas the most expensive solution possible for building new roads.

According to a US Department of Transportation report, Texas leads the nation in toll road projects since 1991:

Texas has the most toll activity of any state. This is not surprising in light of the Texas DOT policy of giving priority consideration to tolls for new capacity and aggressive promotion and institutionalization of public-private partnerships.

According to an open letter posted by the Texas Tea Party PAC, traditional public toll roads in Texas charge 10-20 cents per mile, but the new style of toll roads promoted by Texas DOT “bear almost no resemblance to traditional, taxpayer-controlled turnpikes.” Characteristics of these new toll roads include: relying on “innovative financing schemes,” placing control of many Texas roads in the hands of Cintra (a multinational corporation headquartered in Spain), charging up to 75 cents per mile, and limiting competition with the new toll roads.

The Economic Policy Journal reports troubling issues with Cintra: the North Tarrant Express contract has a clause that if the project is unprofitable, the state of Texas will buy back the project. In addition, a man who served as a Perry legislative liaison when the Cintra contract was awarded worked for Cintra both before and after the period he worked for Perry.

Perry claims to favor low taxes, but – in the case of Texas transportation – he avoided a fiscally conservative pay-as-you-go approach and instead imposed a far higher price tag downstream.

Many voters may prefer the Ponzi scheme of Social Security to the Perry scheme of creative government financing.

Republican or Democrat … Who Would Gain Your Vote?

If you could choose from any of the Republican candidates or the likely Democratic nominee, who would gain your vote?