Tuesday, March 20, 2012

It's Election Night (Again)!

So it's time to live-blog again. We have another G-O-TEA Presidential Primary in Illinois, and we have a local election here in Southern Nevada. I'll be monitoring both tonight and posting both results & analysis of what's happening.

Stay tuned here at Nevada Progressive tonight as we live-blog the Illinois primary results and the Las Vegas Ward 2 special election.

5:15 PM-

Haven't we heard this before? Tonight is poised to be the night of Mittens' great comeback! Well, isn't it? Perhaps not, depending on Romney's performance in Illinois tonight.

Another scenario is possible, though, one that’s not as unlikely now as it was 24 hours ago – and for the Romney campaign, it’s the doomsday scenario. The key here is that Santorum didn’t just beat Romney in Mississippi and Alabama – he also knocked off Newt Gingrich, who has pitched himself as the South’s candidate. On the heels of his Oklahoma and Tennessee wins on Super Tuesday (and his Ohio near-miss), Santorum can now make a strong case for anti-Romney conservatives to ditch Gingrich once and for all and rally around him. This would give Santorum the one-on-one race with Romney that he’s craved, and how it would turn out is the great unknown.

Starting in the early days of this campaign, polls have shown potentially serious trouble for Romney if the conservative base ever united behind a single candidate. On a few occasions, like with Rick Perry’s late August surge or Gingrich’s in December, a single candidate actually managed to play this role, opening giant leads in national and key early state surveys and attaining polling heights that Romney has still yet to reach. But those candidates were horribly deficient and their surges were short-lived.

Santorum, though, is demonstrating more staying power — and Gingrich has been getting in his way. Without the former speaker in the race, the results wouldn’t have been close last night, nor would they have been in Tennessee and Oklahoma last week. And Santorum probably would have won Ohio, scored a clear win in Iowa and probably Georgia, and maybe pulled off South Carolina, and perhaps even Florida.

We may be arriving at the moment Romney and his campaign have feared for the entire campaign, when they can no longer benefit from a split conservative vote. Gingrich gave no hint in his speech last night that he’ll leave the race anytime soon. But he may be eliminated organically, if conservatives conclude that he’s exhausted his viability and that they’re better off lining up with Santorum. It might not matter if Gingrich presses ahead; if his support evaporates, Santorum will get his one-on-one race anyway.

So far, MSNBC is describing Illinois as "too early to call". This isn't a good sign for Mitt Romney. Some of the final pre-election polls suggested a blowout win for Romney, so anything less than that will probably set him back at least somewhat. And if somehow Mittens manages to bomb everywhere except Greater Chicago-land, it will just confirm his continued woes with the "tea party" base that just can't warm up to the guy who's supposed to be their "inevitable nominee".

Now, we just have to wait for this map to fill up so we can catch a first glimpse of the next stage of the G-O-TEA circus clown show.

5:28 PM-

And we have the first results. And interestingly enough, they're from The Windy City itself... Or at least somewhere in Cook County (which is home to Chicago and its most immediate suburbs), along with Lake County (home to wealthy Chicago suburbs). So far, Mitt Romney is comfortably ahead 54-29 over Rick Santorum. But remember, Chicago-land is where Mittens is expected to run up the score. We just have to wait and see what happens down state.

5:40 PM-

Some news outlets are now calling Illinois for Romney. It's looking likely he'll win tonight, as nearly everyone expected, but now we're all wondering how big (or small) the margin is. How well (or poorly) Romney wins will determine the media spin later tonight, as well as whether we'll hear louder calls for Santorum to drop out (and let Romney wrap up the nomination) or for Newt Gingrich to drop out (so Santorum can coalesce the hard-core teabagger opposition to Romney and deny him the nomination).

It's still quite possible that Romney can't ultimately get the 1,144 delegates needed to officially earn the GOP nomination. Now, it's just a matter of whether Mittens can push everyone else out soon... Or if everyone else pushes him out come Tampa.

5:50 PM-

Perhaps Team Mittens shouldn't pop out too much champagne tonight. So far in looking at the exit polls, I'm sensing Romney only wins Illinois tonight by about 6-8%. Yes, a win is a win is a win. And yes, Mittens will get the most delegates regardless (thanks to Santorum's campaign screwing up on delegate selection again). But again, he's only barely winning a state he was expected to coast to victory in not that long ago. And if he has to spend many millions of dollars just to squeak past a campaign so incompetent it's bleeding delegates all over the place, there's a serious problem in Republican-Land.

6:10 PM-

Funny enough, Rachel Maddow is explaining on MSNBC how Mittens may not be all that secure in his "delegate plan". Apparently, Illinois' GOP primary ballot is so damned long and complicated (in having folks vote for Presidential preference AND delegates, but also allowing them to do so separately) that Santorum, Gingrich, and/or Ron Paul may actually be able to "win" votes intended for Romney if voters don't vote for Romney delegates. YIKES!

But wait, there's more! Looking at the latest results, it looks like Romney is doing well in the closest-in Chicago-Land counties, as expected, but Santorum is starting to post leads in a few exurban Chicago area counties. Ruh-roh. And as many Romney boosters feared, Santorum is mostly cleaning up downstate.

And looking at the exit polls, we can see that Santorum actually WON late breaking voters. And yes, Santorum also won all those "conservative white working class" and "tea party" aligned demographic groups that Romney continues to struggle with. Oh yes, this contest will go on. Mittens can't celebrate "victory" just yet.

6:35 PM-

OK, let's get this out of the way. Rick Santorum is batshit crazy.

If his campaign can’t be defined by his stance on either contraception or unemployment, what’s the rationale for Santorum’s marathon and increasingly long-shot candidacy? Cheering on a Christian theocracy, and then quickly backpedaling, is as close as I can get. Dennis Terry’s hysterical remarks should be chilling to anyone who values religious freedom, on the right or left (watch it here). Watching Santorum standing and clapping for the bigot made it more clear than ever that he can never lead this nation. The fact that he later backtracked and (sort of) said he disagreed with Terry’s remarks doesn’t erase the fact that when he heard them, he stood and clapped like all the other good Christians. This is the company Santorum keeps.

Yet Willard "Mr. 1%" Romney had to radically outspend "Crazy Ricky" Santorum just to (probably only narrowly) beat him in Illinois.

It’s not all good news. The run-up to Illinois demonstrated surprising cracks in Romney’s campaign — typically considered the most solid and competent — in the long primary. Reports over the suggested revealed Romney’s campaign in Illinois was as disorganized as Santorum’s — not a good sign for an operation that will need to make a quick pivot to the general election against President Obama’s incredibly efficient campaign. Romney also vastly outspent his chief rival and conducted ran a very negative campaign, the kind of thing that doesn’t do much for his Republican enthusiasm problem.

And so far, that's the big takeaway for me tonight.

Oh yes, and there's this takeaway from somewhere closer to home. Jim Rogers blogged this yesterday.

I am a liberal. I make no excuses for that, nor do I believe I am obligated to defend my position. I do not believe that I am always right. I also have the greatest respect for the leading conservatives in this country. Agree with them or not, their philosophies have been sound, constructive and productive for the last 40 years I have followed their endeavors.

The issue is not the liberal view versus the conservative view. The issue is how the lunatic and intellectually bankrupt group that calls itself conservatives has been able to kidnap and hold for ransom the Republican Party and totally destroy its heritage of sound and logical thinking.

The political successes of intellectually bankrupt people like Sharron Angle and Sarah Palin should scare all of you. Fortunately neither one of these idiots, who has no understanding of conservatism, does not understand any of this country’s problems, and certainly has no capacity to solve those problems, has done nothing more than take this nation’s focus away from supporting people in their own party who could keep this country going forward.

And IMHO he's 100% correct! As we've talked about before, today's Republican Party is becoming increasingly enamored with "tea party" radicals like Sharrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrron over pragmatic center-right problem solvers like Kenny Guinn and Bill Raggio. As we may see later tonight, Nevada Republicans continue to grapple with this frightening reality.

However, we're also seeing this play out on the national stage. Even if Mitt Romney somehow manages to sew up the nomination soon, he'll have to do so by foresaking whatever shred of moderation he once embraced to instead try to "out-teabagger" the official "tea party" approved candidates. Romney continues to alienate women, minorities, and just about every swing voter demographic around with his support of the extreme "tea party" agenda. So is Mittens really "winning"?

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