Saturday, March 31, 2012

What Could Make Santorum Quit?

As the delegate math increasingly favors Mitt Romney, the Republican Party establishment has intensified pressure on Rick Santorum to drop out of the race. If Romney is almost guaranteed to win the nomination, the reasoning goes, then Santorum's refusal to quit will only undermine the Republican nominee and help Barack Obama. If and when Romney accumulates a majority of the delegates, the race will be concluded. But will Santorum quit at any point prior to that? What could make him drop out early?

A few days ago, we reviewed the situation in Wisconsin, which holds its primary on Tuesday. If the polling is to be believed, Romney will carry Wisconsin and win the other two contests that day. Afterward, Elephant Watcher expects the nature of the race to change--such that it's not viewed as a real race anymore--with virtually all observers recognizing that Romney will win the nomination. After Tuesday's contests, it will be another three weeks until the next series of states will vote. It will not be a pleasant three weeks. Will Santorum quit?

The problem with inducing Santorum to quit after April 3rd is that Santorum's home state, Pennsylvania, will be among the states voting in the next batch (April 24th). The other states that day will vote for Romney. While Pennsylvania may be more competitive than expected, it should favor Santorum. How can Santorum quit right before his home state votes? If polling shows Santorum a certain loser in Pennsylvania, then he may be inclined to quit. But that's unlikely. If Santorum stays in and loses Pennsylvania, he'll have a good reason to quit.

After April 24th, Romney's lead in delegates will be at its greatest. The delegate math will be unquestionable, even if Santorum does well in Pennsylvania. This would be a good time for Santorum to end the race. Unfortunately, the calendar will again tempt Santorum to keep fighting. In May, the calendar is extremely favorable to Santorum, with many Southern states voting. The big one, Texas, will not vote until the end of May. If May's roster of states had been earlier in the calendar, Santorum would have some real momentum. (The newsmedia, which tends to overreact to short-term trends, could even fool itself into believing Santorum is getting somewhere in spite of the math.) By the time May rolls around, the math will not permit Santorum to win. However, the allure of winning all of those easy states will be very enticing to Santorum.

If Santorum is unable to resist staying in the race, he should do well in May. Nevertheless, the effect of Romney's wins in April will have a profound effect, and could lead to a collapse in Santorum's support. If Santorum manages to lose Texas, then he should quit, because the states voting in June will guarantee another string of humiliating losses. But if Santorum wins Texas, how can he immediately quit? One doesn't normally quit after a win; candidates quit after losses. So if Santorum stays in the race after Texas, he will essentially be staying in until Romney gets a majority of the delegates, which will occur on June 5th.

In summary, the delegate math and establishment pressure will suggest Santorum should quit, but the primary calendar will repeatedly encourage Santorum to stay in the race until Romney has won a majority of the delegates. Only a loss in Pennsylvania (or Texas) would be a likely trigger for an early exit by Santorum.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Wisconsin: The Final Battleground?

Next Tuesday, on April 3rd, primaries will be held in Washington D.C., Maryland, and Wisconsin. Thus far, no polling has been conducted in D.C.; Mitt Romney is expected to win there since Rick Santorum is not on the ballot. In Maryland, only one poll has been conducted (yesterday by Rasmussen) showing Romney ahead of Santorum by 17 points. Given Maryland's status as a Northeastern state, Romney was always expected to win there. That leaves Wisconsin, a Midwestern state where Santorum should win if he is to have any real chance at taking the nomination--or even of forcing a contested convention. Wisconsin is on Santorum's turf. In February, polls gave Santorum a big lead there. But now, Romney has the lead. A few more Wisconsin polls should be released prior to the vote, but here is where the candidates currently stand. The two recent polls are included, and for contrast, so is the final February poll:

Wisconsin Primary
03/25 Marquette Uni -- Romney 39, Santorum 31, Paul 11, Gingrich 5
03/21 Rasmussen -- Romney 46, Santorum 33, Paul 8, Gingrich 7
02/26 PPP (D) -- Santorum 43, Romney 27, Gingrich 10, Paul 8

The race has changed dramatically since the February poll, which was conducted just days before Romney's crucial wins in Michigan and Ohio. In February, Santorum had a lead of 16 points; now Romney has a lead of about 10 points. This shift toward Romney is consistent with the shifts that have occurred previously: Santorum lost big leads in Michigan and Ohio before he was defeated by Romney.

Losing Wisconsin would be devastating for Santorum's campaign. As desperate as the situation already is, things would get even worse. Like Ohio, Wisconsin is a state where Santorum has no excuse for not winning. Santorum's campaign will be considered in free-fall, especially if he loses by a convincing margin. If that weren't bad enough, Wisconsin is one of Santorum's best states on the April calendar. He needs to win Wisconsin, if only to take one step toward counterbalancing the effect of his other losses.

Unfortunately for Santorum, there's no particular reason to think that he will be able to turn things around and defy the polls. His usual trump card for beating the polls is to benefit from the strategic defection of Newt Gingrich's supporters, who hope to coalesce the Anti-Romney vote. But Gingrich is already down to about 6 points in the polls. At least in Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois, Gingrich had been polling double-digits, so there were some votes to be had. In the Wisconsin polls, there just aren't many Gingrich voters to defect.

Wisconsin may well be the final battleground. True, there are many states to follow. In May, there are several states that heavily favor Santorum, and there are additional states throughout the calendar that will be competitive. But if Santorum loses Wisconsin, the nature of the campaign will change in a fundamental way. No longer will anyone seriously consider Santorum able to win the Republican nomination. Even Santorum's most faithful supporters will abandon hope of victory.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Santorum's Plan Unravels

In recent days, Republican voters have become increasingly aware that Rick Santorum's chances of winning the nomination are very small, and that Mitt Romney is extremely likely to win. Santorum has now spoke openly of his intention to force a contested convention, and that he does not expect to win an outright majority of the delegates. This betrays weakness on Santorum's part, and will diminish his appeal further: Most Republicans believe that a contested convention would be a disaster. Do voters think Santorum is so much better than Romney that they are willing to allow a contested convention? Some voters, but not enough.

It's notable that Santorum has reached this point even though the Romney-favored April schedule has not yet begun. After April's contests are concluded, the delegate math will look far more daunting for Santorum than it does now. So why has Santorum already fallen so far? Because his plan for winning the nomination has not been successful.

Beginning in February, we have frequently referred to the two different paths to the nomination. Romney's plan was to sweep the West and Northeast, while occasionally taking states in the Midwest. Santorum's plan was, at a minimum, to sweep the South and Midwest. Romney's campaign has gone according to plan, though it was rattled by Santorum's wins on February 7th (in Minnesota and Colorado). Santorum's plan has not gone so smoothly.

Of the Southern and Midwestern states that have voted so far, Santorum has lost around half of them--and that's not even counting the delegate losses suffered when Newt Gingrich failed to win a state but still got a bunch of delegates. The following is a list of the states in Santorum's regions that have voted, where Santorum failed to win for one reason or another:

Iowa (lost during initial count)

South Carolina

Remember, these are not losses in battleground regions where Santorum can afford to win some and lose some--they're losses on Santorum's home turf. Santorum was gravely weakened during the opening phase of the primary calendar, when Gingrich was considered the chief Anti-Romney for a time. Critically, Santorum also suffered narrow losses in Michigan and Ohio--contests that could have gone either way.

Things could have played out much better for Santorum. Without Gingrich in the way, Santorum would have won South Carolina and Georgia. If he had qualified for the ballot in Virginia, he would have taken that state, too. He may have fared better against Romney in Florida than Gingrich did. If Santorum had been luckier, he could have won the initial vote count in Iowa and narrowly won rather than lost in Michigan and Ohio. If all--or even some combination--of those things had occurred, the delegate math and the voters' perception of the race would look quite different.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Santorum Wins Louisiana Primary; Gingrich Fading

Rick Santorum won the Louisiana Primary by more than 20 points on Saturday. Mitt Romney came in second, and Newt Gingrich was way behind with only 16% of the vote. As Elephant Watcher predicted after Santorum won in Alabama and Mississippi, Gingrich's support has evaporated--even in the Deep South, his strongest region. Louisiana was the final contest to be held in the Deep South. Gingrich will post even lower numbers in the remaining Southern states, and will poll near zero outside of the South. Though he has not dropped out of the race officially, Gingrich has become a non-factor, because he's no longer taking many of Santorum's Anti-Romney votes away.

Louisiana Primary (100% reporting)
Santorum -- 49%
Romney -- 27%
Gingrich -- 16%
Paul -- 6%

Unfortunately for Santorum, Gingrich was already a non-factor in the Midwest by the time Romney clobbered them both in Illinois. The only poll done so far in Wisconsin shows Romney well ahead of Santorum; Gingrich's numbers are already rock-bottom there. Previous contests in the West and Northeast indicate that Gingrich didn't have much support there to begin with, so Santorum has little to gain.

Santorum's win in Louisiana was expected, and will have no impact on the race as a whole. Fans of Santorum may be frustrated by the fact that when Romney does as well as expected, Romney gets closer to the nomination, but when Santorum does as well as expected, it doesn't help. Why the disparity, and why do expectations matter? The answer is that if everything goes as expected, Romney will win the nomination.

All of the projections of the race's likely trajectory--resulting in a Romney nomination--account for Santorum's wins in Louisiana and other Southern states. It's only if Santorum can pull off some truly unexpected upset wins in the Northeast and West that he can win the nomination or stop Romney from getting a majority of the delegates. Santorum's most realistic hope was that defeating Gingrich and uniting the Anti-Romney vote would be a game-changer. So far, it hasn't been. Starting with Michigan, every decisive race has gone in Romney's favor (Michigan, Ohio, Illinois).

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Santorum Near Zero on Intrade

Mitt Romney's odds of winning the Republican presidential nomination are at an all-time high according to the Intrade market. Investors on Intrade currently give Romney a 93.1% chance of winning the nomination. Rick Santorum has dropped almost to zero: His stock is trading at 2.5%. But that's actually better than Romney's other competitors are faring. Ron Paul is at 1.4%, and Newt Gingrich is in last place at 0.3%. Gingrich's stock collapsed after his failures to win in the Deep South contests of Alabama and Mississippi earlier this month. It's the first time in a long time that he's doing worse than Paul on the Intrade market.

Jeb Bush, who is not running for president and recently endorsed Romney, is at 0.4%, slightly above Gingrich. Chris Christie, Sarah Palin, and Mike Huckabee are also trading at about that level. Jeb Bush had been acting as a stand-in of sorts on the odds of a contested convention occurring; before Bush announced he was endorsing Romney, he was actually trading at about 2.0%, almost even with Santorum.

Intrade no longer believes there's a significant chance of a contested convention (the scenario in which no candidate wins a majority of the delegates during the primary season). The market for a contested convention occurring rates the probability at 8.7%. It reached a high point of near 30% in mid-February, when Santorum was enjoying his surge. According to the market, the odds of a contested convention dropped rapidly in the days following Santorum's wins in the South; that was when the media began paying more attention to the delegate math.

Although the only polling for the Wisconsin Primary, taken back in February, had Santorum with a sizable lead, Intrade gives Romney a 64% chance of winning Wisconsin. This is reminiscent of the days before the Ohio Primary, when Intrade correctly anticipated Romney's rise and victory in the state (though the market went haywire on the night of the contest, when the vote count was extremely close). In the various Northeastern primaries taking place in April, Intrade gives Romney a lock of over 90% in each contest.

Only in Santorum's home state of Pennsylvania is the Intrade market bullish on the man's chances. Santorum is given a 66% chance of winning--not very high, considering. Intrade also foresees an early end to the primary season: The market gives Romney a 65% chance of winning Texas!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mitt Romney Takes Illinois

Mitt Romney scored another victory over Rick Santorum in the Midwest on Tuesday, winning the Illinois Primary by a wide margin. With 82% reporting, Romney won 47% of the vote to Santorum's 35%. Newt Gingrich only took 8% of the vote--a significant erosion of the support he was polling, which wasn't that high to begin with. As expected, Newt Gingrich's recent losses in the Deep South have marginalized him further. That's what Santorum was hoping for, but it wasn't enough. If the margin holds up as more precincts report, Romney won Illinois by double-digits, an impressive win in Santorum's home region. In recent days, the polling showed Romney ahead, so Santorum was not expected to win. However, that doesn't change the fact that Illinois was a state Santorum needed to win. This was a devastating loss for the Santorum campaign.

Illinois Primary (82% reporting)
Romney -- 47%
Santorum -- 35%
Paul -- 9%
Gingrich -- 8%

The size of Romney's win in Illinois suggests that he will threaten Santorum in the Midwest again, in Wisconsin, which will vote on April 3rd. Wisconsin is one of the few states Santorum has a chance to win in April, a month whose schedule heavily favors Romney. Santorum has held a big lead over Romney in Wisconsin polls, but there hasn't been any polling there since February. Given the way the tide has turned in the overall Republican presidential primary, Santorum shouldn't count on much of a lead in Wisconsin. It's a pro-Santorum state in a pro-Santorum region, but as Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois demonstrated, that doesn't count for much anymore.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Illinois Primary Tomorrow

The Illinois Primary will be held on Tuesday. As we have mentioned before, Illinois is a crucial state in the battle between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Romney has been campaigning in "targets of opportunity" in the Midwest, such as Michigan and Ohio. Santorum is in the position of defending his home turf; he needs to sweep both the South and Midwest if he is to defeat Romney. Previously, Romney won by narrow margins in Michigan and Ohio. While in Michigan he had the benefit of personal ties to the state, he was at a disadvantage in Ohio--and beat Santorum anyway. Illinois, in its natural state, is considered somewhere between the two: Not as pro-Santorum as Ohio, but not as level a playing field as Michigan. Since Michigan, however, the tide has shifted against Santorum, making things easier for Romney. Despite being in the Midwest, Romney is favored to win Illinois, based on the polls:

Illinois Primary
03/18 PPP (D) -- Romney 45, Santorum 30, Gingrich 13, Paul 10
03/18 ARG -- Romney 44, Santorum 30, Gingrich 13, Paul 8
03/15 Rasmussen -- Romney 41, Santorum 32, Gingrich 14, Paul 7
03/14 WeAskAmerica -- Romney 37, Santorum 31, Gingrich 14, Paul 8
03/14 Fox Chicago -- Romney 37, Santorum 31, Gingrich 14, Paul 8

Judging by the polls, Romney already had the edge several days ago and is also getting late momentum on top of that. Understanding the importance of Illinois, Romney has done extra campaigning there--while Santorum wasted time in Puerto Rico. However, with Newt Gingrich polling at about 14%, there's still room for his numbers to shift toward Santorum. As in the past, Santorum may do a bit better than expected due to this strategic shift of the Anti-Romney vote. In this case, Romney's margin in the polling suggests he can safely assume a win in Illinois, regardless of that shift.

How can Santorum justify the loss of another state in the Midwest? He would likely point to the fact that Illinois is a left-leaning state that votes Democratic in presidential elections. It's true, but it shouldn't be too much comfort for Santorum going forward: The Midwestern states voting in April--both "must-win" states for Santorum--are Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, both of which have also been voting Democratic in recent presidential elections. Pennsylvania is Santorum's home state, so he shouldn't lose there, but losing Wisconsin would be very damaging.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mitt Romney Wins Landslide in Puerto Rico

Mitt Romney sailed to victory in Puerto Rico, the final island caucus. As with other U.S. territories, Puerto Rico has a number of delegates--despite the fact that it cannot cast electoral college votes in presidential elections. Unlike the other territories, Puerto Rico has a big enough population to give it as many delegates as a medium-sized state. The delegates (or the possibility of a quasi-vacation) drew Rick Santorum to campaign in person in Puerto Rico, despite long odds against winning there. Romney's establishment support made him the early favorite, and Santorum's campaigning did nothing to put a dent in Romney's support. Though only about a third of the vote has been reported, Romney appears to have obliterated Santorum:

Puerto Rico Caucus (38% reporting)
Romney -- 88%
Santorum -- 8%
Gingrich -- 2%
Paul -- 1%

Santorum may have been attempting to keep Romney below the winner-take-all threshold of 50%. From the reported numbers, Santorum had no luck. Puerto Rico's result highlights one of Santorum's biggest problems over the last several weeks: While Romney has broken into the Midwest at various times, and has even taken advantage of the Santorum-Gingrich split to narrow the margins in the South occasionally, Santorum has been unable to return the favor. Instead, Santorum has been losing on Romney's turf by oversized margins that have a real impact on the delegate count.

Santorum would have been advised to spend his time in Illinois instead. Its primary will be held this Tuesday, and is an important contest because it represents another opportunity for Romney to pick off a Midwestern state. Aside from Louisiana, Illinois will also be the last contest to be held prior to the pro-Romney calendar of winner-take-all states in April.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Mitt Romney's Plan

Previously, we examined which portions of the primary calendar are biased toward which candidates, based on which regions of the country are over-represented or under-represented. The month of March, post-Super Tuesday, had a mixed-bag schedule, since one-third were pro-Romney states, one-third were Midwestern states, and one-third of the contests were in the Deep South. Rick Santorum cleared a major hurdle by winning in Alabama and Mississippi--or to be more accurate, by preventing Newt Gingrich from winning there. Santorum is likely to take Louisiana as well, knocking Gingrich out of the race (either officially or effectively).

In spite of this, Mitt Romney has extended his delegate lead since Super Tuesday by leveraging his ability to win big on his home turf and compete everywhere else. Romney's path to a delegate majority is clear, while Santorum's campaign struggles to put forward a convincing case that they can do more than force a contested convention. What is Romney's plan to knock Santorum out of the race and put an end to the Republican primary?

As before, Romney expects to win the West and Northeast, while targeting certain Midwestern states to pick off. So far, his strategy has succeeded, producing narrow wins in Michigan and Ohio. The next state he hopes to win in Santorum's region is Illinois, voting on March 20th. Illinois is likely to be more favorable to Romney than Ohio, thanks to the Chicago area. But Illinois is still the kind of state Santorum absolutely must win in order to put together a delegate majority.

In April, the winner-take-all section of the primary begins. Not every state is winner-take-all in the traditional sense (i.e. all delegates are awarded to the winner of the state's popular vote). Each state has different variations, such as winner-take-all by district, or partially by popular vote, etc. The important thing is that it's easier for the winner of each state to take a disproportionately large number of delegates from April onward.

April's calendar is heavily tilted in favor of Romney, with six Northeastern contests, two Midwestern ones, and none in the South. On April 3rd, the first group votes: Maryland, D.C., and Wisconsin. Santorum is not on the ballot in D.C., and as a Northeastern state, Maryland favors Romney. Like other Midwestern states, Wisconsin favors Santorum. But unlike, say, Kansas, it's plausible for Romney to eke out a win Wisconsin. If Romney wins there, it will be devastating to Santorum; if Romney loses there, it doesn't matter much.

On April 24th, voting takes place in Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. Romney is favored in all of these states but Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is pro-Santorum to be sure: It's not only a Midwestern state, it's his home state. Even so, if Santorum is reeling from other losses and Romney runs a good campaign there, it could possibly be competitive. A Romney win in Pennsylvania would knock Santorum out of the race. A Romney loss in Pennsylvania would do no harm; he's guaranteed a huge delegate haul from the other states voting that day.

By the end of April, Romney's delegate advantage will be massive. In the wake of Super Tuesday, Romney's campaign calculated--and it became the conventional wisdom--that Romney had taken 55% of the delegates up to that point, and needed to win about 48% of the remainder. By contrast, Santorum needed about 67% of the remainder to get a majority. Each time Santorum fails to hit the 67% mark, that figure increases, because he has to make up the difference. After the April 24th states vote, Santorum may need to win so many of the remaining delegates that even his campaign won't be able to make the case that it could happen.

What happens then? Santorum's only option is to try forcing a contested convention by preventing Romney from getting a majority. Right now, that's Santorum's only probable hope, but by the end of April the math may force him to admit it. The problem is that most Republican voters--regardless of which candidate they prefer--understand that a contested convention would have a disastrous effect on the winning candidate's chances in a general election. If Santorum is too far behind, his odds of getting the nomination (at the convention) will appear so small that a contested convention is merely an act of self-destruction for the Republican Party.

In such a case, some voters who lean Santorum (or Gingrich, if he retains a constituency) could flip to Romney. No longer seeing a Santorum victory as a possibility, they will vote Romney because that's what is necessary to defeat Barack Obama.

The May schedule is very favorable to Santorum, with two Midwestern states, five Southern states, and only Oregon starting from a pro-Romney position. Assuming Santorum hasn't already been knocked out in Pennsylvania, the first sign of Santorum's collapse would appear on May 8th, when Indiana, North Carolina, and West Virginia vote. All three states are pro-Santorum. If Santorum sweeps them, he could experience a "dead cat bounce" during May. The calendar would be favorable enough to give him a number of wins. Since the news media and pundits tend to overreact to short-term trends, they will proclaim it as a sign of grave weakness on Romney's part--until the June states put Romney over the top. But if Santorum has been weakened sufficiently, Indiana or North Carolina--even both--could vote for Romney, and the race will effectively be over.

Romney Wins Hawaii and Samoa

In the late night hours after Rick Santorum wrapped up the two Southern states voting on Tuesday, the Hawaii Caucus and the American Samoa Caucus reported that Mitt Romney won there. The two caucuses are the latest in Romney's series of island wins. That bodes well for his chances in Puerto Rico, voting later this month. In review, Santorum was able to earn wins in the South which, while narrow in margin, will have a greater strategic importance because they will knock Newt Gingrich out of the race. Meanwhile, Romney continued racking up the delegates with his big-margin wins in Hawaii and American Samoa, along with his ability to take nearly a third of the vote in the Southern states.

The following are the Hawaii results; American Samoa reported Romney will win all of its delegates.

Hawaii Caucus (100% reporting)
Romney -- 45%
Santorum -- 25%
Paul -- 18%
Gingrich -- 11%

It's been reported that despite the larger populations of Alabama and Mississippi, Romney won more delegates than Santorum did on Tuesday. This is significant, because the post-Super Tuesday portion of March is the most Santorum-friendly section of the primary calendar, aside from May. Santorum desperately needs to get big delegate wins in order to offset his preexisting deficit, to say nothing of offsetting the pro-Romney calendar in April and June.

Instead, Romney has only increased his delegate lead, making Santorum's job all the more difficult. That's why Gingrich's presence in the race up to this point undermines Santorum's chances going forward. Even if Gingrich were to quit tomorrow, the damage has been done.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Santorum Wins Alabama and Mississippi

Rick Santorum won the two Deep south states on Tuesday, edging out Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney in close races in both Alabama and Mississippi. (Hawaii and American Samoa will report their results later than the Southern States, owing to the time zone difference.) Santorum desperately needed both of his wins, since his only hope of changing the race is to knock Gingrich out. Though Gingrich claims he will remain in the race until the convention, he may very well drop out of the race now; if he can't win in the Deep South, he can't win anywhere. Even if Gingrich remains, he will be much less of a factor now that Santorum has clearly been designated the chief Anti-Romney in all regions.

The split between Santorum and Gingrich was almost even. In fact, the split almost enabled Romney to steal a win with his share of just under a third of the vote. The polling, political analysts, and Intrade investors didn't give Santorum much chance of winning both contests. However, as Elephant Watcher explained yesterday, Santorum's odds were being underestimated--a strategic shift of Gingrich voters over to Santorum was likely. Elephant Watcher proved to be correct; a last-minute shift occurred in both states and made the difference.

Alabama Primary (77% reporting)
Santorum -- 35%
Gingrich -- 30%
Romney -- 28%
Paul -- 5%

Mississippi Primary (92% reporting)
Santorum -- 33%
Gingrich -- 31%
Romney -- 30%
Paul -- 4%

If the numbers hold, it will be the worst result possible for Romney, as his third place finishes will enable him to accumulate fewer delegates, while Gingrich's second place finishes won't be enough to keep Gingrich in the race. The calls for Gingrich to drop out will become louder as time goes on. If Gingrich drops out, Santorum will benefit. If Gingrich doesn't drop out, Santorum will still get most of the benefit since even diehard Gingrich fans will realize Gingrich's campaign is no longer viable.

Unfortunately for Santorum, Gingrich's defeat needed to come much earlier to make a real difference in the delegate math. The race isn't over, but many delegates have already been awarded. During that time, Gingrich took many delegates that otherwise would have gone to Santorum. Gingrich's vote share also could have made the difference in key states that Santorum lost to Romney, like Michigan and Ohio. For Santorum to have a shot at winning a majority of the delegates, he needs to prove that Gingrich's departure or marginalization will enable Santorum to win the rest of the Midwest and break into some of Romney's strongholds.

Monday, March 12, 2012

AL, HI, and MS Vote Tomorrow

Two states in the Deep South--Alabama and Mississippi--will hold important primaries tomorrow. Hawaii and American Samoa will also hold caucuses tomorrow; Mitt Romney is expected to win those easily. The focus of all attention will be the two Southern state primaries, where polls are currently ambiguous. Alabama and Mississippi are must-win states for both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Since Gingrich's entire "strategy" has been based on winning in the South, and since he so far has only been able to win in the Deep South, he will have little excuse to remain in the race if he fails to carry at least one of the primaries tomorrow. Gingrich has claimed that he will stay in the race regardless, but he has to say that because saying otherwise would be a sign of weakness. If Gingrich loses both Southern states, he may very well drop out of the race.

Santorum needs both Alabama and Mississippi just as badly. His campaign is in dire straits, with more and more observers coming to the realization that he simply cannot make up his deficit in delegates. His only hope is to force Gingrich out of the race. If Gingrich wins even one of the states, Gingrich will remain a thorn in Santorum's side and drain his Southern delegate count. If Romney somehow manages to win one of the states due to a split in the Anti-Romney vote, it will still be devastating. On the one hand, it would weaken Gingrich and strengthen Santorum's argument that the Anti-Romney vote needs to unify. But on the other hand, it would give Romney even more delegates, the impression that he can sort of compete even in Anti-Romney country, and would add to Romney's aura of inevitability.

As stated, the polls are ambiguous:

Alabama Primary
03/11 PPP (D) -- Romney 31, Gingrich 30, Santorum 29, Paul 8
03/08 Rasmussen -- Gingrich 30, Santorum 29, Romney 28, Paul 7
03/08 Alabama Uni -- Gingrich 21, Romney 20, Santorum 17
03/07 Capital -- Romney 30, Gingrich 25, Santorum 20, Paul 6

Mississippi Primary
03/11 PPP (D) -- Gingrich 33, Romney 31, Santorum 27, Paul 7
03/08 Rasmussen -- Romney 35, Gingrich 27, Santorum 27, Paul 6
03/08 ARG -- Gingrich 35, Romney 31, Santorum 20, Paul 7

The polls show a three-way virtual tie in Alabama. In Mississippi, the race is also extremely close among all three competitors, though Santorum is a bit weaker there than in Alabama. Will Romney manage to pull out a win due to the even division between Anti-Romneys? Or will the voters strategically shift their votes toward one of the Anti-Romneys? If so, which one will they choose?

Alabama's numbers, at least, resemble the polls out of Tennessee before its primary on Super Tuesday. When the voting occurred, Gingrich supporters shifted over to Santorum and gave him an easy win. Will it happen again? On the Intrade primaries market, investors are dubious of Santorum's chances. They give Santorum 30% to win Alabama and only 17% to win Mississippi. Gingrich is favored in both states, with 50% and 60%, respectively.

Despite the polls, Santorum has a real chance to win either or both of the Southern primaries tomorrow. That's because Santorum has clearly become the chief Anti-Romney around the country, and voters everywhere know it. So if voters are going to strategically shift to beat Romney, it's going to be Gingrich supporters going to Santorum, rather than the other way around. Thus, although any combination of the three candidates could win the two primaries, Santorum should be given more of the benefit of the doubt than he has so far. If he does win both, the low expectations will ultimately be to his benefit. If he loses either primary, it will be a disaster for Santorum. For Santorum to win the nomination, the delegate math currently requires that everything go perfectly for him.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Santorum Wins Kansas; Romney Wins Wyoming and Three Territories

A number of caucuses were held or finished on Saturday: Kansas, Wyoming, and three U.S. territories (Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Northern Mariana Islands). The territories have very small populations, but each receives a handful of delegates, making them disproportionately influential voters. Back on the continent, Wyoming and Kansas both voted according to their regions: Wyoming voted for Romney and Kansas for Rick Santorum. The margin in Kansas was overwhelming, 51% to 21%. This demonstrates that although he's won or been very competitive in some key Midwestern states (Iowa, Michigan, Ohio), Romney has his limits. Much of the Midwest remains firmly in the Santorum camp. Romney will have to pick and choose his battles, since some Midwestern states are more open to him than others.

Kansas Caucus
Santorum -- 51%
Romney -- 21%
Gingrich -- 14%
Paul -- 13%

In Wyoming, Western voters cast their ballots in favor of Romney. As in so many other Western states, Wyoming's Mormon population was a valuable asset for Romney. Here, too, a candidate saw his limits: Santorum lost by a wide margin even though the Anti-Romney vote was united behind Santorum. Newt Gingrich received almost no votes. Thus, an early exit by Gingrich would not be the "silver bullet" Santorum often claims.

Wyoming Caucus (91% reporting)
Romney -- 52%
Santorum -- 32%
Paul -- 14%
Gingrich -- 1%

Romney easily carried each of the three island territories holding caucuses on Saturday. Romney should take this as a positive sign for the remaining islands voting this month: American Samoa, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. Among the islands that have voted so far, Mitt Romney's establishment support has given him an overwhelming advantage. In Guam, for example, Republicans voted unanimously for Romney. The Republican chairman for the U.S. Virgin Islands announced Romney won that territory's caucus, but no numbers have been reported so far.

Guam Caucus
Romney -- 100%
Santorum -- 0%
Gingrich -- 0%
Paul -- 0%

Northern Mariana Islands Caucus
Romney -- 87%
Santorum -- 6%
Paul -- 3%
Gingrich -- 3%

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Remaining Battlegrounds

The map of who has won which states so far, posted on the Primaries page, makes it clear that the Republican primary has, as expected, broken along regional lines. Mitt Romney has the West and the Northeast; Rick Santorum tends to win the Midwest and South. But Santorum's competitors have scored wins in his regions: Romney has won some states in the Midwest, and Newt Gingrich has won two states in the Deep South. If this pattern continues, Romney's path to winning the majority of the delegates is clear. Santorum can't win a majority, and Gingrich can't come close.

For one of Romney's competitors to win the nomination, something fundamental has to change in the race. Santorum's plan, of course, is to change the race by beating Gingrich in the Deep South and driving him out of the race entirely. Once Gingrich is gone, Santorum will unify the Anti-Romney vote. Santorum hopes that this will increase his overall support enough to sweep the Midwest and maybe even pick off a state here or there in Romney's regions.

But suppose Santorum doesn't beat Gingrich in the few remaining Deep South states. Or suppose Gingrich refuses to withdraw from the race regardless. Is Santorum completely powerless to beat Romney? Perhaps. Santorum's back-up plan is to win enough momentum in the Midwest and South so that voters begin to doubt Romney's frontrunner status and change their minds about supporting him. For that plan to work, the calendar will need to favor Santorum.

Let's consider the remainder of the calendar, as broken down into the different regions: The West and Northeast (Romney's strongholds), the Midwest (a Santorum-favoring region into which Romney has been making inroads), the Deep South (Gingrich country so far, but maybe not so much if the voters become strategic), and the South (where Santorum should win).

Post-Super Tuesday March
West/Northeast (3): HI, PR, WY
Midwest (3): IL, KS, MO
Deep South (3): AL, LA, MS
South (0):

West/Northeast (6): CT, DC, DE, MD, NY, RI
Midwest (2): PA, WI
Deep South (0):
South (0):

West/Northeast (1): OR
Midwest (2): IN, NE
Deep South (0):
South (5): AR, KY, NC, TX, WV

West/Northeast (5): CA, MT, NJ, NM, UT
Midwest (1): SD
Deep South (0):
South (0):

Different portions of the calendar favor different candidates. The remainder of March is a mixed bag. April heavily favors Romney. May heavily favors Santorum, and June also heavily favors Romney. Note that April, May, and June are the most important months, as most of the states are winner-take-all; prior to April most states award delegates proportionately.

What's the implication? It will be difficult for any candidate to build up much momentum. If Santorum does better than expected the rest of this month, he will still run into a wall in April, because the schedule is so unfavorable that month. April is great for Romney, but May will be a terrible month--on paper. In theory, Romney could build such a compelling case for himself during March/April that he's able to take Indiana and break into the Southern states. As it stands now, Romney would look like he's fading in May, and then sweep the rest of the states in June.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Super Tuesday, Part 2: Romney Wins AK, OH

After a lengthy counting process, Mitt Romney finally emerged as the winner of a tight race in the Ohio Primary. Romney beat Rick Santorum 38% to 37%. (Romney also won a close race in the Alaska Caucus.) The Ohio polls had Romney with a slight edge going into election day, but as expected, Santorum got a few points from Newt Gingrich supporters who switched at the last moment. It was very close, but not enough to win. In winning the state, Romney avoided another round of the media narrative that he is a weak frontrunner, and he denied Santorum some much-needed momentum enhancement. The results of each of the Super Tuesday states may be found on the Primaries page.

Because the polls turned so quickly after Michigan, the media never quite picked up on how big the shift was that allowed Romney to win. Prior to Romney's win in Michigan, Santorum led in Ohio polls by a margin of 7-18 points. Unlike Michigan, which was a fairer fight due to Romney's ties to the state, Ohio was Santorum's to lose. That Santorum did lose in Ohio reflects the overall national shift toward Romney taking place; Romney benefits as Santorum is increasingly vetted. Santorum losing Ohio would be akin to Romney losing New York--there's no excuse for it. Santorum may complain that he was outspent by Romney, but the outspending will continue.

To win a majority of the delegates, Santorum needs to win the South and the Midwest. Indeed, he needs to win those states by larger margins now that Romney's margins of victory in the West and Northeast are increasing. Santorum has been unable to break into Romney's strongholds in the Northeast and the West. Now that Santorum is also losing some states in the South and some in the Midwest, it's difficult to see his path to victory.

If Romney is guaranteed to win the plurality of the delegates, there will be an increasing focus on whether Romney can get an outright majority. As time goes on, Santorum will be pressured to drop out of the race for the good of the party. Meanwhile, Santorum will be pressuring Gingrich to drop out so he can consolidate the Anti-Romney vote.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Super Tuesday, Part 1: Gingrich Wins GA; Romney Wins ID, MA, VT, VA; Santorum Wins ND, OK, TN

The winners of most of the Super Tuesday states have been determined as of this writing. Most states voted as expected: Newt Gingrich won his home state of Georgia by a large margin (48% of the vote); Mitt Romney won Massachusetts and Idaho by gigantic margins (with +70% of the vote each); Romney also won Vermont and Virginia (with 40% and 59%); Rick Santorum won Oklahoma and Tennessee with a bit more than a third of the vote. Santorum won by around 10 points in Tennessee, which was not nearly as narrow as the polls suggested. Moreover, Santorum won the "wildcard" state of North Dakota with about 40% of the vote. Alaska's polls have not yet closed, and Ohio is too close to call--Santorum and Romney are almost tied.

There were no "surprise" victories reported. One significant result was that outside of Georgia, Santorum beat Gingrich convincingly in the Southern states. Even worse for Gingrich is the fact that Romney's share of the vote butted into the margin, pushing Gingrich down to third. Going forward, Southerners will be deciding whether to support Gingrich or Santorum as the chief Anti-Romney, so this matters. However, the next three Southern states to vote in March will be the remainder of the Deep South (Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana). The other two Deep South states (GA and South Carolina) went heavily for Gingrich.

Naturally, all eyes are on Ohio. Regardless of who wins the popular vote, the delegates will be split between Romney and Santorum, because it's not a winner-take-all state. "Winning" the state affects the perception of the media and the voters, however.

What does the virtual tie in Ohio say about the race? Unlike Michigan, Ohio was much more favorable territory for Santorum than Romney. Santorum's loss or near loss in the state is a sign of weakness on his home turf. While Santorum could point to Romney's small 3-point win in Romney's "home state" of Michigan, Romney also won another "home state," Massachusetts, by 60 points. Other favorable states in Romney's regions have given him impressive wins. By contrast, Santorum is under terrible pressure in his own region, the Midwest.

If Santorum cannot compete in the West or Northeast, he must sweep the South and Midwest in order to win the nomination. With results like Ohio's, it becomes increasingly unlikely that he can accumulate enough delegates to get a majority. Unless something changes the race in dramatic fashion, the only remaining question is whether Santorum and Gingrich can prevent Romney from getting a majority, as he'll certainly get a plurality.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Tomorrow: Super Tuesday

Tomorrow is Super Tuesday, the first of the big multiple-state contest days. Ten states will vote: Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia. These states can be broken down into a few categories. There are the states Mitt Romney is very likely to win (Idaho, Massachusetts, and Vermont, as well as Virginia--because only he and Ron Paul are on the ballot); the state Newt Gingrich is very likely to win (Georgia); the states Rick Santorum should be favored to win (Oklahoma and Tennessee); the wildcards (Alaska and North Dakota); and the big prize battleground state (Ohio). The candidates' strategies remain as they were in February. Romney needs the West, Northeast, and to break into the Midwest. Santorum needs to sweep the South and the Midwest. Gingrich and Paul have no path to victory. What do the polls say about how well the candidates will execute these strategies on Super Tuesday?

First, Romney looks good on his "lock" states, though there's been no polling of Idaho and little of the others on his list:

Massachusetts Primary
02/15 Suffolk/7News -- Romney 64, Santorum 16, Paul 7, Gingrich 6

Vermont Primary
02/22 Castleton -- Romney 34, Santorum 27, Paul 14, Gingrich 10

Virginia Primary
03/02 NBC/Marist -- Romney 69, Paul 26
02/28 Roanoke -- Romney 56, Paul 21

Gingrich is doing well in his home state of Georgia. He was in some danger of being usurped by Santorum, but Santorum's decline has been to Gingrich's advantage:

Georgia Primary
03/04 Insider Adv -- Gingrich 47, Romney 21, Santorum 18, Paul 6
03/04 Rasmussen -- Gingrich 37, Romney 27, Santorum 18, Paul 10
03/04 Rosetta -- Gingrich 44, Romney 23, Santorum 17, Paul 7
03/04 PPP (D) -- Gingrich 47, Romney 24, Santorum 19, Paul 8

Somewhat fittingly, there has been no polling of the wildcard states (AK and ND). There's no telling how they'll vote, but the overall momentum has been toward Romney. Santorum can't count on those states, so his attention must remain focused on the states where he needs to win:

Oklahoma Primary
03/02 ARG -- Santorum 37, Romney 26, Gingrich 22, Paul 9
03/01 YouGov -- Santorum 38, Romney 30, Gingrich 22, Paul 9
02/21 Rasmussen -- Santorum 43, Gingrich 22, Romney 18, Paul 7

Tennessee Primary
03/04 WeAskAmerica -- Romney 30, Gingrich 29, Santorum 29, Paul 12
03/04 PPP (D) -- Santorum 34, Romney 29, Gingrich 27, Paul 8
03/03 Rasmussen -- Santorum 34, Romney 30, Gingrich 18, Paul 8
03/03 ARG -- Santorum 35, Romney 31, Gingrich 20, Paul 9

Tennessee is a weak link for Santorum. He needs to win there to establish his supremacy over Gingrich in the South. But Gingrich has been rising of late and could potentially win. Normally Santorum would be able to count on the late defection of Gingrich voters to put him past Romney, but Gingrich is nearly taking the lead--not trailing far behind. If Romney or Gingrich won Tennessee, it would be a complete disaster for Santorum. Arguably, it would be even worse if Gingrich won, because Santorum would potentially lose his position of chief Anti-Romney. Romney would love to see Gingrich have another resurgence, because unlike Santorum, Gingrich can't challenge him in the Midwest.

That's been the fundamental problem facing Santorum: He has a challenger in both of the regions he needs to sweep (Romney in the Midwest and Gingrich in the South). The states chosen for Super Tuesday only compound this problem. Of the four Southern states, one is uniquely favorable for Gingrich (Georgia), and another is off the table because only Romney and Paul are on the ballot (Virginia). On top of that, there's only one Midwestern state in play, so Romney can focus his money/infrastructure advantage there. Speaking of Ohio:

Ohio Primary
03/04 Rasmussen -- Santorum 32, Romney 31, Paul 13, Gingrich 13
03/04 Merriman -- Romney 38, Santorum 33, Gingrich 18, Paul 8
03/04 PPP (D) -- Romney 37, Santorum 36, Gingrich 15, Paul 11
03/04 ARG -- Romney 35, Santorum 28, Gingrich 18, Paul 13
03/04 Suffolk -- Santorum 37, Romney 33, Gingrich 16, Paul 8
03/04 Quinnipiac -- Romney 34, Santorum 31, Gingrich 15, Paul 12
03/03 Ipsos -- Santorum 32, Romney 32, Gingrich 17, Paul 6
03/02 NBC/Marist -- Santorum 34, Romney 32, Gingrich 15, Paul 13

The recent shift toward Romney is seen in the Ohio polls. At Santorum's height, Romney was trailing by as much as 18 points in some polls. Now they are about tied, with Romney a slight favorite. Losing Ohio would be a crushing blow for Santorum. Unlike Michigan, Santorum could not spin the result, because there's no reason why Ohio should favor Romney instead of him. If Santorum loses this important Midwestern state, it means his regional strategy has unraveled. There's only one silver lining in these polls: There are still plenty of Gingrich votes that could defect to Santorum at the last minute.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Mitt Romney Wins Washington

Mitt Romney won the Washington Caucus on Saturday. It's the fourth straight win for Romney, who won Maine, Arizona, and Michigan in recent days. Romney's margin of victory was rather large--11 points as of this writing--despite the fact that he did not campaign there. Ron Paul was the only candidate to commit resources to the state, and he roughly tied Rick Santorum for second place. As we wrote in yesterday's preview post, there was little polling in Washington, and it certainly didn't predict a Romney win of such size.

Washington Caucus (77% reporting)
Romney -- 36%
Paul -- 25%
Santorum -- 24%
Gingrich -- 11%

Given the fact that Washington is naturally a pro-Romney state, is there any significance to this win, other than contributing to the narrative of Romney's recovery and/or winning streak? Yes. Recall that both Colorado and Maine were also pro-Romney states. Romney didn't perform nearly as well in those February caucuses: Romney only won Maine by 3 points over Paul, and he lost Colorado by 5 to Santorum. Tonight in Washington, Romney blew his competition out of the water.

It's also significant that Romney was able to do so without committing resources there (i.e. airing anti-Santorum ads). It's possible that this result indicates Santorum's support is falling away more rapidly now. Compared to Santorum's performance in Colorado back in February, there's been a roughly 15-point swing in Romney's favor. Voters across the nation are more familiar with Santorum's weaknesses, and watching the Democrats attempt to give Santorum the win in Michigan created an incentive for Republicans to close ranks around Romney.

Nevertheless, the real test will come on Super Tuesday, March 6th. States in all different regions of the country will be voting, and the true extent of Santorum's strength will be made clear.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Washington Caucus Tomorrow

The Washington Caucus will be held tomorrow. It's the last stop before Super Tuesday on March 6th, when ten states will vote. Wedged between Super Tuesday and the important Arizona and Michigan Primaries, it's understandable that Washington has received little attention. It's a non-binding caucus in which no delegates will be immediately awarded, so none of the candidates have bothered to campaign there--except for Ron Paul. Paul believes that he performs better in caucuses (and obviously performs better when no one is contesting him). He came very close to winning the Maine Caucus back in February. Very little polling has been done in the state, and the potential for polling inaccuracy is even greater because it's a caucus rather than a primary. But here is what we have:

Washington Caucus
03/01 PPP (D) -- Romney 37, Santorum 32, Paul 16, Gingrich 13
02/19 PPP (D) -- Santorum 38, Romney 27, Paul 15, Gingrich 12

That's not a lot to go on. PPP's track record isn't great, especially when it comes to polling caucuses. Recall that PPP gave Mitt Romney a 14-point lead in the Colorado Caucus just days before Rick Santorum took the state by 5. PPP's poll of the Minnesota Caucus was also wildly inaccurate.

Given the structure of the contest and given what happened in Maine, perhaps Paul ought to perform better than expected. As for the state itself, Washington should be Romney-friendly territory: It's a blue state, a Western state, and it has a decent-sized Mormon population. Although we can't get much useful information from the PPP polls, at least we can compare them to each other. Comparing the polls, Santorum had an 11-point lead and now trails by 5 points, a swing of 16. That fits with the overall movement nationally; Santorum's surge has subsided and Romney is on the rise again.

The shift in the poll from Santorum to Romney was not caused by campaigning, since neither candidate has campaigned there. If anything, Washington might be an interesting test of what happens when Romney doesn't use his money advantage to launch negative ads against his opponent.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

2012 Republican Primary in Review: February 2012

Each month, Elephant Watcher recaps the activity that occurred in the Republican primary during the previous month. Follow these links to read earlier recaps: May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December, January.

In February 2012, Newt Gingrich's campaign suffered total collapse in the wake of Mitt Romney's wins in Florida and Nevada. Rick Santorum pulled a surprise comeback and flipped everything on its head, securing his position as the chief Anti-Romney and transforming the presidential primary into a two-man race.

After winning the Florida Primary at the end of January, Romney's campaign appeared unstoppable. But although Republican voters dismissed Gingrich, they were not at ease with Romney. On February 1st, Romney made a gaffe during a televised interview in which he suggested he was not very concerned about the poor. This remark, though taken out of context, fit into a preexisting narrative of Romney being rich and out of touch.

As a result, concerns about Romney's electability simmered under the surface. This wasn't apparent in Nevada, which voted on February 4th: Romney won a huge victory over Gingrich. Meanwhile, Santorum had been campaigning in the February 7th states, which the other candidates skipped because no pledged delegates were to be awarded there. The absence of the other candidates, combined with Gingrich's defeats and ineligibility for the Missouri ballot, Romney's gaffe, and Santorum's status as the last Anti-Romney, all combined to create a perfect storm. Santorum won the three states voting on February 7th--Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri.

At last, Santorum got to experience the surge that all of the other Anti-Romney candidates had enjoyed. Though the states he won awarded no delegates, Santorum finally got the media attention he had previously been denied. Santorum rose in all of the polls. Voters were unfamiliar with Santorum, viewing him as essentially a generic Republican. But as with previous surges, they gave him the benefit of the doubt and assumed he had no weaknesses. Santorum jumped to the top of the polls, and showed particular strength in his home region of the Midwest.

Romney's campaign once again was in crisis. On February 11th, Romney barely edged out Ron Paul to win the Maine Caucus. Paul had spent a lot of time there; Romney only devoted some last-minute resources there in the hope of drawing attention away from his defeats on February 7th. All eyes were on Michigan, set to vote at the end of the month. Despite being the state of Romney's birth, Santorum dominated the polls there.

Romney understood that he had to reveal Santorum's vulnerabilities to the voters if he had any chance of coming back to win Michigan. However, Romney had taken a lot of flak in some circles for being "too negative" against Gingrich earlier in the campaign. Rather than attack Santorum's electability, Romney decided to attack Santorum's conservative credentials while bolstering his own. Romney and Santorum committed all of their resources to the battle in Michigan. Arizona was left uncontested, and Gingrich retired to the South.

On February 22nd, the only debate of the month was held. Romney and Paul attacked Santorum's conservative credentials. Santorum did not wilt under pressure, but he couldn't escape the attacks, either. In the media, some information about the extreme nature of Santorum's social views began to filter out, but only slowly. Thus far, Romney and the Republican establishment chose not to address the issue. Still, the attacks against Santorum's conservatism gave voters new information, and Romney closed the gap. In desperation, Santorum attempted to promote the Democrats' plan to sabotage the Michigan Primary with votes for Santorum.

On February 28th, Romney won Arizona by 20 points. Though Democrats voting for Santorum cut Romney's margin of victory in Michigan by about half, Romney still managed to win there by 3 points. Romney and the Republican establishment breathed a sigh of relief. But the Super Tuesday states, including Ohio and a number of Southern states where Santorum still held a lead, loomed ahead.

Romney ended the month clearly in the lead position. But Santorum remained largely unvetted and still strong in the polls. In some quarters, Republicans who had not been pro-Romney began to express a desire to see the primary come to a close. The idea increased in popularity that an extended primary fight would only help Barack Obama; the Democrats' attempt to swing the Michigan Primary to Santorum added to that perception. Fear of a contested convention also rose--Romney's opponents might not be able to win a majority of the delegates, but they could prevent Romney from getting one.