FHQ will take the bait and fan the smoldering embers of the fire that is the 2012 Republican presidential primary race. First Read's Michael O'Brien actually brings up a fairly interesting question about the factors surrounding/likelihood of a protest vote against Mitt Romney throughout the rest of the primary calendar. No, I'm not going to dwell on the question of whether there will be a protest vote -- there will be1 -- but FHQ will look at the factors that will likely play into Romney meeting or surpassing the mostly arbitrary 70% mark in the remaining primaries and caucuses. Let's look at the factors that may keep Romney under that particular share of the vote:
[...you know, before those inevitable stories about how weak Romney is because there are still voters voting against him.]
- Opposition by numbers: Simply put, the number of active candidates still in the race matters in this instance. The more candidates involved, the higher the collective vote share. Ron Paul will get his share of the vote. If anything proved that, it was the Texas congressman's performance against John McCain in 2008. Paul's voters were never going to jump ship to Romney anyway. Gingrich is another matter. The former speaker will likely pull in some of the displaced Santorum vote, but so too will Romney. And Santorum is still on the ballot in most states. Some of those Santorum votes will stay home. Well, they may actually stay home or stay home by voting for Santorum -- their preferred candidate.
- Open primaries: Now that the race is effectively over -- Eh, who am I kidding? It's over. -- Democrats are even less likely to cross over to vote in the Republican primary. However, Paul will continue to pull in both Libertarian-minded Republicans and independents in some of the more open primary states (see O'Brien's example of Idaho in 2008, Paul's high water mark in terms of vote share).
- Geography/evangelism: Yeah, it still matters.
1 And to be clear, this will have no impact on the outcome of the Republican nomination. Romney will be the Republican nominee.
2 Throw Rhode Island in for good measure, too. The Ocean state allows independents to participate. [Thanks to the Green Papers for the data on primary participation across states.]
Santorum Suspends: A Nomination Race in Context
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