Wednesday 16 January 2008

Election News: Mitt Romney Wins in Michigan

In the first of an exciting series of election news specials, Andy Rudalevige shares his thoughts on the latest developments in the race to the White House:

In the Michigan primaries on Tuesday, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney defeated Senator John McCain by a solid 39%-30% plurality, with Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (16%) a distant third and other candidates barely registering. So the three nominating contests to date have been won by three different Republican candidates. The GOP race as it moves ahead to South Carolina is thus wide, wide open. Media types are already salivating over the prospect of a national convention with suspense (see here, for example).

McCain was vaguely favored in the Michigan race after his win in New Hampshire on January 8. But unlike Romney he refused to promise massive government subsidies for the Michigan auto industry; and unlike any other Republican candidate, he has made environmental concerns key to his campaign. Michigan is bipartisanly sceptical of global warming, at least if it is thought to be caused by internal combustion engines.

Note that in terms of the delegate count, Romney’s victory matters less than it might have – the Republican party stripped Michigan of half its delegates to the national convention as punishment for scheduling its primary before February 5. (The Democratic party stripped Michigan of all its delegates, for the same reason – hence the lack of attention to that side of the ballot.) However, in broader terms, this was a critical win for Romney – his campaign is, once again, on the positive side of the amorphous flow of conventional wisdom regarding “viability.” South Carolina should be interesting, as it provides potential constituencies for all three leading GOP candidates: religious evangelicals for Huckabee, military personnel and veterans for McCain, and anti-union industrialists for Romney. And don’t forget Fred Thompson, the former senator from nearby Tennessee, whose good-ol’-boy demeanor lies in wait as southern states start to vote. In 2000, McCain lost to George W Bush in a contest marked by slander and slur – then-governor Bush was of course shocked (shocked!) to hear about what anti-McCain forces were putting into the rumor mill. This time around, McCain is better prepared. He’ll need to be, as he probably needs to win or come very close to demonstrate that he appeals to Republican stalwarts and not just New Hampshire libertarians.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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