Breaking Through the Media Meme on GOP “Disarray”
Ian has linked to a typical MSM piece that purports to show that the GOP is in disarray because there have been 3 different winners in the caucus/primaries so far. It’s a common theme. My gut reaction is that–contra the Democrats–Republicans are fighting over ideas, not identity, and that takes some figuring out. But a more basic fact is that, for the most part, the primary calendar is such that the early states are outliers to a typical primary. In short, they are wide open to others than simply Republicans. If you look closely at the numbers, you’ll find that, thus far, Mitt Romney is doing very well amongst Republicans. (Everything that follows has been distilled from here).
First: there is a long way to go. But the 4 states that have made decisions actually do provide some insight into how Republicans are thinking (at least, Republicans in those states). Again–remember–of the four states, only Wyoming has a GOP-only(ie; “closed”) primary. The rest are “open” to independents (and even Democrats). That is why for Iowa, NH and Michigan, there is a disparity between the overall % of vote garnered and the GOP-only vote:
Now, there are benefits to open and closed primaries, but my point here is to argue against this idea that Republicans are in a state of flux. So, in addition to the above, Romney won 67% of the Wyoming primary (which is “closed”) and Thompson got 25%–both are more traditional Republicans of the Reagan mold (…that is supposedly broken).
Finally, taking a look at both the current delegate count and the % of GOP votes cast so far, it’s pretty clear that Romney is the GOP frontrunner.
The only social conservatives Huckabee has proven he can get are Evangelicals (who are falling for “identity” politics, btw) while McCain relies heavily upon center-left Independents. Romney is the only one who has consistently pulled traditional, conservative Republicans, no matter how you spin it. Obviously, these “standings” can–and will–change. Giuliani is banking on a Florida + Super Tuesday plan and Thompson is banking on South Carolina. Both are more traditional Republicans (of the left and right kinds) than either Huckabee or McCain, so there will probably be some cutting into Romney’s hold on the core demographic of, you know, actual Republicans.
ADDENDUM: Contra to some of the comments, I’m actually not a Romney guy, fellas. And trying to cite the media for proof of anything is exactly the problem. It is they who are “vexed” because they rely upon a simplistic frontrunner/underdog narrative to push their product. The GOP voters aren’t complying by selecting multiple winners in, as I said, 3 (or 4) very different states. What I think the numbers show is if you focus just on GOP voters only, you’ll see that the majority favors a candidate–Romney–with a more traditional, Republican message. (I also agree that Romney’s 11th hour Michigan bailout is most definitely not “Reaganesque.” However, most of his philosophy is what can be classified as tradional Republican–especially when compared to McCain or Huckabee).
Also, to reiterate, the GOP vote may swing to Guiliani or even Thompson in the upcoming states and I think either are more traditional Republicans–Guiliani a typical Northeastern Republican and Thompson a typical southern one–than either McCain or Huckabee. As for a national poll, well, primaries (and caucuses) are 50 individual contests–most for Republicans only and not just those who say they’re Republican over the phone–and they can change based on the latest “conventional wisdom” and actual, you know, changes on the ground as candidates campaign in each individual state. Finally, I think Romney has enough money to stick it out for a while whether he wins or loses the next few states.