What the Sunshine State Will Illuminate
A look back at what we learned from South Carolina, and what we can look for in Florida.

Mitt Romney in Ormond Beach, Fla., Jan. 22, 2012


Jim Geraghty

A great many Republicans believe that the media is their real foe, or at least that the media is primarily responsible for Obama’s victory in 2008. But voters outside the Republican base may be much, much less concerned with the issue of media bias, and it’s doubtful that the low-information independent and swing voters who tend to decide elections share that fury.

Three: The continuing irrelevance of Iowa. In the Hawkeye State, Rick Santorum pulled off the most unlikely of upsets, presented a feel-good underdog story in the first major contest of the 2012 cycle, and . . . he saw a relatively small impact on his numbers in New Hampshire. (They were raised from about 3 percent to 9 percent). Perhaps that can be explained historically: Iowa and New Hampshire rarely agree, and Granite State Republicans are usually extremely reluctant to confirm Iowa’s choice. But in South Carolina, Santorum jumped from 3 percent to 20 percent . . .  and then slid down to around 12 percent in the final polls, finishing with an acceptable — but uninspiring — 17 percent on Saturday night.

Santorum seems to be repeating the experience of Mike Huckabee, who also couldn’t translate an Iowa win into many significant victories in the subsequent states. This cycle has given critics of Iowa’s prominence a great deal of ammunition, but even if the state’s turnout had been higher and the count had been clear and no ballots had been lost, a definite pattern would remain: The rest of the country just isn’t all that enamored with the candidates Iowa likes best. Perhaps the state’s love of retail politicking and lavish personal attention from candidates is to blame, since candidates obviously can’t duplicate their 99-county tours in subsequent states.

Four: Ron Paul’s Achilles’ heel is not his foreign-policy views, it is closed primaries. Ron Paul’s support among veterans in South Carolina, according to exit polls, was 12 percent. His support overall: 13 percent.

That said, Ron Paul won 21.4 percent of the vote in the open caucus and 22.9 percent in the open primary, and then tumbled to just 13 percent in South Carolina’s closed primary. Open presidential primaries remain in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Hawaii, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Other states are considered “semi-closed” or permit voters to change their party affiliation on Election Day.

Ron Paul is going to end the 2012 Republican presidential primary with a big pile of delegates. He came in second in ten states last cycle and third in 17 others. (Delegate-allocation rules for each state can be found here.)


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