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Super Tuesday and the Next U.S. President

Super Tuesday is, as always, the biggest one-day battle for delegates—419—in the primary calendar. Candidates Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum competed for delegates from Boston to Anchorage. Brian Pinaire, a political science professor and constitutional law expert, summarizes the mixed results and predicts the nation’s next President.

What’s your main take-away from Super Tuesday’s results?

What is striking, especially in the wake of the 6-3-1 split following Super Tuesday, is how many Republican primary voters appear to be voting "sincerely" rather than "strategically."  What explains this?  Certainly there are many factors in play, but one of them seems to be that primary voters are enjoying this opportunity to vote as a symbolic act of expression and resistance, rather than "strategically" directing the democratic process in a manner perhaps best-suited to consolidating the race, resources, and energies early on that will defeat President Obama.

Explain sincere voting over strategic voting.

I always go back to the 2000 election which I, and many others, think was a perfect example of the sincere/strategic divide.  A strategic vote would go for Gore, to avoid George W. Bush; but a sincere vote may well have gone for Ralph Nader, thus likely giving the election to Bush in critical, swing states where the margin was close enough to matter.  One could say the same thing about Ross Perot's influence, siphoning away from Bush, Sr. in '92.  Ultimately it is an individual decision and one that only the voter's heart and mind can make.  Democracy is served one way or the other, albeit in different ways.

How does the current, hotly contested GOP race compare to the Dems race in 2008?

I see these races differently.  Maybe my view is clouded, because I was somewhat surprised by the momentum Obama gained while going along, but that race looked to me like it had much less of the eventuality of this race.  It is clear in all sorts of ways that Romney cannot be beat. To that end, the rest of this is all institutionalized posturing, prolonging, and power playing.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton was certainly the presumptive nominee in 2008. But the degree of Clinton fatigue was seriously misjudged by the chattering classes  and the result was that Obama had the delegate lead as things went along and Hillary was trying to lead from behind. That is not the case with Mitt.

And the GOP nominee will be?

For a variety of reasons – Mitt’s money, his delegate count, his relatively consistent results in the contests to date – Romney is almost certainly going to be the GOP nominee.  Certainly primary voters who cast ballots for other candidates may not see the writing on the wall suggesting the same outcome, but assuming that they do realize his eventual nomination, it is interesting that so many of them continue to vote for candidate “non-Romney” (i.e. Santorum, Gingrich, and Paul) even though continuing the contested primaries arguably weakens the party and inhibits the eventual nominee from focusing attention directly and exclusively on President Obama.

Eventually those not currently enamored of Romney will at least thumb their noses and fall in line, yet not in love, with him.  They have to.  The thought of more of Barack "Hussein" Obama for four more years makes their heads spin.  There won't be a third party candidate of any consequence, so no principled "protest" vote, and I don't see people opting to just stay home and thereby allow Obama to get as big of an electoral margin as he did last time.

Will social issues continue to drive the news?

There are not enough wedge issue initiatives out there (see the 10 or so anti-same sex marriage matters on the ballot in 2004, drawing the conservatives out for a Bush reelection bid), so the social conservatives will suppress their reservations for Romney as long as he keeps talking the talk and finds a VP nominee with solid street cred in that community.

Who is our next President?

In the end, Obama wins reelection.  The economic uptick (see February’s jobs numbers) is at just the right time for the President to claim that he inherited the brunt of the downturn AND put his response in place at just the right time to see the return on the investment within the 3 1/4 years of his presidency.  Gas prices will creep up, and the GOP will throw unimagined amounts of money and barbs as well as spicing up things with a sexy Vice Presidential pick, but it won't be enough and Obama will win in November.  He will have a much more secure and successful second term, like Reagan and Clinton, and will be remembered more for that than anything this term. 

Story by Jordan Reese

Posted on Wednesday, March 07, 2012

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