Super Tuesday brought no upheaval with the expected voting patterns of the participating states. The candidates have largely fallen into their respective corners, hunkering down with the segments of the voting population that one would expect, given these GOP candidates and their stated goals and values. The distribution of the voters’ support could have been predicted weeks ago. So who are these voters, and how are they distributing their support?
Ron Paul does not appear to have the momentum to carry on with a successful presidential campaign. His ideology has not been able to gain enough traction across the nation to propel him to front-runner status.
Newt Gingrich won Georgia. In terms of Super Tuesday, this was his only victory and a low hanging fruit; it is his home state. Even Walter Mondale won his home state. Although the contest is not decided, his performance has not engendered any significant hope that he will rise to become a serious challenger to the two front-runners. It is not too difficult to extrapolate his difficulties with the GOP base considering his personal life. Gingrich does not seem either to have the credible stalwart conservative ideals that appeal to many GOP voters, or the experience of a fiscally-minded pundit. There are also those odd moments that seem to highlight what many see as a disconnect with logic: his lunar colony proposal seemed to delight (non humorously) only his supporters in Florida.
Rick Santorum has not surprised with his ability to mobilize the voters, who primarily concerned with electing an individual peddling a conservative social agenda. His politics are comforting to a religious base that feels social conservatism trumps whatever else a candidate may offer. These voters may not be the small-government advocates who often flock to Paul or Mitt Romney, as their concerns focus more on the government’s efforts to maintain an often religiously-guided, socially-conservative domestic policy. The question then becomes: if Santorum were the nominee, would this segment of the population have enough momentum to influence the votes of the socially progressive independents and moderates of both parties? So far, he has done well in rural states, but his electoral college votes may just not be enough.
Romney, on the other hand, has widespread if somewhat lackluster appeal to those whose primary concern is the ability of a GOP candidate to defeat the President. Presumably, these voters do not see social conservatism as the driving force for a successful run at the presidency. Implicit in this approach is the fear that an ultra-conservative candidate will not garner enough support in a national election to defeat Obama. Romney tends to appeal to voters who seek a different approach to the nation’s financial future as the primary concern.
Of course, the tension between the two prevailing camps will theoretically dissipate once the candidate is chosen. The issue then will be the swing voters. Will a seemingly dispassionate Romney elicit enough forceful conviction to sway the people on the fence? Will moderates who view Santorum’s social policies as divisive be convinced to vote for him merely to get a Republican in the white house?