Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Geographical Themes in the 2012 Republican Presidential Primary

The Republican Presidential Primary is still undecided but certain geographic trends can be seen.

Countries which voted for Rick Santorum in Green, Mitt Romney in Orange, Newt Gingrich in Purple, and Ron Paul in Yellow.  Click to enlarge.  Current as of 14 March 2012 From Wikipedia.
Strongest:  Rick Santorum is the candidate of interior American conservatives.

Former Senator Rick Santorum has managed to win conservatives in the interior United States.  The western Midwest of the Dakotas down into Oklahoma form the majority of the Red Wall which usually vote Republican, thus dividing the Blue states (states that vote for the Democrat presidential candidate).  The Red Wall will likely become Santorum's wall as he is leading in the polls for Texas.  For Santorum to pull off a victory he needs to unite his wall with his holdings in Michigan and Ohio by taking Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana.  Taking Kentucky would continue this Interior Block with his southern holdings giving the Republican's geographic base to Santorum.

Strong:  Newt Gingrich is the candidate of Greater Georgia

Former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich is the candidate of Greater Georgia, and nothing more.  Georgia is Gingrich's home and he easily swept it along with neighboring South Carolina.  For a while he threatened Mitt Romney in Florida but in the end Gingrich was able to seize the area around Georgia but not the more mixed and New South southern Florida.  Southern Alabama next to Georgia voted for Gingrich and so did the southern portion of Mississippi.  But Gingrich failed to become the candidate of the south due to his support base switching to Santorum (while Mitt Romney seems stuck below thirty percent in the south).

From the Weekly Standard
Strong:  Mitt Romney is the candidate of Deseret - Moderately Strong But Still In Formation:  Mitt Romney is the candidate of the Rim

Much has been made of Former Governor Mitt Romney's religion of Mormonism - Latter Day Saint.  Frequently this is done in terms of both Evangelicals and Liberals' reluctance to vote for a person of that faith.  However, in the region of what would have been Deseret, Romney's Mormonism has certainly helped.  According to official Latter Day Saint figures, Mormons comprise 72% of Utah, 27% of Idaho, 11% of Wyoming, 7.1% of Nevada, and 6% of Arizona.  While one cannot just claim Mormons have solely carried Romney in these states, it certainly does not hurt.  Especially when one considers Mormons tend to be Republican and would form an eager, primary-voting base.  (Mormonism probably was a helping factor with Romney's victory in American Samoa, which is 24.1% Mormon).

Not as strong as Romney's Deseret geopolitical base is his ability to win the Rim of the United States.  Alaska, Hawaii, southern Florida, coastal Virginia, and New England have sung into Romney's camp as well as the parts of Michigan whose industrial base connects it with Canada and the Great Lakes.  Rural, interior looking Michigan voted for Santorum.  A Western Rim is forming with coastal Washington voting for Romney.

Moderate:  Ron Paul is the Geographical Fringe Candidate

Congressman Ron Paul is the fringe candidate in the geographical sense when one excludes Iowa.  Remote counties near the Canadian border and those that are more isolated away from interstates vice connected Santorum-voting interior counties have a somewhat tendency to vote for Ron Paul.  Ron Paul was also able to win the popular vote of the Republican-sparse, lightly participated Virgin Island's caucus.  A Republican is truly on the fringe there.

Where is comes down to: Seizing the Rim and Interior

If Santorum and Romney wish to avoid a contested convention they need to win both the Rim and Interior.  Santorum must be able to pull in enough rural and Buffalo-Niagara-Rochester-Pittsburgh New Yorkers and Pennsylvanians to stop Romney from blocking off these two Eastern states from his Interior Core.  A new interior core of conservative eastern Oregon and interior California need to be made as well.  Meanwhile Romney needs to make inroads to win Interior voters while holding the Eastern Rim and win the rest Western Rim.

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