Evidence mounts that the GOP electorate is rallying around Mitt. Rasmussen today published a poll showing Mitt with a 13 point lead in the State of Wisconsin, 46% to 33% over Santorum. Wisconsin is among the next states to hold primaries, and follows Louisiana, which holds its primary tomorrow, March 24. Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich were in distant third and fourth places, respectively, in the Wisconsin polling. Prior polls, taken nearly a month ago, had Santorum with a similar lead over Romney, indicating a nearly 30 point possible swing toward Mitt over that time. Of course polling is not always reliable, but the large swing is noteworthy, and may indicate the coalescing is beginning in earnest behind Mitt. Rasmussen overstated Mitt’s support in Mississippi, but understated his support in Illinois. Rasmussen’s latest Wisconsin poll has a 3% margin of error and 95% confidence rate. For more analysis, see this Washington Post article.
Louisiana. Polls in Louisiana still show Santorum with a 12-14% lead, with the latest Rasmussen poll showing 43% to 31% in favor of the Senator. Louisiana’s delegates are awarded proportionately, however, so the number of delegates out of the 46 [CORRECTION: 20] being allocated tomorrow will not be significantly in Santorum’s favor. [NOTE: an astute reader pointed out that only 20 of the 46 Louisiana delegates are actually allocated tomorrow, and, in fact, only candidates receiving over 25% of the vote will receive a proportional share of those, with the remainder of even that 20 being unbound, making Louisiana's impact even smaller]. Now the math may not be linear, as every state is different, but a 12% higher vote would yield relatively few additional delegates granted to Santorum at the end of the contest, particularly if Mitt clears 25%, which appears likely. And 43% is certainly not enough to match the nearly 70% target Santorum must reach in every remaining primary to capture the nomination, making even Louisiana likely just another step towards Mitt’s ultimate victory. Nearly 60% of voters in Louisiana identify as evangelical or having similar values, which would suggest a home state advantage for Santorum, but exit polling in recent primaries has shown Mitt doing well in all groups, so Santorum’s historical advantage among evangelicals may be slipping as well. Polling has indicated that while evangelical voters may initially lean toward a different choice, Mitt is an acceptable alternative. As it becomes clearer Mitt is the only candidate that can win the nomination, look for growing support among this group. And who knows? With polls being wrong, and dynamics changing daily (including Santorum’s goof seeming to suggest support for Obama over Mitt), perhaps Mitt will win Louisiana outright.
BONUS: JUST ADDED MITT’S NEW WISCONSIN AD AFTER THE FOLD!
What Say Ye, Newt, Santorum? The question may be, if Gingrich only reaches 16% in Louisiana, as this poll suggests he may, will he pull out after Saturday? Or after taking a distant fourth in Wisconsin? He always responds no, but so did Bachmann, Cain, Huntsman and Perry, until they said yes. I for one am not convinced a one-on-one contest between Mitt and Santorum doesn’t also favor Mitt. With Newt not campaigning in Illinois, and Mitt’s big win there, there’s good evidence Newt’s staying in is helping Mitt. Though I would hasten to add that, as has been pointed out on this site many times, by this point in 2008, a truly patriotic Mitt Romney had pulled out of the race to allow John McCain to preserve resources for the battle with the Democrats, and if Santorum and Gingrich really want to defeat Barack Obama, the time has really come for them to rally behind Mitt as well. Mitt’s campaign has even gone so far as to call Santorum “Obama’s MVP.” For more GOP voices raising the same refrain, see our own Jayde Wyatt’s article from yesterday.
BONUS: Mitt’s New Wisconsin Ad!