Wednesday, 29 February 2012 18:48

Arizona, Michigan, Super Tuesday: It's Still The Economy, Stupid

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economy-stupidNow that the Arizona and Michigan Republican primaries are history after the Romney sweep of those two states Tuesday night, the GOP presidential race looks back upon the past but also onward to the immediate future. While attempting to compete for the most delegates so far this year, Super Tuesday (next week), the candidates also are looking back as to what occurred last night.

The same two questions were asked to four Louisiana political minds to get their thoughts about what transpired Tuesday night on the primary trail and what the GOP candidates need to do this week with 424 delegates at stake, on Tuesday.

 Here are the questions Bayoubuzz asked Lawrence Chehardy, Jeff Crouere, Robert Mann and Stephen Sabludowsky.  Crouere is a political radio talk show host and Chehardy is an attorney and former Jefferson Parish assessor.  Both are frequent contributors to Bayoubuzz.  Mann worked for Louisiana Democratic Senators John Breaux, Russell Long, Bennett Johnston  and former Governor Kathleen Blanco.  Mann currently is a Professor and Chair of the Manship School of Mass Communications and is an author.  Sabludowsky is the publisher of and an attorney.


 What did Romney do right to win Michigan and Arizona?  What did Santorum do wrong?

Next stop is Super Tuesday.  Message-wise, what do the candidates need to do to be the Super-Tuesday victor?

What did Romney do right to win Michigan and Arizona?  What did Santorum do wrong?

Romney won Michigan because he is a native and the family name is popular in the state. The real story is that the election was so close even though Romney outspent Santorum 5-1. He is the weakest front runner in memory and only wins after obliterating his opponents with millions of dollars in negative commercials. Santorum needs to focus on current issues--economy, threats to the American family, etc. and not be diverted into a historical discussion about John Kennedy or any other previous president. 

This election is about the economy.  Mitt Romney has focused  on his strength which is the economy.  Rick Santorum has apparently determined that he cannot beat Romney on the issue of the economy so he has become the social conservative in the race.  Neither is either more or less important than the other except that the number one issue is the economy.  So Romney has the upper hand.

In addition Romney continues to have the money and the organization.  Both count in an election and give the advantage to the candidate with both.  Romney has done well using his money to promote himself and organize his voters.

It is not that Santorum is doing anything wrong.  It is that he has been unable to crack the issue of the economy which Romney owns at this time.

On church and state, in particular, Santorum could have differed with JFK's views without saying that they made him want to "throw up." That statement may have cost Santorum just enough Catholic votes to give the primary win to Romney (the Mormon Romney actually won more Catholic votes in Michigan than the Catholic Santorum).  Santorum was clearly making a bid for the votes of the most conservative voters, and he seems to have won their hearts and votes, but it may have come at the cost of the votes of more moderate Republicans who voted for Romney.

Mitt Romney pulled out all of the stops, including political weirdo-Donald Trump to ensure victory in his home state Michigan.  Not that Romney had to win Michigan or else he would have lost the nomination, but, he had to win the state to gain the momentum and to suppress that of Santorum.

It is true that Romney had home-cooking but he won despite Santorum playing the non-snob, average Joe who solicited Democrats to vote for him.

Romney shined during the most recent CNN debate and Santorum was out-classed, if not out-snobbed by Romney.


Next stop is Super Tuesday.  Message-wise, what do the candidates need to do to be the Super-Tuesday victor?

Next stage is the big one. Romney will continue to focus on the economy, while Santorum needs to stay true to his social conservative base, while reminding people that he is more conservative than Romney on the economic issues. Romney has not been effectively exposed as a moderate to liberal and this will be the last chance that Santorum has to convince voters Romney is not conservative. If he loses big on Super Tuesday, it is over. 

Mitt Romney needs to continue his message.  His strong suit is his background in business and government.  The voters are worried about the economy and for now Romney owns that issue.  Rick Santorum needs to find a way break off from Romney some of those voters who support Romney based on the economy.  In November the economy will rule the day and the Republican nominee will have to put forward a case for why he will handle the nation’s economy better than President Obama.  Right now Romney is doing the better job.  Santorum must find a way to woo voters concerned about the economy in bigger numbers than he is doing now or the nomination is lost, and the general election will not mean much to a Santorum campaign if he is not the Republican nominee.

Super Tuesday, like all the other contests, is largely a matter of managing expectations. With his wins in Arizona and Michigan tonight, the expectations for Romney next Tuesday went way up.  The problem is that Romney may have a very, very hard time meeting or exceeding those expectations. 

Romney needs to send the message that he has the momentum and can win the GOP primary and to go on to beat Obama.   Since he has the momentum and the most money, he must stay on course although he will be hammered by his three opponents and their super-pacs.

Santorum needs to get off “holy-than-thou” pulpit.  He might win the hearts of some Catholics but he is quickly alienating most everyone else.

Gingrich  needs to focus on the non-Georgia states and be the kinder-gentler Newt. 

Ron Paul needs to show he is relevant.

They all need to remember that the main prize is the general election next November.  By catering to the far-right wing, they are losing credibility with the middle where the election will be won.

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