Friday, February 8, 2008

Regional Candidates

Now that Mitt Romney has decided to suspend his campaign, I thought it would be worthwhile to examine some of what I have read about regional candidates. On Super Tuesday, my wife and I discussed the image of the US with the states highlighted that each candidate had won. It gave the picture that Romney's support was in the west and midwest, McCain's support was in the Northeast and California, and Huckabee's support was in the South. So I decided to examine this further.

I took the percentages that each candidate received in the the states thus far. Then I divided them up regionally and found the average. To determine if someone was a regional candidate I assumed that they would have to have greater than 35% support in one region and less than 15% support in at least two regions.

McCain Romney Huckabee Paul
Northeast 43% 37% 9% 7%
South 32% 22% 36% 4%
Midwest 28% 33% 23% 10%
West 23% 50% 11% 11%
Average 32% 35% 20% 8%

From the numbers I have above, only Huckabee meets my definition of a regional candidate. He won the majority of the states in the South and had a good showing in the states he didn't win. However, his support in the Northeast and the West is dismal, and even in the Midwest, his victory in Iowa is what is boosting his average (without Iowa, his Midwest average is 18%). What I found more interesting were the numbers for Romney and McCain. Romney had strong support in each of the three regions he lived in (Massachusetts, Michigan, Utah), and was still able to draw a significant number of votes in the South against a regional candidate. His West average is skewed upward by the 90% landslide in Utah (look for my article on the Mormon vote for more on this). However, he still won the majority of states in the West. McCain like Romney has fairly strong support all over the country. His strength is the Northeast with a significant support component in the South. His West support has been concentrated in California and Arizona (his home state).

I don't think that anyone would argue that McCain is not a regional candidate. However the question remains, is Romney? I would say no. His numbers compare very favorable to McCain, and the overall average is similar to McCain's (32% vs 35%). So what is the difference? McCain has significant support in the more populous states in each region. In the Northeast, McCain won NY, NJ, and CT compared to Romney's MA and ME. In the Midwest McCain won IL and MO while Romney won MI and MN. In the South McCain won FL, Romney didn't win anything. In the West McCain took CA and AZ while Romney had UT, CO, MT.

One other piece of evidence to look at is the number of states versus the percent of support.

McCain Romney Huckabee
0%-10% 1 0 7
10%-20% 4 3 9
20%-30% 5 8 3
30%-40% 9 9 6
40%> 8 7 2

From this we can see that the majority of states have Huckabee in the 0%-20% support range. McCain's majority is in the 30% and above, while Romney's is the 20%-40%. Excluding Utah, Romney and McCain garnered greater than 10% support in every state that has been contested. What this all tells me is that Romney did a good job of gathering a strong support for himself across the country. It wasn't enough to beat McCain who also has widespread support. Huckabee has not shown that he can get significant support outside of the South.

Next would be to look at how the numbers shake out with Romney out of the Race. A simple analysis of Romney voters going half for McCain and half for Huckabee yields the following regional result:

McCain Huckabee
Northeast 61% 27%
South 43% 47%
Midwest 44% 39%
West 48% 36%

McCain still wins three of four regions. If we assume Huckabee is able to court 2/3 of the Romney vote the outcome is different.

McCain Huckabee
Northeast 55% 33%
South 40% 50%
Midwest 39% 45%
West 40% 44%

Huckabee wins three of the regions. That being said, McCain still has strong enough support that he can win another 500 delegates and lock in the nomination. Since Huckabee has not shown much support in the West and Northeast, I would consider it very optimistic to assume that he even gets half of the Romney votes in those regions. All this is well and good, but in the end a state by state analysis would be better and nothing beats the actual results from the primaries and caucuses. If I was a betting man, my money would be on McCain.

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