Two more states weighed in over the past couple of days.
First, the Nevada caucuses:
Then, on Saturday, South Carolina:
I’ll post more analysis as I start seeing/hearing it, but my initial observations are as follows. Romney picked up an easy win in Nevada largely because most of the other candidates ignored the state. Nevada saw a lot of Mormon voters, and most Nevada Reps seemed to like Romney’s business credentials. On the Democrat side, this one probably hurt Obama, who figured to do well with the backing of the Culinary Workers Union, a big presence on the Las Vegas Strip where the caucuses were held. In South Carolina, this has to be a pretty big blow to Fred Thompson, who spent a lot of time and effort over the past few days. To only get third isn’t a good sign. McCain, on the other hand, picked up a big unexpected victory over Huckabee, who was expected to do well with religious and Southern voters.
To sum up where things stand now for Reps, I refer you to Hugh Hewitt:
[The RealClearPolitics.com] delegate counts:
CNN has Romney with 66, Huckabee 38, and McCain 26, but you get the picture.
In terms of total votes cast in primaries and caucuses to date (excluding Wyoming, for which I don’t have a total):
Romney has a decisive lead among Republican votes cast to date as McCain’s numbers reflect the large majority of Independents’ votes he rolled up in New Hampshire, Michigan and South Carolina.
Florida is open only to Republicans and voting has been underway for weeks. It is a dead heat between Romney, McCain, Huckabee and Giuliani. Voters in Florida are in for the most interesting 10 day campaign in recent political history. It is an elimination round in which at least one and possibly two of the would-be nominees will be sent to the sidelines. There is no front-runner, and there is no “momentum” though Romney has three state wins, McCain two and Huck one. What is said and done by the candidates over the next few days will decide Florida and nothing else. Even as they focus on this confused picture, the issues dominating the debate are changing rapidly to elevate the economy over immigration and the war. That has to favor Romney, and McCain is still burdened by the antipathy of many Reagan conservatives.
If the Florida electorate reflects the general opinion of Republicans who have voted thus far, Romney will win in the Sunshine State.
The GOP is at a crossroads, and because it is, so is the country. In ten days, Florida Republicans will have a huge say in setting its course for the next decade, and Florida’s Reagan Republicans the most decisive say of all.
I want to clarify a couple points. Florida’ primary will award 57 delegates, and unlike most of the states that have gone so far (where the delegates are awarded according to the percentage of overall votes) the winner will get all of them. So, it’s kind of a make-or-break state for the Republican field, as there is no clear leader right now. Also, Florida has a closed primary, which means that only Republicans can vote for the Republican candidates (unlike open primary states, where Dems and Independents can vote for Reps if they want), so it should be a very illuminating contest to watch.
And, to give you a perspective on where things stand right now, only about 140 delegates have been awarded so far, whereas Super Tuesday will see the awarding of almost 1,100 delegates. It takes 1,191 to lock down the nomination. As I’ve been saying, it’s hard to make any statements until Super Tuesday. After all those states are wrapped up, we should have a much clearer picture of who is leading the Rep field.
There’s my two cents.