In quick follow-up of yesterday’s look at the Republican nomination battle, Mitt Romney did the minimum necessary to win yesterday’s events, but not in a very convincing manner. Both many commentators and Rick Santorum have attributed Romney’s win at CPAC to busing in large numbers of college students on from the east coast, analogous to how Ron Paul won the past two years. Today Santorum is outright accusing Romney of rigging the vote:
Romney beat Santorum by 7 points Saturday in a straw poll of almost 3,500 attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Santorum pointed out that Ron Paul had won the poll in both of the past two years “because he just trucks in a lot of people pays for their ticket, they come in and vote and then leave.”
“I don’t try to rig straw polls,” Santorum said on CNN’s State of the Union.
Paul actually came in last on Saturday, having declined to address the conference or to activate his base for the straw poll. But Santorum said that wasn’t the case with Romney.
“You have to talk to the Romney campaign and how many tickets they bought,” Santorum said. “We’ve heard all sorts of things.”
Romney won with 38 percent, followed by Santorum at 31 percent, Gingrich at 15 percent and Ron Paul at 12 percent. It is notable that the combined voted received by Santorum and Gingrich significantly exceeds that received by Romney. I believe that if Newt Gingrich were to leave the race, Rick Santorum would be the most likely winner. On the other hand, polls show that Santorum supporters are more mixed in their second place choices, probably due to Newt Gingrich’s past, and Romney would remain the front runner if Gingrich dropped out.
Romney also won in Maine, but only by three points over Ron Paul, the only other candidate to actively campaign in the state. Only beating a crackpot such as Ron Paul by three percent is hardly very impressive. This might be partially be because the major Republican candidates have seen no point in devoting any effort to campaigning against Paul, hoping to keep some of his supporters in the party. They know that any concentrated effort to bring up Paul’s negatives would easily knock him back into the single digits should he ever become a real threat.