Alabama primary: Gingrich or Santorum?
March 12, 2012 3:03 PM   Subscribe

To help Obama win, do I vote for Santorum or Gingrich? I'm an anarchist/socialist living in Alabama, where crossover voting is permitted. I'm looking for sound logic and effective strategy.

None of the major party candidates have a stance that's compatible with mine. I don't actually like any of them. My sole aim is to keep the Republicans out of the White House because I think they will do ten or twenty percent more evil there than the Democrats. If Romney is denied the nomination (very unlikely) or if the GOP convention is chaotic and divided (a realistic possibility), I think it will improve Obama's chances in the general election.

Averaging together three recent Alabama polls, Real Clear Politics shows, effectively, a three-way tie:

27.0 Gingrich
26.3 Romney
25.0 Santorum
07.5 Paul

So a few votes here or there could be important. I will be casting one of those votes. To help Obama win, should it be for Santorum or Gingrich?

Santorum currently has more delegates than Gingrich. If he takes Alabama and Mississippi, it could help him push Gingrich out of the race, leaving more votes on the floor for the man to hoover up and allowing him to actually take states away from Romney on down the road. This possibility is tantalizing.

On the other hand, a case can be made that Santorum and Gingrich together take more votes away from Romney than either of them individually. Since there's an excellent chance Romney will be the nominee in the end no matter what these two guys do, maybe the best strategy is to take the numerically largest bite possible out of him during the primary. If this strategy makes the most sense, then it would be logical to vote for Gingrich.

A victory or near-victory in Alabama might help to keep Newt in the race past the end of the week. Also, since he may be a little bit ahead of Santorum here in Bama, it could be the best chance I have of seeing our delegates handed to someone who isn't Romney. Also, if/when Newt does drop out, it's likely his delegates will end up backing Santorum anyway.

The cases for each option seem equally strong.

I'm looking for a cold-blooded, logical solution to this conundrum. (Perhaps game theory is applicable?) I don't care which of the Republican candidates is the most evil. I am absolutely not voting for Ron Paul. I'm simply looking to throw the election to Obama.

Please, pretty please: explain the logic which supports your recommendation. Logic will persuade me. If you think any of my own logic is flawed, don't hold back.
posted by Clay201 to Law & Government (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Vote for Santorum because Gingrich will for sure (?) have given up by the convention and his delegates will be free agents, while Santorum will be rallying his delegates to do his bidding.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:08 PM on March 12, 2012


the longer the race goes, the worse it is for the repubs.
the race is between santorum and romney - with romney in the lead.

you want to help santorum, to give the second place candidate a push to stay in the race.
vote santorum
posted by Flood at 3:10 PM on March 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


You want to vote for the biggest spoiler, which would be Santorum. Santorum has the best chance of either gumming up the works, or actually being a looney tune candidate from whom even many otherwise steady Republicans will run screaming.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:14 PM on March 12, 2012


Vote for Gingrich. Santorum is not close enough to win (but Romney might be) and a Romney victory is the worst possible outcome. I'm looking at these numbers btw: http://elections.nytimes.com/2012/fivethirtyeight/primaries/alabama
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:14 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


My argument is based on three premises: (1) Romney is more likely to defeat Obama than either Santorum or Gingrich and (2) a prolonged fight between Gingrich and Santorum accrues to Romney's benefit and (3) of Gingrich and Santorum, Santorum is more likely to defeat Romney.

There are compelling reasons to believe that a majority of Republican voters prefer Santorum/Gingrich to Romney--in other words, if either one of them drops out of the primary, a much larger share will go to the other, rather than to Romney. With both of them in the race, they're sort of splitting votes; the consequence of this is that Romney accumlates delegates consolidates his hold on the nomination.

So, your vote should be to knock Gingrich out, and knock him out by voting for Santorum.

I disagree with the line of argument that Newt's delegates will back Santorum anyway. The risk is that Santorum/Gingrich will continue splitting votes, allowing Romney to continue to accumulate delegates. The worst case scenario for Romney would seem to be that Santorum starts winning in the South as well as the Midwest, Gingrich realizes he's doomed, and the voters that would have gone to Gingrich start moving to Santorum, allowing him to prevail in states like Illinois, where he'd otherwise likely lose to Romney.

I think the best case scenario for Romney (short of winning Alabama/Mississippi) is that Gingrich wins, he and Santorum continue to fight for second place, and Romney gets a stranglehold on delegates, so that it is soon clear that Romney will indeed be able to accumulate sufficient delegates.
posted by MoonOrb at 3:14 PM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


It depends on what you think is most helpful to Obama: having a weak opponent, having chaos at the Republican National Convention, or having a really odious, fringe member of the GOP continue to garner a ridiculous amount of coverage.

If you think the first is the best, vote for Santorum. If you like the second option, then vote for Gingrich. For the third option, Santorum is the clear candidate.

Personally, as a former political staffer and poli sci type, I think Santorum is the best candidate to vote for because of the massive amount of damage his bully pulpit is doing to the GOP.
posted by lunasol at 3:15 PM on March 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I also agree that Obama has the best chances running against Santorum or Gingrich. Because the race will be, as always, decided by the middle of the road voters. Those voters will have a harder time pulling the lever for either of those two candidates than they would for Romney.

Further, I think Gingrich is a really smart guy, and if he somehow got the nomination, he would veer to the center in a heartbeat to try and gather up those voters. Rightfully believing that those voters won't remember the more odious things he did during the primaries. Whereas Santorum, bless his little heart, is a true believer and would probably not do that nearly as much. He also seems way more personally unstable, which could lead to some interesting meltdowns.

So, you want Santorum.
posted by gjc at 3:38 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Vote Gingrich.

Vote for Gingrich because the longer the Republicans go without choosing one particular candidate and consolidating the base behind that candidate, the worse for their organization.

If Santorum were, by some strange chance, to win tomorrow's contests, Gingrich would lose his mandate, which at this point is to spoil the South. Losing in the South would mean losing financial backers, which would mean Gingrich would quickly be forced out of the race. That's progress for the Republicans.

Keeping Gingrich in the race longer is a better solution for Dems.

Santorum wants the conservative base to coalesce around him, making it a two-man contest (Ron Paul doesn't count). Santorum is, in his own weird way, trying to unite the party.

Gingrich, on the other hand, said as recently as Friday that his plan is to stay in the race until Tampa -- that is, right to the convention. He knows he can't win, but he wants to be the spoiler anyway, which could result in something truly bizarre. (Floor fight with Sarah Palin emerging as the candidate? It could happen, but not without Newt.)

Also remember that if Romney doesn't win the nomination on the first ballot at the convention, every delegate is a free agent. More candidates split the vote more, taking more delegates away from Romney, making it more difficult for anyone to win on the first ballot.

Even if Romney is the eventual nominee, his campaign will have been damaged by the length of this contest, which is in no small part thanks to one Mr. Newton Leroy Gingrich. So if nothing else, vote for him as a gesture of gratitude.

Plus, if you don't vote for him, how are you going to have any shot at being one of the first moon colonists? You know he's going to take that shit into consideration.
posted by brina at 3:43 PM on March 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Honestly, Romney isnt going to beat Obama unlessnthe economy totally collapses befor nov. i think a romney/obama race might actually push obama slightly to the left, whereas vs. gingrich or santorum he will run as an honest romney (without the bs romney has to spout to keep religious nutbags and gordon gecko types under the same tent...)

So, i would vote romney. A republican split leaves a dempublican status quo party vs. a religious populist conservative minority party. Given the challenges the us faces as its economy and empire decline, i think thats a long term recipe for disaster.
posted by ennui.bz at 3:45 PM on March 12, 2012


Santorum's ascendance has done tremendous damage to the Republican brand. The longer he stays in the better it is for Obama.
posted by MegoSteve at 3:53 PM on March 12, 2012


Tread lightly. There's a new poll out showing that the gap between Obama and Santorum is closing because of high gas prices.

While I welcome any effort that helps to keep Romney from getting the nomination, I think the idea of Santorum or Gingrich actually getting the nomination and winning in November is truly terrifying.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 3:59 PM on March 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


[Folks OP is not anon, if you have advice for them that is not an answer to the question, you can email it to them, but keep insults and other non answers out of this thread.]
posted by jessamyn at 4:08 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Vote for Santorum.

Romney seems to be currently in the best position to end up winning the nod at the convention, so if you want to throw a monkey wrench in the process, your best vote in the primary is anybody BUT Romney.

Okay, take a look at Gingrinch: setting aside any ideological differences between the candidates, as each election cycle has shown, it's getting harder and harder for anyone who doesn't "look presidential" to get elected --- and let's face it, Gingrinch is a schlub, especially compared to either Romney or Santorum. So he's gonna be out, sooner or later.

Santorum seems more likely to try running as a third-party or independent candidate, especially if he ends up with a respectable showing in the state primaries --- if he was way back like Ron Paul, he'd probably bow out entirely, but with high enough primary numbers he'll be convinced he's got a real chance at the White House, and having him run as an independent just might split the Republican vote in November between him and Romney.

(And a vote for Ron Paul? Merely wasted.)
posted by easily confused at 5:19 PM on March 12, 2012


Please, vote Romney. I know this game is fun but we only have two candidates to vote for in the general election. Obama is one scandal away from be unelectable, as are all candidates. If we end up with a Santorum president... Great god you'll feel like a fool.
posted by chairface at 5:30 PM on March 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Santorum. Obama will eat him alive in a debate. (Just for the record, I don't like either of them. I am just sayin'.)
posted by brownrd at 5:33 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't waste my time casting a spoiler vote in the Republican primary myself, but if you do the most effective spoiler vote is for Santorum.

Polls are meaningless right now because Obama isn't running, so I wouldn't worry about the spectre of a Santorum presidency. In any case, R-Money is going to get the nom.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:52 PM on March 12, 2012


Brina nailed it with the "extend the fight" argument. I don't think any of them has a chance against Obama, but if we get lucky, they'll damage the GOP for the long-term. Vote Gingrich, participate in your local occupy wall street action, and hope for the best.
posted by history is a weapon at 6:28 PM on March 12, 2012


I asked a question in 2008 that you might find interesting.
posted by box at 6:44 PM on March 12, 2012


Nthing Santorum
posted by Ironmouth at 7:43 PM on March 12, 2012


Here, the NYT just did an article saying a lot better what I was trying to say in my answer.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:30 PM on March 12, 2012


Fellow Alabamian (and political junkie) here. After much deliberation, I'm going with Santorum, for two reasons.

First off, he's your best bet for prolonging the primary race. Key word is prolonging -- Mitt is more or less inevitable at this point. Half the states have voted already, and he's won more delegates from them than the other three candidates combined. Santorum had a shot before narrowly losing Michigan and Ohio, but at this point he would have to both have Gingrich drop out and do unrealistically well in unfriendly territory just to catch up with Romney, much less surpass him. And anything short of a Santorum plurality will likely end with a Romney victory regardless, as uncommitted superdelegates will probably swing things his way in the end to avoid a brokered convention. Of course, Gingrich and Paul are even less likely to pull off a Romney upset in the remaining states, so a Santorum win tomorrow will be the best way to make sure this thing doesn't end too soon. (And don't believe the polls showing Santorum in third -- the Deep South is notoriously difficult to forecast, and most recent polls show them all within each other's margins of error.)

But leaving aside the strategy of crossover hijinks, I honestly do prefer Santorum wins the nomination, and not just because he'd be a weaker candidate in the general. I fear that if Romney gets the nomination and loses, the defeat of yet another perceived RINO will drive the GOP even further into the radical fringe, with a 2010-esque midterm election in 2014 and a 2016 presidential candidate to match -- just when a relatively strong incumbent like Obama is out of the picture with no clear successor in sight. If Santorum, on the other hand, somehow gets the nomination and loses, the public rejection of such a dream candidate will hopefully disempower the radical/religious right within the party and lead to a somewhat more moderate and pragmatic GOP hopeful the next time the White House is up for grabs. (A Gingrich nomination/loss to Obama could arguably do the same, but he's not quite the same brand of full-throated fundamentalist True Believer, and a lot of the blame would undoubtedly fall on his myriad personal problems rather than his political positions.)

Lastly, it should go without saying, but: don't let the presidential primary seize all your attention! There are a lot of important state and local races on the Alabama GOP ballot, too, including a Supreme Court Chief Justice, a Republican primary to challenge the only statewide Democrat in office (Public Service Commission president Lucy Baxley, who very narrowly won four years ago), and numerous county commission/probate judge positions, which the state GOP is making a comprehensive play for. Republicans may be dominating state politics, but that makes a Republican primary ballot a great chance to help choose moderates over the likes of Roy Moore and (Herman Cain-approved!) Kathy Petersen. The Tuscaloosa News has a great guide to local races with candidate info, responses to questionnaires, etc. I spent an hour or two going through it last night and have my ballot set. (Let me know if you want a quick rundown of what I think are the best choices after this embarrassingly last-minute research.)
posted by Rhaomi at 9:42 PM on March 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


Stay home. Why help any of the Republicans? Send some $ to Obama's campaign.
posted by Carol Anne at 8:04 AM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


What you are considering is called tactical or sophisticated voting, and I encourage everyone to do it. The US is a two party state and it is reasonable to participate strategically in both parties. More participation in politics is generally better.

You should consider how the convention may proceed and who you want to have a better position in that process. I would also consider the map here, which demonstrates the heavy geographic factor that the author argues is the primary factor in the results. Alabama is particularly noteworthy here because it borders states that have went for each of the major candidates, and will be watched closely.

Your logic is solid -that a victory or near-victory in Alabama would entice Newt to stay in the race past the end of the week. It would also give Newt more delegates which gives him more pull at the convention. This positioning at the convention is why Newt hasn't given up the race yet.

Pulling the lever for Santorum does increase his momentum into the remaining races and Santorum needs these states more than the others.

The question is if prolonging Newt is the most effective long term strategy for your goal? I think you would want to force the Republicans into a two person race because that would likely be much worse for Romney, the moderate, in the general election.
posted by zenon at 9:04 AM on March 13, 2012


Thanks for all the great responses. I wish I had time to respond to each of them individually.

One thing, though, I feel I ought to throw out there...

If it's really best to take Newt out of the race (and a number of you have argued persuasively that it is), then the most logical course of action is to vote for... Romney. It didn't occur to me until I started reading your responses, but it actually makes sense. Romney, according to the polls, has a better shot at winning Alabama than does Santorum.

So I'm still not certain. I'll probably vote for Santorum on the theory that he's the strongest challenge to Romney. But I could still go Gingrich or Romney.

Thanks again.
posted by Clay201 at 12:50 PM on March 13, 2012


The polls just closed; here are the CNN exit polls, FWIW:

Alabama:
34% Santorum
29% Romney
28% Gingrich
06% Paul

Mississippi:
35% Romney
30% Gingrich
29% Santorum
05% Paul
posted by Rhaomi at 5:03 PM on March 13, 2012


I ultimately decided to vote for Santorum, on the logic that however likely or unlikely it might be, his victory in Alabama would be the best of the available outcomes. And now, at about 9:15pm local time, CNN just this moment called Alabama for Santorum. So.
posted by Clay201 at 7:21 PM on March 13, 2012


He won Mississippi, too!

On the downside, it looks like Roy Moore might just barely squeak back into the Supreme Court with a hair over 50% (!) of the vote, narrowly avoiding a run-off. Damn.
posted by Rhaomi at 9:21 PM on March 13, 2012


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