Hard Cheese for Santorum in Wisconsin

by Jackie_South on April 5, 2012

Tuesday’s primaries in Maryland, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia (Washington DC to you and me) amounted to a knock out blow delivered by Mitt Romney to his opponents.  It is now 99% sure (i.e. basically certain barring an unlikely previously unknown devastating revelation from Romney’s past) that he will secure the Republican nomination.

Of these three  contests, only one was in serious question: Wisconsin, heart of the US cheese and dairy industry, renowned for its German sausage and Miller beer, the place that gave the world Happy Days and serial killers Ed Gein and Jeffrey Dahmer.

The state’s most important all-time politician was Senator Robert La Follette, a Republican but not of the sort you would find in the GOP of today.  From the start of the twentieth century, he championed the minimum wage, women’s suffrage, progressive taxation and extending democratic rights.  As the Republican Party moved further right, he left to start his own Progressive Party.

That is by no means the limit of the state’s progressive past – its largest city Milwaukee is the place where socialism was most successful in the USA, with a string of ‘sewer socialist’ mayors leading the city in the first half of the twentieth century, and also  sent socialist Victor Berger to Congress at two elections.  Milwaukee, by the way, has possibly the most architecturally stunning modern building I have ever had the privilege to set foot in: its Calatrava-designed Milwaukee Art Museum, a white sea bird of a building on the lake shore (complete with wings that rise to help the heating and natural air circulation) that is all sci-fi geometry and blinding white inside.

Enough of all that: how did it vote?  Well, the chart below summarises the results.

All that means that Romney took 33 of the 42 delegates up for grabs, with Rick Santorum limping away with the remaining 9.

Why is all this so significant?  Well, only a month ago polls in the state were showing Santorum with a 16-point lead.

That lead diminished once he failed to win in neighbouring Illinois and began to look like a loser.  Then, in the week before the election he made the bizarre statement that he didn’t care about unemployment in Wisconsin, whilst on the stump in Wisconsin.

Sure, a lot of the Republican Party in the state are the sort of whack-jobs that elected hard-right, ultra-small statist, Scott Walker as governor, but even for them this was probably going a little far.

Politically, Milwaukee itself and the state capital and university town of Madison are Democrat strongholds.  The Republicans are strongest in Milwaukee’s affluent suburbs whilst the more rural parts of the state are more marginal, if also the most conservative.

As FiveThrityEight set out, to win Santorum had to build up enough of a lead in the west and north of the state to compete against Romney’s suburban advantage in the south-east.  As the map below shows, that pattern held but he didn’t do well enough in those areas or limit Romney’s lead in the Milwaukee region.

Over on the East Coast, Romney easily took Maryland.  His 49% share of the vote there to Santorum’s 29% meant that he took all 37 delegates by winning in all eight congressional districts.

Romney’s victory in DC was even greater, with the Republican establishment favourite taking 70% of the vote and all 16 delegates.  Santorum didn’t even get on to the ballot paper there.

Rick Santorum was never going to win in Maryland or DC, but really did need to in Wisconsin to keep his hopes alive.

Don’t expect Santorum to start preaching “Blessed are the cheesemakers” anytime soon.

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