Monday, January 30, 2012

Margin of Victory: Florida

Polls of Florida Republicans have reverted to showing a double-digit lead for Mitt Romney. Newt Gingrich's moment in the state seems to have slipped away, even as he is taking his largest lead in national polls to date. Most of the pundits have only one question left to ask: how big will Romney's margin be?

It's a completely uninteresting question, however. In the end, it doesn't matter whether Romney wins the state by 1 vote or 1 million. The state's GOP decided that it would allocate all of its delegates to the winner of the most votes in the primary. Romney will get 50 delegates from Florida as long as he wins. The margin doesn't matter. Winner takes all.

What does matter is voters' perception who watch Romney's victory speech and see the media coverage. If Romney has a good night on Tuesday and gets to make his victory speech during prime time, that's probably good news for him. Big wins usually produce a bump in polling. However, these bumps are pretty limited time-wise, and will likely dissipate before the next primary. The bump may help Romney secure a couple more delegates in Nevada, where a binding primary takes place on Saturday with 28 delegates at stake. Maine and Minnesota both have preliminary caucuses in the following week. A big win for Romney, again, might motivate his supporters in these caucuses to turn out or deflate Gingrich's supporters. A few more caucus dates are scheduled at the very end of February, but the next big action after Nevada is on March 6th.

There simply aren't enough caucuses and primaries in between Nevada on February 4th and March 6th to keep momentum going for Romney. The winner's bounce will be too short-lived to have much of an effect, Romney will be ahead by at most 50 delegates coming into Super-Tuesday, a lead that Gingrich could vaporize by winning his home state of Georgia with 50% of the vote.

I would be much more curious about polling in Arizona, Maine, Minnesota, and Washington than Florida right now.

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