What’s the Matter With Caucuses?
In the controversial 2005 book What’s the Matter With Kansas?, Thomas Frank described how conservative politicians have made a compelling case even to those who end up voting against their own economic interests, using Kansas as an example of a once-progressive state now wrapped in a conservative mantle. His introduction includes a passage which seems to predict the cultural phenomenon that is former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA):
This derangement is the signature expression of the Great Backlash, a style of conservatism that first came snarling onto the national stage in response to the partying and protests of the late sixties. While earlier forms of conservatism emphasized fiscal sobriety, the backlash mobilizes voters with explosive social issues — summoning public outrage over everything from busing to un-Christian art — which it then marries to pro-business economic polices. Cultural anger is marshaled to achieve economic ends.
Normally, the Kansas primary or caucus has been as ho-hum as a drive through WaKeeney on I-70. (A week from today is the District IV Wrestling Tournament, if you want to visit.) This year, the Kansas Caucuses will be a bit of wrestling sport for the Republican Party. Forty delegates are up for grabs, as many as were available in Massachusetts or Minnesota, and it looks like Santorum will pull out of the state with a slick majority of delegates.
There doesn’t seem to be any real-world polling available. The outcome is caucus states is hard to predict in any case. We’re left with the virtual prognostication of Intrade (95 percent chance of Santorum win). At The New York Times, Nate Silver predicts (with not very much confidence) a delegate allocation of 28 for Santorum, and a dozen for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.Starting at 10:00am local time, caucus-goers will begin congregating and listening to speeches on behalf of the four candidates: Santorum, Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Congressman Ron Paul (R-Lake Jackson, TX). The earliest caucus-leavers will be released at 10:30am. Speeches will repeat throughout the day at half-hour intervals.
Twelve delegates will be allocated amongst Kansas’s four Congressional districts (map at left, the winner of each district receives three); 25 delegates will be allocated proportionately to candidates receiving at least 20 percent of the vote; and three at-large delegates will be bound to the winner of the statewide vote. The caucus is open only to registered Republicans. In 2008, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee won 60 percent of the vote, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) 24 percent, Ron Paul 11 percent, and Romney three percent. This is fertile territory for Santorum, although he performed much worse than expected in neighboring Oklahoma.
The U.S. Virgin Islands (six delegates) are directly electing their Republican delegates today, too.
Also today, Guam (nine delegates) and the Northern Marianas Islands (also nine delegates) will hold caucuses. Or, I should say, they already held their caucuses; they’re on the other side of the International Date Line. Romney got all nine Guam delegates. As of this writing, the Northern Marianas haven’t reported the results. I would say that the Northern Marianas, who gave all of their delegates to John McCain, accurately predicted the eventual Republican nominee in 2008, but then you might think that I was being serious and not being silly.
- Santorum campaigns in Kansas to boost caucus chances, faces some grumbling … (washingtonpost.com)
- Santorum favored in Kansas caucuses (politico.com)
- Kansas is Important for Republican Candidates (fox4kc.com)
- Santorum in Kansas: Not establishment’s candidate (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- The 2012 Republican Primary Field: March 8, 2012 (logarchism.com)