One might think that Rick Santorum accomplished something Tuesday in the Missouri presidential primary. He won every county plus the cities of Kansas City and St. Louis. He had more than twice as many votes as Mitt Romney. He also won in Colorado and Minnesota that day.
But he really has not won anything yet as far as Missouri’s role in the national Republican convention is concerned.
Missouri’s delegates will be picked in county and district caucuses in coming weeks and those people will decide which candidate they will be pledged to support at the big meeting.
Senator Blunt, who carries no little weight with Missouri Republicans, congratulated his “good friend” Rick Santorum on his big win Tuesday night. But Blunt also said he still thinks Romney is the best choice Republicans have for defeating President Obama in November.
After all, Santorum was the only major Republican candidate to campaign in Missouri. He skipped Florida last week to be with his ailing daughter but started campaigning here while his competitors were still occupied with Florida. Romney didn’t campaign in Missouri at all and has had little personal presence here throughout the campaign so far and he still got more than 25 percent of the vote.
Santorum told the crowd in St. Charles last Tuesday night that Missourians haven’t seen the last of him. He is acutely conscious of our caucuses. And caucuses are often influenced by who shows up.
More than 50,000 Republicans voted for somebody other than Santorum or Romney last Tuesday. About sixty percent of those non-Santorum/Romney votes went to Ron Paul–30,641. Another 10,000 people said in the election that they were “uncommitted.”
Compare those 50,000 to this statistic from 1996, the last year when caucuses were used to pick delegates: The Secretary of State says caucuses that year drew only 20,000 people. And do you remember who came out the leader after those caucuses? Pat Buchanan’s people showed up in greater strength than did supporters of Bob Dole, the eventual nominee. Who is most likely to be the P:at Buchanan of Missouri’s 2012 caucuses? Something tells us the Paulists like this kind of climate.
Santorum clobbered everybody else in the popular vote. But the caucuses are going to be a version of the electoral college in the process this year and we know that in the electoral college, the popular vote sometimes means nothing.
Santorum, in effect, won the air war. But the battle in the trenches will determine whether he won anything at all. The history of land warfare indicates the winner is the one with the most troops who show up for battle, who has the best strategy for mobilizing them, and whose field commanders make the best decisions in the field.
Forget Dancing With the Stars for a few weeks. Dancing for Delegates will be much more entertaining.