Huckabee’s math to victory
By: Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
By DOUGLAS COHN
and ELEANOR CLIFT
WASHINGTON — If numbers and statistics or not interest to you, do not read today’s column. This is all about the numerical reason former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., believes he can win.
He won 34 percent of the vote in the Iowa caucuses and 11 percent in the New Hampshire primary. Not coincidently, white evangelical Protestants make up 47 percent of the Republican voters in Iowa and 11 percent in New Hampshire. The 11 percent is the more significant number because evangelicals may not have voted as a bloc for him until he proved he could win, which he did in Iowa.
If he now can count on the evangelical bloc, the upcoming contests could go his way because victory in primary contests where multiple candidates compete is usually determined by 30-40 percent of the vote. It is this plurality victory that favors bloc voting, and therefore favors Huckabee in the next races.
If Huckabee can duplicate his New Hampshire showing, he will garner 33 percent of the vote in Michigan on January 15 and 31 percent of the vote in Nevada and 54 percent of the vote in South Carolina on January 19, numbers that match the percentages of evangelical voters in those states, and enough to secure him victories in each place.
If this scenario plays out for him, he would move on to Florida on January 29, where the evangelical percentage is 29 percent. However, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, R-N.Y., is making his stand there, a fact that will not hurt Huckabee but will significantly affect votes for the other GOP candidates, especially Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. As a result, it may only take 29 percent of the vote to win in Florida.
Then, it is on to Super Duper Tuesday, February 5, when 20 states hold Republican primary elections or caucuses. By then, if Huckabee has won in Michigan, South Carolina, and Florida, he will be able to expand his support beyond his base bloc, because some voters like to jump on a bandwagon. Of these states, 16 have blocs of evangelical voters (percentages of evangelical GOP voters are in parentheses) Alabama (63), Arizona (29), Arkansas(68), California(27), Connecticut (18), Colorado (36), Georgia(50), Illinois (27) Massachusetts (13), Minnesota(33), Missouri (48), New Jersey (11), New York (14), Oklahoma (52), Tennessee (58), and Utah (7). Not counting McCain’s home state of Arizona or the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Utah, where the evangelical percentages are below 20 percent, the total delegate count from the other contests from Iowa to Super Duper Tuesday is 835 out of 2,345. True, apportionment of votes would reduce the 835 number, but Huckabee will be able to look to states with later primaries to pick up additional delegates. These include District of Columbia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Several of them are rich in evangelical voters. In any event, if Huckabee can secure just 25 percent of the necessary delegates, a total of 569, no other candidate will be able to reach a majority, and this would result in a brokered convention on September 1.
Many factors (slips of the tongue, debate performance, another candidate’s momentum, fear of a general election defeat, etc.) can alter this scenario, but its plausibility is what keeps Huckabee going. It is his math to victory.
Published in The Messenger 1.15.08