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UW Election Eye 2012

Campaign 2012 through the eyes of UW faculty and students

March 29, 2012 at 12:36 PM

Mitt Romney vs. Rick Santorum means Catholics vs. Evangelicals for the win in Wisconsin’s open, winner-takes-all primary

Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney
Rick Santorum in Detroit, Michigan on February 25, 2012. (James Fassinger/The Guardian) and Mitt Romney (Photo courtesy of MittRomney.com)

A look at 2008 Wisconsin Republican primary results may provide some clues to how the voting Tuesday might turn out in the state’s important primary.

The Wisconsin primary was significantly earlier in the campaign calendar in 2008, taking place on February 19. Both 2008 and 2012, however, fall after Super Tuesday.

Wisconsin is “winner-takes-all” with a total of 42 delegates. According to the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, this style of primary means that the candidate who receives a plurality of the vote in any congressional district gains all three delegates from that district, and the statewide winner is entitled to all of the at-large delegates. Additionally, Wisconsin has an “open” primary, so voters do not need to declare any party affiliation to vote.

In the 2008 Republican presidential primary, John McCain won with 55% of the vote, taking 34 of the 40 delegates. Mike Huckabee received 37% of the vote and 6 delegates. Finally, Ron Paul came in with just under 5% of the vote, with no delegates. (Mitt Romney had dropped out of the race by this point.) Huckabee withdrew his candidacy just two weeks after the Wisconsin primaries.

According to exit polls in 2008, 36% of voters identified as born-again or evangelical Christian. Of those, 54% voted for Huckabee and 34% voted for McCain. For those who did not identify as evangelical, the vote swung in favor of McCain, garnering him 61% of the vote compared to Huckabee’s 25%.

Fast forward to 2012. Rick Santorum is hoping that evangelicals come out in droves if he hopes to cut into Romney’s increasing delegate count. Santorum has done well at the polls with evangelicals and won support from evangelical leaders at a meeting in Texas back in January.

At the same time, a comparable amount of voters in 2008 identified as Catholic, 34%. Catholics heavily favored McCain in 2008, earning him 62% of their vote compared to Huckabee’s 29%.

Despite the fact that Santorum shares a religious identification with Catholic voters, Catholics in 2012 have primarily gone for Romney.

With similarly sized pockets of support, Wisconsin’s primaries could turn into a Battle Royale of Mitt and Catholics against Rick and Evangelicals.

Comments | Topics: catholics, Evangelicals, John McCain

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