Five Things To Watch On Primary Night

Ben Jacobs

There’s no mercy rule in presidential primaries, so while Mitt Romney appears to have it in the bag, the state contests continue. Tuesday, voters in Rhode Island, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Delaware will brave the weather to cast their votes in the all-but-over contest, and Newt Gingrich hopes to embarrass Romney in one state, and to force the press to at least briefly pay some attention to him. Here are five things worth watching as the results come in:


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The concept of Newt Gingrich making his last stand in the winner-take-all state of Delaware seems absurd, yet the former speaker has been steadily gaining establishment support in the state while Romney’s most prominent supporter there is best known for her erstwhile practice of witchcraft.

In fact, while Romney has made only one appearance in the state—badly timed to overshadow the Republican gubernatorial candidate’s rollout—Gingrich has barnstormed up and down Delaware wooing local party officials. This gives him a slim chance for an upset, as Delaware state party chair John Sigler notes: “Delaware Republicans reward those who show respect for them.” Even ardent supporters of Gingrich, like State Senator Colin Bonini, concede their man has only has “an outside chance of winning Delaware,” but those are far better odds than he has anywhere else.

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Rhode Island is the only state voting Tuesday where the delegates will be awarded proportionately. That has Ron Paul campaigning hard in the day’s only contest where his campaign is optimistic that it will win delegates, according to spokesman Jesse Benton. As Paul pushes forward with “a convention strategy” of capturing delegates by working the convoluted process in caucus states like Iowa and  Minnesota, he still needs to win delegates in primaries as well in order to hold some sway at the convention in Tampa. Even if Paul only nets two or three additional delegates in Rhode Island, those still boosts his count ahead of the wide-open Texas primary at the end of May.

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Rick Santorum may have dropped out of the GOP primary but his name is still on the ballot.  Many conservative Republicans still have yet to fully embrace Mitt Romney and the Santorum vote will serve as an important indicator of continued conservative discomfort with the former Massachusetts governor.  Keeping those rumblings low might explain why Romney appeared on Santorum’s home turf of Western Pennsylvania with conservative heartthrob and vice presidential hopeful Marco Rubio the day before the primary. 

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Romney though may be spared embarrassment by the fluke snowstorm that buried parts of Pennsylvania, as well as Western New York, in a rare April blizzard. Heavy snow isn’t unusual around Pittsburgh or Buffalo but it is in April, when the trees are already heavy with leaves. The result is that it will be harder for voters to make to the polls in the areas most likely to have diehard Santorum support. Turnout in this area will also be an important indicator for the general election. If Republican voters venture out to cast their ballots in the rough weather, it would be a promising sign for how enthusiastic the GOP base will be in November.

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Democrats in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District will be coming out for the heated primary between two incumbent Congressman, Mark Critz and Jason Altmire. The Republican-controlled legislature effectively forced the two to compete in a gerrymandered district that is shaped like a hammer on its side, stretching from the Ohio state line into the middle of the state. Both are Blue Dog Democrats from the part of the state “that clings to their guns and their bibles,” as Barack Obama famously put it in 2008. Although Altmire currentlyrepresents far more of the district than Critz, it’s considered to be a relatively even matchup because Critz backed by organized labor in the primary—an act of vengeance after Altmire voted for the Affordable Care Act. With the June 5 recall in Wisconsin looming, this will be a key preliminary test of organized labor’s sway in the Rust Belt.

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