Missouri Presidential Primary
9:51 am
Wed February 8, 2012

Santorum win presents problems for Republicans according to political scientist

Rick Santorum is the winner of Missouri's presidential primary. The primary was held Tuesday and is non-binding.

Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul were on the ballot, Newt Gingrich was not.

Early this morning, St. Louis Public Radio's Julie Bierach interviewed University of Missouri-St. Louis political science professor Dave Robertson about the results.

What does a Missouri win mean for Santorum’s campaign?

It’s an important symbolic win for Santorum because it’s an important Midwestern state, he won by a margin of two-to-one and he won in caucuses in a couple of other states. All those factors together have put Santorum front and center for a little while and have given the Republicans a chance to look at him as an alternative to Mitt Romney.

Santorum was the only candidate who thought it worth the time and money to campaign here in Missouri. Did those efforts propel him to a win and was it a mistake for Newt Gingrich to forgo Missouri?

I think this was not Newt Gingrich territory, so I don’t think it was a mistake for Gingrich to forgo this. Remember that Santorum campaigned without opposition. There was a very poor turnout. Those facts helped Santorum get more publicity in the state and help him organize and use the organization that was here, often an Evangelical organization, to get out to the vote. It looks from the Secretary of State’s information that Santorum won statewide in every county. He won counties that Mitt Romney won in 2008 and won by majorities in almost every county whether Republican or Democratic.

Would it have made sense for Romney to campaign here?

I think Romney made a calculated risk that he was not going to do well in this state unless he poured a lot of resources into it. But there are no delegates at stake, so he decided to hold fire here and wait for a firewall which will be coming up for him in Michigan, which he is a strong favorite to win, and Arizona, where he’s a favorite to win later this month.

You mentioned low voter turnout in Missouri. It was somewhere between 6 and 8 percent. That’s significantly lower than the 23 percent predicted. With such low voter turnout, is this an accurate picture of what we can expect coming out of the caucus next month?

I think the caucus will show lower turnout. Remember that the Missouri primary, even though it was just a so-called beauty contest, had more people participating than the Nevada caucuses that got so much publicity last weekend. So this turnout shows two series problems, I think, for the Republicans. First, there’s a serious problem for Romney in the Midwest, which is absolutely essential for Republicans to win. Second, there’s a serious problem for Romney in getting the party enthused with him.