The Republicans Choose A Conservative

The irony of the Republican contest is that John McCain is counting on the support of moderate Republicans who believe that his conservative cloak and emphasis are played up in order to appeal to more conservative Republicans… and Mitt Romney is counting on the hope that conservative Republicans don’t trust McCain to be a conservative.

In Florida, issues mattered only in so far as they brought people to the polls and not because certain candidates were readily identified with, say, national security strength and economic strength. (The exception, of course, were moral value conservatives, who turned out for one candidate in particular – Mike Huckabee.)

Mitt Romney has a significant edge in the caucus states because he can spend money to increase turnout by, say, 3000 votes in a state like Alaska (where lots of voters will be young and male) and tip the balance to him. Still, Alaska and Colorado select via caucus and proportionally for Republicans, so the amount of resources he’s spending per additional delegate is probably fairly large.

The key battlegrounds of the night are California and Missouri.

In California, Romney drew his largest crowd of the campaign last night, according to CBS News' Scott Conroy.

In Missouri, McCain (by dint of his national ad buy) and Romney (local/spot ads) are on television here. Romney has most of the major endorsements. It’s a winner take-all state.

The five states where Mike Huckabee could pull significant conservative votes from Romney are Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas and Missouri (and possibly TN.)

Proportionally, Romney is putting the most resources into Georgia and Tennessee , Colorado and Missouri.

Note: the veteran vote may be a factor in Montana, where 11% of the population are vets – one of the highest proportions in the country.

Romney is running radio ads in six states calling a vote for Huckabee a “waste” and touting Romney’s electability – a direct counter to the ads that John McCain ran, apparently to great effect, in Florida.

Both Romney and McCain are not spending a lot on television ads, Romney because he’s hedging his bets and they’re not terribly effective, and McCain because he doesn’t have all that much money.

Some X Factors:

## In California, the state where talk radio is king, independents can’t vote in the Republican primary…and Romney has had a strong absentee program.

## in Colorado, Latinos will vote overwhelmingly Democratic, hurting McCain and helping Romney

## In a few of the larger winner-take-all by congressional district states, Republicans can win the same number of delegates from big Democratic congressional districts as they can from staunchly Republican districts. So – it’s more efficient for Republicans to target, say, several thousand Republicans in Henry Waxman’s 30th congressional district than John Doolittle’s 4th CD.