In recent weeks, we have seen Mitt Romney win Illinois and then Rick Santorum take Louisiana by a wide margin. Tomorrow, Romney is all but certain to win Maryland and the District of Columbia while he’s likely to carry Wisconsin. This raises a question I see a lot in the comments section: Why do blue states get to pick the Republican nominee?
Take a look at the remaining primary calendar. The states that look best for Romney are mostly blue. Santorum’s best remaining opportunities remain in red states, with the significant exception of his home state of Pennsylvania. This leads many people to ask: Who cares if Romney wins states that Republicans are never going to carry in November?
I understand the sentiment, but there are a few things in play here. First, the GOP delegate allocation process already does reward states with a recent history of voting Republican. Perhaps that formula could be modified or the rewards increased, but states that voted for John McCain in 2008 or elected a Republican governor since then get a boost from their GOP voting habits.
Second, even in blue states with open primaries most of the Republican primary voters will end up supporting the eventual nominee. They are red voters within blue states. In some cases, like California, they can be rather conservative. Do we want to punish or disenfranchise Republicans who live in the wrong states? Third, how would you handle swing states? Should Ohio’s primary have counted for significantly less after voting for Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996? What about Florida after it went for Barack Obama in 2008? West Virginia wasn’t a reliably red state until George W. Bush, voting for Michael Dukakis in 1988 and then for Clinton twice.
It seems to me that too heavy-handed an approach to swing states that recently voted Democratic would make their Democratic voting habits a self-fulfilling prophecy. And shouldn’t the party’s goal be to make more states Republican? California once regularly voted for Republican presidential candidates while most Southern states did not. The idea is to be a national, not regional party.
Finally, a sweep of the early red and purple states — Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida — by a single conservative candidate may have hobbled Romney’s candidacy long before the larger blue states even voted.