Thursday, February 9, 2012

Keeping Things In Perspective

Sometimes those of us in the media do a poor job of providing proper perspective on the stories you hear or see.  Take for example the "race changing" victories of former Senator Rick Santorum in the Republican caucuses and primaries this week.  Much has been made Santorum's wins in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri.  But just what did those victories actually entail?

Unreported in most stories is that less than 2% of eligible voters turned out for the caucuses in Minnesota and Colorado--while just over 5% of those able to vote turned out in Missouri.  Granted, the caucus process--being closed to all those except registered Republicans--doesn't invite large turnout--but less than 2% turnout?  And while we may complain about the cost of recall primaries and elections here in Wisconsin at least we do better than 5% turnout for a statewide election.

And to further advance the math, Santorum got less than half the vote in those three states--meaning his "game changing victories" were based on less than 1% of eligible voters in Minnesota and Colorado--and less than three-percent of voters in Missouri.  That is what makes this whole Presidential primary system such a crapshoot every four years--such a small percentage of the electorate is actually making the decision for the rest of us.  It's also why a first-term US Senator that nobody heard of five years ago--but who had high-energy volunteers able to get out the necessary numbers in very small voting pools--was able to defeat a former First Lady with a lot more money in 2008.

Another fact sort of glossed over this week is that Santorum won exactly ZERO delegates to the Republican National Convention this week.  The last time I checked, the nomination process requires you to have delegates to vote for you at the convention.  Colorado and Minnesota will distribute their delegates at their state conventions later this year--while Missouri Republicans will actually hold caucuses later this year to determine it delegation.  So the elections this week were nothing more than beauty contests--without the tiaras and sashes.

The Presidential race is entering a bit of lull--with just a couple of small states holding primaries between now and Super Tuesday in March--so the talking heads on the news networks need something to talk about.  Rick Santorum's "overwhelming" victory among less than one-percent of the population in three states fills the bill for now.  Just try to keep all the hype in perspective.

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