February 27th, 2012
06:12 PM ET

Avlon: 3 things you don't know about Arizona, Michigan

By John Avlon

It’s the biggest one-day delegate haul to date; 59 delegates may not sound like a lot on the road to 1,144, but Tuesday’s contests represent the most delegates at stake since the GOP nomination fight began in Iowa. This distinction will be held for precisely one week, until Super Tuesday on March 6 when 10 states, with 437 delegates up for grabs, vote.

Three dynamics that could drive the vote:

1) Watch for a popular/delegate split: Here’s one Motown move to keep an eye on – a possible split between the popular vote and delegate allocation. That’s because the delegates are being awarded on a per congressional district basis. So while Mitt Romney might carry the populous counties in and around Detroit, he could find himself outpaced in the delegate count if Rick Santorum cleans up in the more rural and conservative districts. We often boil elections down to the popular vote, but in this primary contest, the real prize is delegates, not necessarily the percentage of the popular vote.

2) The faith X-factor: The culture wars seem to be on again as the candidates compete for an edge among social conservatives. Romney has a built-in cushion in Arizona, which boasts the 7th-largest Mormon population in the United States. In 2008, Mormons made up 11% of the total primary vote in Arizona, with Romney carrying nearly 90% of their ballots. In Michigan, Santorum is presumably hoping to rally his fellow Catholics and evangelical Protestants with his attacks on the “absolute” separation of church and state.

Interestingly, Michigan – especially the area around Dearborn – also has the largest Muslim-American populations in the United States. Socially conservative, this community has voted Republican in the past, and there are reports that politically active members of this community are rallying around Ron Paul and his message of civil liberties and a noninterventionist foreign policy.

3) Independents can vote in open primaries: In Arizona, independent voters make up nearly 34% of registered voters – more than the number of registered Democrats and just 2 percentage points less than Republicans. In the state’s largest city, Phoenix, independents outnumber Democrats or Republicans. And in Tuesday’s primary, independents can vote for the Republican presidential candidate they like best. Likewise, Michigan’s primary is functionally open because the state does not register voters by party. That means Democrats or independents can vote for a Republican presidential candidate, if they so choose.

It’s too bad that most GOP presidential candidates are busy running so far to the right that they don’t offer an attractive alternative to Democrats and independents. Instead, some Democrats are trying to unleash mischief along the lines that Rush Limbaugh encouraged in 2008 – voting for the Republican they think would be weakest against President Barack Obama.

But one serious aside – the influence of independent voters is one reason that Michigan has traditionally been considered a swing state – while some Obama campaign strategists believe that Arizona could be within the Democrats reach this year for the first time since Bill Clinton’s re-election in 1996.

Filed under: Politics
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Dave

    If Romney's Mormonism is a non-issue politically... why is that 90% of Mormon Republicans in Arizona are voting for him? (according the stats above)

    March 1, 2012 at 8:27 am | Reply
  2. IanA1

    So, looking at the numbers, less than 10% of Michigan's population bothered to vote in the republican primary...and that includes all of the hundreds of thousands of so-called "Democrat plants".
    Sorry, not looking too good for republicans there.

    February 29, 2012 at 2:01 am | Reply
  3. Pkm duster

    I have some very nice mormon friends if rick s is president it will not matter what faith you are rick will push the catholic church as your faith arizona hates the mexicans whats next the blacks and the jews

    February 28, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Reply
  4. Pkm duster

    I hope the good people of arizona see that if the gop gets there way they will kill social security and medicare and if you are poor they will cut any aid for the poor i hope you have a lot of room for home less people

    February 28, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Reply
  5. DavidE7

    If you enjoy watching the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, vote for the candidates being trumpeted by the media. Almost every story is about what Romney has to do to win. That is enough for me to say he is the last man in the world for whom I would vote.

    February 28, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Reply
  6. drp146

    Everybody knows that the poster boy of the rich and corporate, Mitt Romney is going to be the Republican nominee. The man behind Romneycare, which they hate and the ultimate flip flopping phony which many people see right through. This is the best they can come up with?

    February 28, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Reply
    • dobbins84

      The best they could come up with did not want to touch this race with a 10 foot pole.

      February 28, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Reply
  7. clarke

    Well, somewhat interesting. There should be one day set aside for the primaries, this long drawn out voting is more than anyone can take. This pandering for votes is like watching a crow look for food. Pretty disgusting.

    February 28, 2012 at 10:16 am | Reply
    • AnneSD

      It would also be nice if the primaries were held a lot closer to November so that we didn't have to put up with the stupidity for so long.

      February 28, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Reply
  8. Tom

    And how on earth could a democrat decide which republican would be weakest? There is a tight race for you.

    February 28, 2012 at 9:31 am | Reply
    • Bill in Florida

      Not at all. For months, Romney has polled much higher against Obama in most polls than any other GOP candidate. If I lived in Michigan, I'd therefore vote for Santorum to extend the GOP primary fight. Neither Gingrich nor Paul have any chance at battling Romney like Santorum currently does.

      February 28, 2012 at 11:11 am | Reply
  9. tom

    I saw a report on the news last night here in Arizona that independents cannot vote in Arizona's Republican presidential primary. Your report is incorrect.

    February 28, 2012 at 7:34 am | Reply
    • Rob

      Complete speculation, but maybe this report is correct and the local offices just don't want independents turning up to decide the outcome of an important republican party vote. It wouldn't surprise me with how messed up the vote counting has been in nearly every state so far that's held a caucus.

      February 28, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Reply
  10. Sam

    I am beginning to think that Santorum is even crazier than Sarah Palin, if that's even possible.

    February 28, 2012 at 7:10 am | Reply
  11. JBSC

    I would strongly encourage Dems & Independents in Michigan & other "open primary" states to do as Repubs did in '04, when "W" was running unopposed. That is, to vote for the LEAST likely GOP candidate. The GOP used it, so turn it around to our president's advantage.

    February 28, 2012 at 6:10 am | Reply
  12. Linda Ray

    The law in Arizona changed a while back so that only Republicans can vote in the Republican primary. You might want to modify your item number 3 accordingly.

    February 28, 2012 at 3:15 am | Reply
    • Linda Ray

      There is a fun component of Arizona law: it's free and easy to run for president. You just fill out a two-page form, and it costs nothing. As a result, we have about two dozen people on the Republican primary ballot, of them registered Republican, many inspired by Tucson Weekly's Project White House "Reality Journalism" project. Incidentally, you don't see any signage for presidential candidates in Tucson, and there's not much being reported about the primary, here, either. That's because of the rush to fill Gabrielle Giffords seat for the rest of her term, and then to run for the new district 2 that encompasses much of what was her district 8. So ... there are quirks in the Arizona Republican primary, just not the one that is reported in this story. As I mentioned previously, only Republicans can vote in the Republican primary. Incidentally, most of the likely voters probably mailed in their ballots up to two weeks ago.

      February 28, 2012 at 8:43 am | Reply
  13. Cody

    They all want to ignite world war 3 by going to war with Iran and intervening in Syria except Ron Paul.

    If they nominate anyone other than him they are toast.

    February 28, 2012 at 2:30 am | Reply
  14. Sara Smith

    You might want to correct this. Arizona's election will not be an open primary. It chooses to call these types of elections a "presidential preference election," which does not fall under the open primary provision. Only those registered in Arizona as Republicans are able to vote on Feb. 28, so independents will not come into play as much. The AZ Secretary of State's page has full details: http://azsos.gov/election/2012/PPE/ElectionInformation.htm

    February 28, 2012 at 2:01 am | Reply
  15. mmi16

    I would love to vote Republican – if only all their candidates weren't out of the Clown College.

    February 28, 2012 at 1:34 am | Reply
  16. TJeff1776

    I sure hope Santorum wins Michigan. He would be the biggest pushover for Obama. Why does that dummy raise the hot issue of combining Church and State ?????That might go well with Catholics up there BUT he can kiss the Protestant vote goodbye in the November general election for sure.

    February 27, 2012 at 11:41 pm | Reply
    • Emmy Skaddittle

      would people have to kiss his ring?

      February 28, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Reply
  17. mirrorlogic

    So between the 200,000 early votes already cast when Romney was the default candidate and Arizona boasting the 7th-largest Mormon population in the United States....let;s just give that state to Romney. But if it even close he might as well just stop running.

    What the heck, even if he wins, let's ask him to stop running.

    February 27, 2012 at 11:35 pm | Reply
    • souptwins

      Even is every Mormon man, woman & child voted for Romney (which not even all the adults will) it still wouldn't give any where near a majority for him. I think the bigger influence is that those who've had LDS people in their work place, schools and neighborhoods know they aren't nearly as "crazy" as people try to make them out to be. Lately Romney's been one of the few realizing there's such a thing as separation of church and state.

      February 28, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Reply
  18. Efilemos

    Arizona is *not* an open primary - they call it a "Presidential Preference Election" as a way to get around AZ's otherwise statewide open primaries. Tomorrow, AZ voters can only vote in primaries in the party they are registered with. (Doesn't mean that folks can't officially change affiliations, but) simply put - not an open primary.

    February 27, 2012 at 10:01 pm | Reply
  19. mabel floyd

    we miss you gabby!!

    arizona has a nutty gov. , a nutty sheriff and an evangelical zelot base.
    why are people told to be afraid of the sherria law? the only laws being passed that have a sherria like bent are being passed by the evangelicals.

    February 27, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Reply
  20. Martin Walters, Seattle

    Don't expect a warm Family Home Evening in Michigan Mitt, you threw them under the bus!

    February 27, 2012 at 9:34 pm | Reply
  21. Amir

    See the prices at the pump?................gotta see if that's us or another company. I don't want us to get the blame if it's American or other foreign companies. I like tha jaguar advertisement down there. Is that a foreign automaker?

    February 27, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Reply
  22. Amir

    What's up there?.................Seeing a lot of poppy these days on cnn. How's everything going with you there?

    February 27, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Reply

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