Several explanations have already been offered for Mitt Romney’s solid victory in Tuesday’s Florida presidential primary, and most of them are plausible.
One theory, held by distant runner-up Newt Gingrich, holds that Romney’s sizeable fund-raising advantage allowed him to flood the airwaves with negative advertising in a state too large for stump campaigning. Another theory, not held by Gingrich, is that the former House Speaker’s angry response to the media barrage revealed his flaws more clearly than the ads ever could.
Our favorite theory, though, is the one offered by internet journalist Stacy McCain, who ties Tuesday’s result to the crucial little old lady vote in Florida. He writes that “Your grandma loves Mitt Romney,” a phenomenon he attributes to the contrast between “the tall, lean, millionaire entrepreneur with dark hair and chiseled features” and “the pudgy intellectual.”
This hypothesis is based on a stereotype of Florida as a vast geezerdom, as well as an equally stereotyped view of elderly women, which makes it quite convincing. Most of the stereotypes about the various states are valid, after all, and Florida’s reputation as “God’s waiting room” is no exception.
If either or both of the first two theories are true, and they are by no means mutually exclusive, Romney should be able to achieve a similar outcome in any of the upcoming primaries and caucuses. If the McCain theory is more correct, however, handicapping the race requires looking at the upcoming schedule, which now takes the race to Nevada, Maine, Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri, then examining the candidates through the proper stereotype.
Nevada is full of Mormons and gamblers, so Romney should do well. The Mormons will be inclined to vote for a co-religionist, and the gamblers will be impressed by Romney’s success as a venture capitalist.
The people of Maine regard Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins as proper Republicans, a delusion that prairie people attribute to nine months of winter and a constant diet of sea food, so Romney should do well there, too.
Colorado is populated with bike-riding hippies drawn there by a misunderstanding of John Denver’s pop hit “Rocky Mountain High,” so look for Ron Paul to score an upset victory.
Minnesotans revere Garrison Keillor, so they have no prejudice against pudgy intellectuals, but they’re also notoriously nice, which means they will have no natural affinity for Gingrich. Rick Santorum’s squeaky-cleanness might serve him well, but expect another Romney win.
— Bud Norman