Tuesday, March 6th is Super Tuesday this year, a day when ten states will vote in primaries or caucuses, and which could, possibly, bring the race to a close. Or let us know whether it will go many weeks longer, a type of political Groundhog Day.
And before that happens, we had tonight's caucus in Washington. Unlike most of the states that have voted so far, Washington is a state I know very well personally. I was born there, and I have seen most of the state and lived in several different parts of it. But be that as it may, its politics are not automatically known to me, especially its Republican politics, and its caucus politics.
Washington is a coastal state with high levels of education, an ethnically diverse population, and generally liberal views. However, that doesn't mean that its Republican Party is necessarily liberal: sometimes a state with liberal politics overall may have more ardent conservatives than one with a generally centrist electorate. The rural areas of Washington can be quite conservative. Washington is also a much more secular state, even amongst its conservative voters, and it was expected that Ron Paul with his libertarian-leaning Republicanism would do well. And on top of this, Washington is a caucus state, which means that the people who make the decisions are often the most determined and might not have representative beliefs.
And you could throw all that into a blender, and try to figure out the result, but luckily, it has already been done. The results of the caucus straw poll were a Romney win, with a 37.6% plurality, followed by Ron Paul with 24.8%, Rick Santorum with 23.8% and Newt Gingrich with 10.8%. And as was expected by many, Mitt Romney did best in urban and suburban areas, while Paul and Santorum did better in rural parts of the state. Even in Romney's stronghold, King County, he was unable to break 50% of the vote.
Washington has shown a continuation of a pattern that has emerged through February: Romney will do well in urban, affluent and high education areas and Rick Santorum will do well in rural areas. The news on Ron Paul is not yet part of a pattern, although I suspect he will do well in other areas of the West, including next week's caucus in Alaska. If Washington was indicative of the Republican electorate as a whole, it might be time for the other candidates to concede. However, the electorates of Washington and Oklahoma are very dissimilar.
So while the Washington results are another good result for Romney, they are probably not indicative of either the overall politics of Washington, or of the overall politics of the Republican electorate. Tonight's contest was just a teasing appetizer before the feast that is Super Tuesday.