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Wisconsin Could Be GOP Turning Point

By Sean Trende - April 3, 2012

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This could also explain Romney’s over-performance in Cook, where Santorum failed to field delegates in the 4th, 5th, and 7th Districts.

What about Tuesday night? Here we are beginning to see signs of movement. The Maryland polling suggests that Romney should receive about 56 percent of the three-way vote, while the model suggested 49 percent would be more in line with other states.

Similarly, Wisconsin should be a close race -- akin to Ohio -- with Romney receiving 43 percent of the vote. For a while, it appeared that Santorum would be exceeding expectations there. But Romney now leads by about eight points, with polls suggesting he should receive around 49 percent of the three-way vote. Again, this suggests an over-performance of about six-seven points.

If this happens, taken together with Illinois and Maryland, we might conclude that Romney really has managed to break out of his demographic rut, at least in the Midwest and Northeast. This is significant, given the large cache of delegates at stake in those regions (though many of these states have already voted).

Of course, there may be unique factors in these states that the model is not capturing. Wisconsin in particular is a quirky state demographically, with an unusually liberal population of rural whites. This caused pundits some consternation in 2008 as well. We’ll have to look at the actual results to see if Romney is enjoying a general breakthrough, or if there’s some unique place where he’s surging in these states.

But stopping Romney from amassing 1,144 delegates was always going to require Santorum and Gingrich to thread a very small needle. If Romney performs Tuesday night as the polls suggest he will, and there isn’t some demographic quirk unique to the states to explain it, Gingrich and Santorum’s chances of forcing a brokered convention this summer have all but evaporated. All it would take is some slight momentum in Romney’s direction to foreclose this possibility -- and Romney may well be getting it on Tuesday. 

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Sean Trende is senior elections analyst for RealClearPolitics. He is a co-author of the 2014 Almanac of American Politics and author of The Lost Majority. He can be reached at strende@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @SeanTrende.

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