Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri: 3 things to know

Another round of states vote for their Republican candidate.

In the latest round of the Republican primary race today, a total 76 delegates are at stake: 36 in Colorado and 40 in Minnesota. The Missouri primary election is also taking place; however the state's failure to adhere to party rules on scheduling means its 52 delegates will be awarded in a separate caucus on 17 March. Mitt Romney is currently ahead with 81 delegate votes to Newt Gingrich's 27, Rick Santorum's 15 and Ron Paul's seven. Yet the voting behaviour of the residents in these deeply conservative states is expected to show no correlation to how the votes currently stand.

It is important to note the "types" of Republicans taking to the ballot box today: moreso than in other areas of the US, residents of Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri identify as being "very" conservative, and a large proportion are Tea Party members and Evangelicals.

Colorado caucuses (36 delegates)

This key battleground state was won comfortably by Romney in the previous Republican candidate race: it is particularly interesting to compare the results of the 2008 Republican presidential primary here between its candidates John McCain, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. Then-Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney won the state (and its full 22 delegates) with 60 per cent of the vote: three times that of the eventual nominee, John McCain.

Yet the frontrunner appears to be on the defensive. Earlier today, the Romney campaign released a memo by its political director, Rich Beeson, in which he wrote, under the headline "The Reality of February":

It is difficult to see what Governor Romney's opponents can do to change the dynamics of the race in February. No delegates will be awarded on February 7 -- Colorado and Minnesota hold caucuses with nonbinding preference polls, and the Missouri primary is purely a beauty contest. Except for the Maine and Wyoming nonbinding caucuses running through February, the next contests are on February 28 in states where Governor Romney is strong. Arizona's 29 delegates will be bound in a winner-take-all contest. Michigan, the state where Governor Romney grew up, binds 30 delegates.

This disregard for the worth of Colorado's vote points to the changed perception of Romney in the state. During the 2008 race, Romney was seen in Minnesota and Colorado as the more conservative candidate relative to John McCain; in 2012, he appears liberal alongside Rick Santorum.

Missouri primary (no delegates; 52 delegates on 17 March caucuses)

Speaking to residents of Hannibal, Missouri four days ago, Santorum boldly said:

When we go head to head with Governor Romney, we can beat him. When Speaker Gingrich goes head to head with Governor Romney, he can't. The polls show it and it will show on Tuesday . . . If I'm out of the race, most of my votes go to Governor Romney. If he's [Gingrich] out of the race, most of his votes go to me.

And Public Policy Polling had good news for the Santorum campaign:

Missouri looks like a probable win for Santorum. He's at 45% there to 32% for Mitt Romney and 19% for Paul. Minnesota provides an opportunity for a win as well. Currently he has a small advantage with 33% to 24% for Romney, 22% for Newt Gingrich, and 20% for Ron Paul. And Santorum should get a second place finish in Colorado, where Romney appears to be the likely winner.

This seemingly-sudden propulsion in the race is down to Santorum's popularity among voters here: his favourability comes in over 70 per cent -- far higher than Romney's in the 50s and Newt Gingrich, who wavers around 48 per cent. Gingrich will not participate in the Missouri primary, having missed the filing deadline. He has just announced, however, that his campaign is in for the long-haul: running at least until the Republican National Convention which takes place in Tampa the week beginning 27 August.

As Richard Adams recognised in the Guardian's election blog, for the first time the four candidate will be in present in four different states by the time votes are counted this evening: Santorum in Missouri; Romney in Colorado; Gingrich in Ohio and Ron Paul in Minnesota.

Minnesota caucuses (40 delegates)

Further numbers from Public Policy Polling in this deeply conservative northern state have Santorum ten points ahead of both Romney and Gingrich. However, as Mark Blumenthal at the Huffington Post notes:

The three PPP polls also found that a third or more of the voters in the three states say they might still "end up supporting someone else," rather than their first choice -- 31 percent in Colorado, 35 percent in Minnesota and 38 percent in Missouri. That result, which the PPP release characterized as indicating an "unusually volatile" race, may indicate the potential for further change or simply reflect that many have already changed their minds, perhaps more than once in recent weeks.

Still, as it currently appears, Santorum could very well wake up tomorrow having won two further states and been placed second in a third. That would grant him three victories from the eight states that have voted so far, and an unexpected surge at this stage in the race.

Alice Gribbin is a Teaching-Writing Fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She was formerly the editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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In the 1980s, I went to a rally where Labour Party speakers shared the stage with men in balaclavas

The links between the Labour left and Irish republicanism are worth investigating.

A spat between Jeremy Corbyn’s henchfolk and Conor McGinn, the MP for St Helens North, caught my ear the other evening. McGinn was a guest on BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour, and he obligingly revisited the brouhaha for the listeners at home. Apparently, following an interview in May, in which McGinn called for Corbyn to “reach out beyond his comfort zone”, he was first threatened obliquely with the sack, then asked for a retraction (which he refused to give) and finally learned – from someone in the whips’ office – that his party leader was considering phoning up McGinn’s father to whip the errant whipper-in into line. On the programme, McGinn said: “The modus operandi that he [Corbyn] and the people around him were trying to do [sic], involving my family, was to isolate and ostracise me from them and from the community I am very proud to come from – which is an Irish nationalist community in south Armagh.”

Needless to say, the Labour leader’s office has continued to deny any such thing, but while we may nurture some suspicions about his behaviour, McGinn was also indulging in a little airbrushing when he described south Armagh as an “Irish ­nationalist community”. In the most recent elections, Newry and Armagh returned three Sinn Fein members to the Northern Ireland Assembly (as against one Social Democratic and Labour Party member) and one Sinn Fein MP to Westminster. When I last looked, Sinn Fein was still a republican, rather than a nationalist, party – something that McGinn should only be too well aware of, as the paternal hand that was putatively to have been lain on him belongs to Pat McGinn, the former Sinn Fein mayor of Newry and Armagh.

According to the Irish News, a “close friend” of the McGinns poured this cold water on the mini-conflagration: “Anybody who knows the McGinn family knows that Pat is very proud of Conor and that they remain very close.” The friend went on to opine: “He [Pat McGinn] found the whole notion of Corbyn phoning him totally ridiculous – as if Pat is going to criticise his son to save Jeremy Corbyn’s face. They would laugh about it were it not so sinister.”

“Sinister” does seem the mot juste. McGinn, Jr grew up in Bessbrook during the Troubles. I visited the village in the early 1990s on assignment. The skies were full of the chattering of British army Chinooks, and there were fake road signs in the hedgerows bearing pictograms of rifles and captioned: “Sniper at work”. South Armagh had been known for years as “bandit country”. There were army watchtowers standing sentinel in the dinky, green fields and checkpoints everywhere, manned by some of the thousands of the troops who had been deployed to fight what was, in effect, a low-level counter-insurgency war. Nationalist community, my foot.

What lies beneath the Corbyn-McGinn spat is the queered problematics of the ­relationship between the far left wing of the Labour Party and physical-force Irish republicanism. I also recall, during the hunger strikes of the early 1980s, going to a “Smash the H-Blocks” rally in Kilburn, north London, at which Labour Party speakers shared the stage with representatives from Sinn Fein, some of whom wore balaclavas and dark glasses to evade the telephoto lenses of the Met’s anti-terrorist squad.

The shape-shifting relationship between the “political wing” of the IRA and the men with sniper rifles in the south Armagh bocage was always of the essence of the conflict, allowing both sides a convenient fiction around which to posture publicly and privately negotiate. In choosing to appear on platforms with people who might or might not be terrorists, Labour leftists also sprinkled a little of their stardust on themselves: the “stardust” being the implication that they, too, under the right circumstances, might be capable of violence in pursuit of their political ends.

On the far right of British politics, Her Majesty’s Government and its apparatus are referred to derisively as “state”. There were various attempts in the 1970s and 1980s by far-right groupuscules to link up with the Ulster Freedom Fighters and other loyalist paramilitary organisations in their battle against “state”. All foundered on the obvious incompetence of the fascists. The situation on the far left was different. The socialist credentials of Sinn Fein/IRA were too threadbare for genuine expressions of solidarity, but there was a sort of tacit confidence-and-supply arrangement between these factions. The Labour far left provided the republicans with the confidence that, should an appropriately radical government be elected to Westminster, “state” would withdraw from Northern Ireland. What the republicans did for the mainland militants was to cloak them in their penumbra of darkness: without needing to call down on themselves the armed might of “state”, they could imply that they were willing to take it on, should the opportunity arise.

I don’t for a second believe that Corbyn was summoning up these ghosts of the insurrectionary dead when he either did or did not threaten to phone McGinn, Sr. But his supporters need to ask themselves what they’re getting into. Their leader, if he was to have remained true to the positions that he has espoused over many years, should have refused to sit as privy counsellor upon assuming his party office, and refused all the other mummery associated with the monarchical “state”. That he didn’t do so was surely a strategic decision. Such a position would make him utterly unelectable.

The snipers may not be at work in south Armagh just now – but there are rifles out there that could yet be dug up. I wouldn’t be surprised if some in Sinn Fein knew where they are, but one thing’s for certain: Corbyn hasn’t got a clue, bloody or otherwise. 

Will Self is an author and journalist. His books include Umbrella, Shark, The Book of Dave and The Butt. He writes the Madness of Crowds and Real Meals columns for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 25 August 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Cameron: the legacy of a loser