No one in the Democratic Party decided to run against President Barack Obama this year, so he will be the Democratic nominee. But who will his challenger be on the ballot in November? That is being decided now in the Republican presidential primary.
Every state has the chance to hold a primary caucus or election. Election voting is private and individual, while caucuses require communities to come together to hear representatives of candidates speak before voting. Every state has a set number delegates, and the candidate who earns at least 1,144 delegates will be the Republican nominee to challenge Obama in the general election.
Every state has its own way of deciding how it will split up the delegates based on the primary results – some give all the state’s delegates to the person who received the most votes, other states award delegates proportionally to the votes.
So far eight states have voted in this primary season, and the race is now down to four Republican candidates: Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul. The next primaries will be held Feb. 28 when voters in Arizona and Michigan have their say in the primary election.
Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, is currently leading in the projected delegate count with 106. He is the most liberal of the four Republicans.
“Ideologically, Romney is closest to the center,” said Sean Duffy, chairman of Quinnipiac’s political science department. “He has proven that he can work across party lines in the past.”
Second in the delegate race is Santorum, former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania. He has won three states, including the nation’s first primary, in Iowa.
“Santorum’s main issue is the religious conservative perspective, particularly around issues like morality, the family and things like that,” Duffy said.
Santorum often holds campaign events with his wife and seven children on stage. Many of his political positions are based off of his Roman Catholic upbringing, such as his opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. He has 37 delegates in the primary season.
Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, earned the most votes in South Carolina, but has has not done well in more recent contests.
“Gingrich is a firebrand who talks up a big story,” Duffy said. “He whips up people’s emotions. He is a very effective debater.”
Gingrich’s South Carolina win came shortly after two Republican presidential debates, where he attacked Romney and earned a lot of applause from the audience. He has 35 delegates.
U.S. Congressman Paul from Texas has not taken the first place spot in any of the primary races so far, but he has 27 delegates. Since his Libertarian views are not considered as “mainstream” as the other candidates, he focuses his efforts in the states that award delegates proportionally to the vote percentages.
“Ron Paul’s platform is largely simplified government,” Duffy said. “That defines him, but it doesn’t necessarily whip up a lot of the mainstream enthusiasm. He’s got a lot of support among a lot of the nontraditional voting populations.”
Paul is very popular among young voters, but not many of them usually turn out to vote, Duffy said. This is Paul’s third campaign for president; he also ran in 2008 and 1988.
“A lot of this election is putting someone up to beat Barack Obama,” John Steinberg, chairman of Quinnipiac University College Republicans said.
The group QU Democrats says that the Republicans’ criticism of Obama is unjustified.
“Things haven’t been perfect, but I think he’s doing the best job that can be done,” Kevin Cross, QU Democrats president, said. “Things are getting better and the economy is picking up and the Iraq war has ended.”
QUCR attended the Conservative Political Action Committee meeting in Washington D.C. last weekend and heard some of the candidates speak. The College Republicans officially endorse the Mitt Romney campaign, Steinberg said.
“Mitt Romney because of his strong economic background and his ability to create jobs,” Steinberg said. “He’s a businessman who can use economics to turn this thing around.”