Home > Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty > Who Will T-Paw Pull From?

Who Will T-Paw Pull From?

Well, not too long ago, over on race42008, there was a pretty heated discussion about Pawlenty’s potential to damage 2008 Republican candidates: namely, does a serious Pawlenty hurt Huckabee or Romney more?  Let’s take a look.  First of all, I think it’s useful to look to states where Mitt and Huck were both competitive, in 2008, as a proxy for their appeal.  Let’s take a look at the the 2008 Georgia primary; Huck won 33% there while Romney won 30%.  McCain scooped up 32%.  Since it’s not clear to me that McCain’s supporters, especially in a state like Georgia, would split more towards one candidate or the other, this seems like a decent look at the respective candidates relative strengths.  Uselectionmaps has the numbers on county by county breakdowns.  Romney ran at least 9 points ahead of Huck in Cobb County, Fulton County, Dekalb County, and Glynn County.  What do we know about these counties?  Let’s look at per capita incomes.  Cobb County: 33k, Dekalb County: 24k, Fulton County: 30k, Glynn County: 22k.  How about population density?  Cobb County: 770 per square mile, Dekalb County: 974 per square mile, Fulton county: 1544  per square mile, Glynn County:  77 per square mile.  What are the state averages for both of these measures?  The statewide per capita income, in Georgia, was 33.5k.  The statewide population density was 141 people square mile.  Ok…interesting.  Now what?

Well, we see that all of these counties are below the average state per capita income.  We also see that, with the odd exception of Glynn County, all of these counties are far more urban than Georgia as a whole.  So Romney does well with urban voters and…poorer voters?  Not quite.  I don’t want to run through all of the numbers, but suffice it to say that those urban Georgia counties are heavily black.  Cobb County has a 29% black population, while the other two have nearly plurality black populations.

Unsurprisingly, the per capita income of blacks is lower than the per capita income of whites.  I haven’t been able to find numbers for Georgia, specifically, but we can make guesstimates based on the data we do have.  In 2000, in NJ, New York, Hawaii, and California, whites made between 66% and 90% more than blacks.  Also, unsurprisingly, the Republican primary in Georgia, in 2008, didn’t have too many black voters: CNN’s exit polls peg it at 2% of the electorate.   Adjusting for race, then, we find that the Republican primary electorate in 3 of these 4 counties was urban AND relatively wealthy.

It’s no use looking at the heavily pro-Huckabee counties in that kind of depth; there are too many of them and they’re all incredibly small.  But, take my word for it: I have looked at a few of them, cursorily, and I can that they’re almost uniformly rural and down-scale economically.  The Huckster pulls in blue-collar rural voters; Romney pulls in white-collar urban voters.  The exit polls confirm this impression.  Romney does well in Atlanta and the Atlanta suburbs, while Huck does well in Northern Georgia.  Romney wins voters making over 100k; Huck cleans up with voters making under 50k.  Now, where has Pawlenty drawn his supporters from, in the past?

It has been surprisingly hard for me to find any county by county information on the 2002 Republican Gubernatorial primary in Minnesota, so a straight comparison probably isn’t possible.  Still, I think we can achieve approximately the same effect by looking to where Pawlenty outperformed in the general election.  I.e, where did Pawlenty do unusually well for a Republican?  Luckily, I have that data handy from analysis I did last year.  I created a couple of nifty maps at the time, which put it plainly.  Here’s one of them, from the 2002 general election.

The area enclosed by red represents the Twin cities, while the green around that red encompasses the Greater Twin Cities.  As I noted, in 2002, Pawlenty ran 20 points ahead of Bush in these areas.   In 2006, with a weaker independent candidate, Pawlenty ran 9 points ahead of Bush here .  Elsewhere in the state, Pawlenty either ran behind Bush both years- mostly in the rural areas of upper North-western Minnesota- or he ran even with Bush, when you account for the overall victory margin.  In other words, the Twin Cities IS Pawlenty country.

It’s easy to get bogged down in details, so let’s just glance at a few counties where T-Paw did particularly well.  He did very well, relative to Bush, in the traditional Republican suburban counties.  He performed admirably in Washington, Dakota, and Anoka.  These counties are less urban than some of the state’s, but they’re far from rural, and they range from the state’s per capita income to just above the per capita income.  But, he also performed well- very well, in a particularly Democratic area- Ramsey County.  In 2002 he ran 21 points ahead of Bush here (as compared to 20 over the entire Twin Cities) and in 2006 he ran 12 points ahead of Bush here (as opposed to 9 points over the entire Twin Cities).  In fact, Ramsey is probably Pawlenty’s best county, relative to Bush (again, I’m guesstimating, rather than crunching each number).

And what does Ramsey look like?  Well, it’s by far the most densely populated county in the state with 3281 people per square mile.  It’s also almost EXACTLY at the state’s  per capita income of 23.5k per year.  And there no real significant number of minorities in Minnesota; Ramsey has a few, but they’re more Asian (who skew income stats up, if anything) than black.  So Pawlenty’s basically outperforming in an extremely urban, perfectly middle-class Democratic area of the state.  Within this Twin Cities bubble, in contrast, Pawlenty underperforms relative to Bush in  less urban (under 275 people per square mile) counties like Wright County.  In other words, the Pawlenty profile doesn’t look much like either the Romney or the Huckabee profile.  He’ll probably steal more from Romney, simply because Huckabee’s epicenter almost vanishes as the cities encroach, but he’ll mostly pull from someone else entirely; he may be pulling from a new pool of voters.

Categories: Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty
  1. MWS
    November 16, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Couple thoughts:

    1. What about the McCain voters? I know he carried some rural counties in Georgia as well, and did pretty decent in the suburbs.

    2. Just think about on national exit polls, I think Bush was unusually strong in rural areas. He probably wasn’t as relatively strong as Huck (who would skew even more rural) but he was probably closer to Huck than McCain or (especially) Romney in his urban/suburban/rural mix.

    3. Where is Pawlenty’s home base in MN? That would skew that area a bit, and perhaps that county (or maybe his old district) ought to be taken out of the mix when assessing his relative strength across geography.

    4. Seems he was pretty strong in the southwest of MN. That could presumably spill over into northwestern Iowa, where (as I recall) Huck did very well.

    I agree that Pawlenty’s natural base is going to be less rural than Huck’s, but probably less urban than Romney’s too. Just anecdotally at Race, both Huckanuts and Rombots have had quite a bit of praise for Pawlenty, and you know how hard it is for Rombots to compliment anyone else!

  2. November 16, 2009 at 6:38 pm


    Pawlenty’s home county is Dakota. I counted that, but he was actually stronger, relative to Bush, in Ramsey, the Democratic stronghold in the Twin Cities region (it has St. Paul). Plausibly, Pawlenty being from South St. Paul moved this number, but you’d of thought it’d have moved his own county even more.

    Actually, Pawlenty was pretty weak in Southwest Minnesota. I didn’t give you the comparison map this time around, so you can directly compare him to Bush, but I can. For instance, in Rock County (bottom left), Bush beat Kerry by 19 points while Pawlenty beat Hatch by a mere 17. In Nobles County (to the right of Rock), Bush beat Kerry by 14 points, Pawlenty beat Hatch by just 2. Above that, in Murray county, Bush beat Kerry by 10 points and Pawlenty beat Hatch by 2. Above Rock County, in Pipestone county, Bush beat Kerry by 23 points while Pawlenty beat Hatch by 17. Pawlenty ran about 10 points behind Bush in Southwest Minnesota and about 15 points behind him in Northwest Minnesota, which sounds shocking, given that those are some of the most heavily Republican areas of the state, but like 60% of Minnesota’s population is crowded in that Twin Cities band of suburban and urban counties where Pawlenty ran WELL ahead of Bush.

    Now, the big question is, given that Pawlenty has clearly seemed “suburban” or “urban” to Minnesotans, how will he seem to the rest of the country? No offense to Minnesotans, but there’s enough of a cultural gap between Minnesota and, say, other blue states, that even their urban politicians might seem relatively provincial to most of the country.

  3. MWS
    November 16, 2009 at 6:55 pm


    Given Minnesota’s rugged northern image, and Pawlenty’s Midwestern demeanor, I think he will come across pretty palatable to rural voters. Everyone has conscious (and subconsious) cultural “antennae,” and I think Pawlenty will connect with rural voters in a way that Romney and (especially) Guiliani couldn’t. Of course Huck still owns the rural South in that regard, but I think Pawlenty could end up owning the rural Midwest (I’m from the rural Midwest). And the rural Midwest gets the first say in the Primary.

  4. MWS
    November 16, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    So thinking through your first question……

    I’d guess Pawlenty pulls from Huck in the rural Midwest, and Romney from the suburban South.

  5. Doug
    November 17, 2009 at 3:51 am

    These things are notoriously difficult to predict. Without Rudy or McCain running I think it alters the landscape for Huckabee and Romney.

    I doubt either of those guys will run the same way trying to attract an identical coalition.

    A lot will depend on how Pawlenty runs. Does he run as populist crusader with solutions, or as a safe establishment alternative?

    He can plausibly run as either sort.

  6. mac
    November 26, 2009 at 2:04 am

    Interesting article, but I think Doug has it right, polling from this year indicates solid evidence for the altered landscape Doug mentions. Mike’s base will always be more rural and downscale, but I think his appeal is already much more broad than it was in ’07-’08.

    Unless one of the big 3 drops out, I just don’t see an opening for Tim, but if Mitt or Mike don’t run and get behind Tim, he could easily be the nominee. However, while I’m not a Palin fan, if she runs, I think she’d beat the field (including Pawlenty) in the Minnesota primary. My sense is that TPaw would be a very strong candidate in NH, but don’t see him doing particularly well in Iowa.

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