More than you might think, this week at least: they all owe key victories to an older electorate. (In case you missed it: 86 percent of voters for the Academy Awards – yes, 86 percent! – are 50 or older. Coincidence, then, that Sunday night’s 2012 Oscars felt, said the New York Times, “like an AARP pep rally?”
At his own pep rally Tuesday night outside Detroit, Romney celebrated a victory in Michigan’s Republican primary – a victory, the pundits never tired of saying over the past week, that he desperately needed to fend off the surging Rick Santorum – by saying, “We didn’t win by a lot, but we won by enough – and that’s all that counts.”
He’s certainly right that he didn’t win by a lot: 3.2 percentage points. And it was the same age group to bring Oscars to older actors in Hollywood that brought relief to the nervous Romney camp. In fact, Michigan voters younger than 50, according to exit polls, favored Santorum, but older voters gave the edge to Romney – especially voters older than 65, where Romney swamped Santorum by 16 percentage points. (Perhaps these voters were spooked by Santorum’s position on Social Security, which he didn’t shy away from in his own speech in Michigan Tuesday night – pledging to “end entitlement programs at the federal level” and give responsibility for such programs to the states.)
And despite his clear advantage among voters 50 and older – who made up 60 percent of Michigan’s GOP primary electorate – and despite winning the statewide popular vote, Romney didn’t really walk away from Michigan with much of a victory. Because delegates in Michigan are designated by congressional district, he captured only 16 of the state’s 30 voting delegates to this summer’s Republican National Convention.
The vote was more clear-cut, as pre-election polls had predicted, in Arizona, where Romney swept all age groups and won all 29 GOP delegates, carrying the statewide popular vote by nearly 21 percentage points. The age split in Arizona was not as pronounced as in Michigan: Romney got the same percentage of voters ages of 40-49 as he did voters 50-64, with a slightly smaller margin of victory among voters 65 and older.
The two candidates, who appear to be the clear front-runners in a field that also includes Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, now set their sights on “Super Tuesday” – a raft of primaries next week, by which time Oscar night may be fading into memory but the GOP nominating contest will just be shifting into high gear. — Bernard Ohanian