Super Tuesday has finally come and gone, and it wasn't so super for Mitt Romney. In West Virginia, where the Republicans actually hold a convention to select the delegates, Romney lost despite winning the first round vote. With McCain coming in third, many of his supporters shifted to Huckabee, denying Romney the victory.
Romney's campaign shed copious crocodile tears, with Romney's campaign manager complaining that McCain "cut a backroom deal." It's like Captain Renault in the film Casablanca, "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on here!"
What really happened is so commonplace that even us Political Scientists know about it, and we even have a name for it, strategic voting . Strategic voting is simply when you vote for someone other than your first choice.
In this case, McCain supporters, seeing that their candidate came in third on the first ballot, and that there would have to be a second ballot (because no candidate gained a majority on the first one), voted strategically on the second round. By working to defeat the candidate who was the greatest threat to McCain, they actually did vote in the way that maximized their support for McCain. They were able to look past West Virginia to the larger picture. Romney's campaign manager apparently thinks the only legitimate way to vote is for your favorite. But considering there was going to be a second ballot, that their candidate had come in third, and that they reasonably had to vote for someone other than McCain, why should they necessarily have voted for Romney instead of Huckabee?
Oh, yes, because the McCain campaign allegedly called their West Virginia folks and told them to shift to Huckabee. In other words, the candidate they supported asked them to support him strategically. If Romney's camp wouldn't have done the same, they're not noble, they're idiots. And since I don't think they are either noble or idiots, it's just crocodile tears.
Anyway, it clearly wasn't just McCain's supporters that gave Huck the victory. According to The Hill a Capitol Hill news outlet that focuses on politics, the first round of balloting resulted in:
Romney: 464 votes.
Huckabee: 375 votes.
McCain: 176 votes.
The second ballot had:
Huckabee: 567 votes.
Romney: 521 votes.
If you add McCain's votes to Huckabee's in the first round, you only come up with 551, not the 567 he won on the second ballot. And as you can see from the totals, there were 73 more votes in the second round than the first. Where did those extra votes come from? I don't know, but I'd guess some people sat out the first round waiting to see how the voting went. Obviously at least 14 of those also went for Huckabee (assuming that each and every one of McCain's first round votes then voted for Huckabee, and none defected to Romney). 57 went to Romney.
In short, it's a complex political process with a lot of gamesmanship and strategizing going on. Romney lost. And now he's doing the strategic thing by trying to paint the real winner--McCain--of being dirty. Predictable. Not particularly clever, but then how many options does he have?