8:26 PM: With 98% of the vote in, it looks like this: Santorum wins with 49% of the vote. Romney is second, with 27%, Gingrich has 16%, and Ron Paul's got 6% of the vote. With the 175,013 votes cast, we're already seeing a much higher turnout than in 2008, when only 156,101 Republicans voted. (Huckabee won last time around, with 69,594. Romney's 47,495 votes is certainly an improvement over last time around, when he won only 10,222 votes. Still, I think you can make a case that when Santorum wins a state, the turnout is generally better than 2008, and Romney's wins happen when there are fewer voters than the last time around. According to Steve Brusk on Twitter, Newt Gingrich says "this is clearly still an open race"—we know how much Gingrich likes open things, don't we?—while a Romney spokesman says Santorum being happy about this win is like "like a football team celebrating a field goal when they are losing by 7 touchdowns," and that his attempts to "distract from his listless campaign" are getting "sadder" and "pathetic."
The Caucus is saying, and rightly so, that this is a two-man race, and that Gingrich and Paul are simply wasting their money at this point. But Santorum is still basically pissing in the wind, too. The next race is Wisconsin, where Romney is up 13 points in the last poll. Santorum's only hope in Wisconsin is that this Etch-A-Sketch thing lingers a while, and that his efforts to defend Governor Scott Walker in the recall election will make an impression on Wisconsin Republicans. Even then, after Wisconsin, the primaries will turn largely to the Northeast, where Romney dominates. I expect the Republican establishment to start pushing hard on Santorum to get out after Wisconsin unless he can turn this convincing Louisiana win into something a little more sustainable.
So, in short: Nothing changed. On to the 29th state in this ridiculous death march that is the 2012 Republican presidential candidate-nominating process!
Let's All Listen to Mitt Romney Talk About Why Mandates Are Awesome
7:36 PM: We're just waiting for the last numbers to come in at this point. If Romney winds up below 25%, which doesn't look very likely at this point, he wouldn't win a single Louisiana delegate. The vote is coming in surprisingly fast, but it's still taking a bit for New Orleans to represent. But Buzzfeed's Andrew Kaczynski just posted audio of Mitt Romney explaining why he loves mandates, which should take up a few minutes of your time:
Live-Slogging Santorum's Victory Speech
7:06 PM: CNN is live-streaming it! Santorum appears to be speaking a brewpub or something and he's equating himself to Ronald Reagan in 1976, who he says kept fighting in the presidential primary even when things looked bad for him. (Reagan lost that nomination, and then went on to be the nominee in 1980. Is Santorum telling us something?) He calls himself "THE conservative in the race," and then Santorum says he bowled three strikes in a row earlier that day. I wonder if he knows that's called a turkey. (I bowled a turkey once. It was one of the greatest days of my life.) Wow. And that's it. He says it's going to be a long fight, and then he says "On Wisconsin," and then that's the end. That wasn't even a speech, really. The e-mail we just got from Santorum HQ is more substantial than that, and it's just a rehash of the usual Santorum talk:
Hogan Gidley, National Communications Director, said: "There is no other way to interpret tonight's results but as vindication for Rick Santorum's consistent, conservative message of strengthening our nation based on our founding values. Louisiana voters overwhelmingly rejected Mitt Romney's push to press the reset button, because they know that we need a clear contrast to President Obama's disastrous policies. The entire Santorum campaign, and the conservative movement, is excited by tonight's results, that stand in the face of the media's and the establishment's declaration that we must fall in line with a moderate from Massachusetts. We thank the voters of Louisiana and look forward to bringing our campaign's message of returning to our founding principles to the people."
6:52 PM: I'm unsure if any of the news outlets are even going to livestream Santorum's speech tonight, which is a big bummer. We might have to make do with this:
How Important Are Etches-A-Sketch, Anyway?
6:33 PM Is that the proper pluralization of "Etch-A-Sketch?" Anyway, we've got two different sources on exit poll questions about the Etch-A-Sketch gaffe. Nate Silver says that 20% of voters said the Etch-A-Sketch comment was "an important factor in their vote." CNN says about 40% of Louisiana voters say the Etch-A-Sketch comment made some kind of an impact on their vote, ranging from "minor" to "most important" impact. That's a fairly significant portion of the electorate, and it demonstrates a weakness that a frontrunner like Romney should not be displaying at this late date in the primaries. I know folks like to deride the focus on Etch-A-Sketches as insignificant, but this is now a major theme in the electorate, and it supplies a strong handle on a concern that Republican voters have had for a while. This is a big deal.
my dad's finally getting a little R&R this wkend. pic here at the movies today w me n my kids.
Oh, man. Now I really want to know what Mitt Romney saw at the movies today. He's with very little kids, so it probably wasn't the Hunger Games... Oh, God. It was The Lorax, wasn't it? Mitt Romney probably just watched the plasticky, Hollywood blockbusterization of the classic environmental kids' book The Lorax. I bet you he fucking loved it. UPDATE: Nope, it was The Hunger Games. Which is even worse, really. Mitt Romney spent a good portion of today being entertained by a movie about the very poor murdering each other for the entertainment of the ridiculously wealthy. He probably didn't even realize it was supposed to be a dystopian future.
This Is What a Big Win Looks Like
6:09 PM: Buzzfeed has some exit poll data to peruse. Santorum is up in just about every category of Louisiana Republicans, except for those who make over $200,000 a year, and those who describe the extent of their education as "postgraduate study." In other words, snobs. (CNN just posted much more extensive data over here.)
CNN Projects Santorum as the President of Louisiana
6:01 PM: Damn, that was fast. AP called it a second or two after CNN, too. And NBC is predicting Romney in second and Gingrich in third place. I'm sure Gingrich will take the fact that he finished ahead of Ron Paul as an overwhelming sign from the electorate that he should stay in the race.
De Polls, Dey Is Closed
6 PM I am considering opening a PayPal account for the following purpose: If fifty of you donate one dollar, I will stop writing these posts in a faux-Cajun accent. Otherwise, it's jambalaya-time, mon chermes chèrs*!
In any case, I now have procured a Double Gulp filled with cancer Diet Coke and I've got a couple loads of laundry running, which means...well, that means it's a Saturday night for me. But it's a Saturday night with election results! Which I'm sure will be coming along any moment now. More soon.
* With thanks to commenter Keister Button for the correction.
It's an Old-Fashioned Po-litical Primary on the Bayou, Y'all
5:09 PM: The Louisiana polls close in one hour. It looks like turnout is notably light—even lighter than all the other Republican contests so far, perhaps?—and Santorum is poised for a possible double-digit win over Romney. In short, this might not be the most dramatic primary night. Mitt Romney, for example, is taking the weekend off from campaigning and won't be speaking tonight. But I'll still be updating this post with all the news, speech live-Slogs, and Muppet videos you can handle. Newer posts will always be at the top, refresh for new updates. See you in about an hour.
* Related to the above video: Gambit is the character who single-handedly made the X-Men uncool once and for all.