Not-So-Super Tuesday for Mitt Romney

by Wendy Simmons | March 7, 2012 8:37 am

investorpoliticsletters Not So Super Tuesday for Mitt Romney[1]Technically, Republican presidential hopeful Romney won Super Tuesday by accumulating the most delegates and maintained his place in the front of the pack. However, Rick Santorum’s campaign exceeded expectations and confirmed that the GOP nominating contest is far from over.

Exit polls confirm the same story we have been telling since the first primary in New Hampshire: Romney garners no enthusiasm and fails to win among evangelicals, southerners and middle-income Americans.

All eyes were on the contest between Romney and Santorum in Ohio, a state often considered a bellwether for the rest of the country. Although Romney won by the tiniest of margins, Santorum proved that he has the strong support of middle-class voters in the heartland. In Ohio, Santorum won among those that make less than $100,000 per year, evangelicals and non-college graduates.

All along, Romney has had a difficult time connecting with average Americans, and the results from Super Tuesday proved he continues to struggle with the “99%.” The close call in Ohio is even starker, considering the fact that the Romney campaign outspent Santorum by 5 to 1.

Super Tuesday Winners
AK GA ID MA ND OH OK TN VA VT
Romney W W W* W W W
Santorum W W W
Gingrich W*
* Home state     From unofficial tallies

Rick Santorum scored impressive victories in Tennessee, Oklahoma and North Dakota. His nine-percentage-point win over Romney in Tennessee is a particularly important part of the narrative. Although Tennessee is a southern state, it is less conservative and evangelical than its geographical neighbors. Conclusion: Romney cannot convince majorities in even the most moderate of southern states.

What next?

If Romney had won convincingly Tuesday, his remaining three opponents might have been motivated to drop out of the race and begin to rally around him. However, none of the other three candidates appear even close to conceding the race to Romney.

Newt Gingrich had the worst night of all, winning only his home state of Georgia and coming in third or fourth in every other contest. But if his speech tonight is to be believed, he is making no plans to exit the race and plans to continue to attack Romney as an establishment Republican and a pawn of Wall Street.

Ron Paul won’t get out because he has always been in it to build a libertarian movement. The longer he stays in the race, the more air time he has to make his case for super-limited government and expansion of liberty. Paul continues to win big among the youngest voters, suggesting the future might be bright for his particular brand of Republicanism.

Santorum obviously has no motivation to leave the race, as he must have been able to taste victory in Ohio; the results were so close. He knows he can win in the upcoming southern contests in Alabama and Mississippi next week and has a good chance with voters in the Kansas caucuses as well.

While Sarah Palin and a handful of other members of the right-wing commentariat claim a drawn-out nomination ultimately will help the GOP nominee, I think this campaign has hurt the GOP brand. And the longer it goes on, the more that will continue to be true.

Forget Obamacare; voters care about the price of gas

One final takeaway from the deluge of exit poll data was the rise of gas prices as a potentially salient campaign issue. Although all of the GOP candidates have been focusing on repealing much of Obama’s legislative record, vast majorities (70%) of voters indicated gas prices were an important factor in their vote.

Despite the fact that no president or candidate has much control over the price at the pump, expect Obama and his challengers to try to convince you that they have such a power.

The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.

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