Breaking Down Super Tuesday
By: Craig Chamberlain
There were few surprises on Tuesday. Romney won in Vermont, Massachusetts, Virginia, Idaho, Alaska, and Ohio. Gingrich won his home state(or former home state as he now lives in Virginia) of Georgia and performed badly everywhere else. Santorum won in Tennessee, Oklahoma, and North Dakota. But what do these wins mean? Is the GOP any closer to settling on its nominee?
It means that Romney is still the frontrunner, no matter how much the right wing of the party might hate it. He won where he needed to and kept wracking up the delegates for the convention in Tampa. His victory in Ohio was by a razor thin margin, but he still won. There are no moral victories in politics, either you win or you don’t. Santorum had a double digit lead in the Buckeye state just a week ago, and he couldn’t hold off the Romney surge. Claiming victory because he kept it so close is like saying the New England Patriots deserve part of the Lombardi trophy because they only lost the Super Bowl by four points. Ohio is the swing state of swing state, and Romney’s victory there is huge for him. His victories in New England, Virginia, and Idaho were expected, and his victory in Alaska must gall Sarah Palin to no end. Conservative might not love Romney but are we looking for a messianic candidate who sends a thrill up our leg or a competent leader who can fix the country that President Obama broke?
Newt Gingrich is finished. His only victories have been in Georgia and in neighboring South Carolina. His failure to take Tennessee shows that he’s not even a regional candidate and his southern strategy failed. He’ll probably win in Alabama, and might surprise in Mississippi but there probably won’t be any more victories in line for the former Speaker of the House. He finished dead last in many states, and his long, rambling, and Nixonian speech after winning Georgia didn’t help him either. He doesn’t sound like a man that wants to be President. Instead he sounds like a man who’s running out of spite to punish his enemies, real or perceived.
Former Senator Santorum kept himself in the race as the anti Romney candidate with his victories in Oklahoma, Tennessee, and North Dakota. There are those who don’t want to hear it but without a victory in Ohio Santorum can’t really claim a victory. His victories in Oklahoma and Tennessee, both Bible belt states, we’re carried by evangelical voters many of whom were casting a protest vote against a Mormon candidate. The evangelical vote is important but it’s not enough. Santorum hurt himself with his comments that he wanted to throw up when he heard JFK’s speech on separation of church and state, and his denouncement of college education as snobbery. He took the bait that the Democrats left out there on the contraception mandate so that his talk of economic issues was overshadowed. He needs to learn a lesson from Governor Romney: stay on message. When you fight on the Democrats ground you’ll lose. His inability to win women voters and Catholic voters is going to continue to haunt him through the rest of the primaries. Unless he finds a way to cut into Romney’s coalition he’s going to come in second. It also hurts him that he is the Republican that Democrats most want to see nominated. The Democrats have visions of 1964 dancing in their heads if Santorum is the nominee. That’s probably not a fair calculation but it would probably be harder for him to win against President Obama.
Let’s not forget Ron Paul. The eccentric little congressman didn’t win any states, as expected. His foreign policy views are the main thing holding him back. His naive dovish views on Iran and China are the main thing holding him back with the party, he probably would have won a few contests if he didn’t think that the Iranians were nice guys and that all of the troubles in the Middle East were being overblown by the Jews. The truth is, however, that Paul doesn’t care about the nomination. He knows that he’s not going to win it, and he’s fine with that. He is more interested in getting a platform at the convention and chipping in his two cents.
This remains a two man race. Gingrich and Paul will continue to take enough of the vote to allow Romney to score wins with a plurality of the vote instead of an outright majority, but victories are victories, and the more Romney wins the closer he comes to becoming the nominee to take on President Obama. Santorum will continue to do well with social conservatives, and will win states in the Bible belt, but this won’t get him to the nomination.
Those hoping for a brokered convention are going to have their hopes dashed.The odds are pretty low that Romney will fall short of the 1100 delegates that he needs to secure the nomination. A brokered convention would be a disaster anyway. A candidate picked by the convention and not by the voters would only accentuate the anarchy in the GOP and would make the difficult task of defeating President Obama even more difficult.
Super Tuesday only reinforced what we already knew. Romney is in the lead, but evangelicals are wary of him. Gingrich and Santorum continue to split the vote between themselves, and while Romney keeps winning he hasn’t scored too many landslide wins. Romney will almost certainly be the nominee, but he needs to find someway to placate evangelicals and tea party activists if he wants a united Republican party behind him in November.