Published on March 9th, 2012 |
by Saira Khan
Image © [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="565" caption="Caricatures, left to right: Santorum, Gingrich, Romney, Paul, DonkeyHotey ©"][/caption] If Americans expected Super Tuesday to settle their restlessness over who would be the next Republican nominee for President, they woke up disappointed. Last Tuesday was one of the most important Tuesdays in American politics – ten states voted together for the Republican candidate they believe ought to be the next President of the United States. But split-decision was clear. First, let’s have a look at the results.
A not-so-Super Tuesday for Mitt Romney
If Americans expected Super Tuesday to settle their restlessness over who would be the next Republican nominee for President, they woke up disappointed. Last Tuesday was one of the most important Tuesdays in American politics – ten states voted together for the Republican candidate they believe ought to be the next President of the United States. But split-decision was clear. First, let’s have a look at the results.
- Georgia (76 delegates) – Gingrich (47.2%), Romney (25.9%)
- Ohio (66 delegates) – Romney (37.9%), Santorum (37.1%)
- Tennessee (58 delegates) – Santorum (37.2%), Romney (28.1%)
- Virginia (49 delegates) – Romney (59.5%), Paul (40.5%)
- Oklahoma (43 delegates) – Santorum (33.8%), Romney (28.0%)
- Massachusetts (41 delegates) – Romney (72.2%), Santorum (12.0%)
- Idaho (32 delegates) – Romney (61.6%), Santorum (18.2%)
- North Dakota (28 delegates) – Santorum (39.7%), Paul (28.1%)
- Alaska (27 delegates) –Romney (32.4%), Santorum (29.2%)
- Vermont (17 delegates) –Romney (39.8%), Paul (25.5%)
Whilst Romney won in six of the ten states, the race is far from over and his political reputation is damaged – this was not the turn-out he had hoped for. Santorum is proving to be a worthy contender, with Romney’s win in swing-state, delegate-ridden Ohio seeing a less than 1% margin between these two front-runners. None of the candidates have yet reached even half of the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination so Santorum is not without his chance. Clearly, Romney’s previous shine of the man-who-could-beat-Obama-in-the-general-election has dulled; a more unifying candidate is needed. According to exit polls, Romney did not fare well with voters who saw it important that the candidate share their religious beliefs (being Mormon) and was not seen to understand the average American as well as Rick Santorum (being ridiculously rich). Only Ohio voters over the age of 45 seemed to prefer Romney and even then, a mere 35% said they ‘strongly favour’ him.
Furthermore, Romney seemed to win over Ohio by default. Firstly, Democrats — who, in this state, supported Santorum over Romney, 47% over 27% respectively — failed to disrupt Mitt’s campaign, only 5% turning up to the primary. Secondly, there was a larger moderate population and few social conservatives or evangelicals; a population Romney secured over Santorum, 43% over 29% respectively. Thirdly, Ohio prioritised electability and the potential to beat Obama over moral character, experience and conservatism, 42% over approximately 20% respectively. Lastly, Romney’s emphasis on the economy in his speeches to Ohio played an important role with 73% of voters concerned about the direction of the economy. As Rick Lowry of Fox News put it, Romney is the ‘Eh, I guess’ candidate, but Ohio’s popular viewpoints worked just about in his favour to have more people eh-I-guessing for him than for Rick Santorum.
Though it is clear, with Romney winning 14 of the 23 primaries and caucuses so far, Santorum, seven, Gingrich, two, and Paul, zero, that the race is largely in either of the former two candidates’ hands. On Super Tuesday, Gingrich only managed a win in his home state, Georgia, but he continues to assert that the other candidates have peaked too early; ‘there are lots of bunny rabbits that run through,’ he said, ‘I am the tortoise, I just take one step at a time.’ Gingrich may remain in the race as long as casino mogul Sheldon Adelson is willing to back him with the finances.
If what Gingrich said is true and he continues in this election, it could damage Santorum’s position by splitting the anti-Romney votes between him and Newt. In Ohio, Gingrich secured 15% of the votes, which would, no doubt, have gone to Santorum had Gingrich dropped out of the running. Moreover, there are only so many evangelical states for Rick to win, Tennessee and Oklahoma being his two latest victories, where more than 70% of Republican voters were evangelicals. His strategy involves less money and less organisation, but what he lacks in glossiness, he makes up with by sincerity – or a substantial amount of it for a politician. Santorum secured further support in the last couple of days approaching the Tuesday by singling out Obama’s healthcare policy as the main concern for Republican candidates, being the issue central to Government’s role in American lives. He said, that Romney had not only introduced a similar healthcare policy in Massachusetts, but that he was not candid about this in his 2012 campaign. ‘A bad policy is one thing.’ said Santorum, ‘But lying to the American people is something else.’
Given his crushing financial advantage and his ability to use this for big campaigns up until now, Romney was expected to have more of a landslide victory here than the weak tumble forward that he experienced. His only landslide victory was in his home state. Romney’s business-like tactics seem to be failing to secure his momentum; the super PAC backing him outspent Santorum’s by about a four to one margin in Ohio, according to a Wall Street Journal tally of ad-spending, and could have been responsible for more than half of the $75 million + ad-spending thus far. Regardless, finance, as a sour Gingrich highlights, will not win the general election as Obama is sure to raise Wall Street funds.
Had Romney secured a more stable win in these Super Tuesday states, particularly Ohio, he could have effectively secured his win up to the general election. Other candidates would fall out of the running and voters would be encouraged to ride the Romney train as his nomination appears more and more inevitable. But this was not the case, and whilst Santorum’s surge does not mean that Romney will not win, it does mean that the finish-line in this race has just become a lot further away.