Mitt Romney came into Super Tuesday on a five state winning streak, rising poll numbers, and a growing sense that he would be the eventual Republican nominee. While Romney was trending upward, his prime opponent, Rick Santorum, appeared to be trending downward.
Making matters worse for Santorum was that he and his Super PAC lacked the financial resources to compete with Romney after going for broke in Romney’s home state of Michigan. Not only was Santorum outspent by Romney in every Super Tuesday contest, Newt Gingrich also outspent him in every state except for Ohio. Still, Santorum managed to overcome those obstacles and perform well.
Romney posted quick wins in the three states he was expected to win, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Virginia. He would later add a victory in Idaho and ultimately Ohio to his tally. Gingrich also posted a victory in his home state of Georgia, but failed to reach the 50 percent threshold that he predicted earlier in the week. Santorum reeled off big victories in North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and basically fought Romney to a tie in Ohio.
While Romney will promote the number of delegates he was able to add to his lead, he did not look like a candidate who was in the process of putting the nomination away. Unlike the contests in Arizona and Michigan, Santorum’s ability to get into the win column in multiple states helps him create momentum at the time when Romney needs him to go away.
Five Takeaways from Super Tuesday
Romney Wins Ohio but Shutout in the South
Romney’s wins in Idaho, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Virginia could have been predicted months ago. His narrow victory in Ohio staved off an embarrassing loss to Santorum after drowning the former Pennsylvania Senator in negative ads, but did nothing to show strength. More damaging for Romney is his inability to win in the south where the race heads next week. A Republican nominee who struggles in the south will be worrisome for GOP operatives. Romney needs a win where he is not expected to do well, something he has yet to do in this cycle.
Gingrich Wins Georgia but Nothing Else
If you watched Gingrich’s speech last night you might have thought he won five or six contests, he didn’t. Gingrich and his Super PAC spent a lot of money and a ton of time campaigning in his home state of Georgia. He won, but it was expected. In the other states he finished in either third or fourth place. In fact, his third place finishes in and Oklahoma and Tennessee don’t give much credence to the idea that he is the strongest candidate in the south.
Rumors of Ron Paul’s Strength Are Overstated
The media keeps talking about the states that Ron Paul is expected to win, but it never materializes. Political pundits expected Paul to win in North Dakota or Idaho, but he got routed in both. His most impressive finish on Super Tuesday was in Virginia, where he got 41 percent of the vote. It’s important to note that neither Gingrich nor Santorum were on the ballot there.
Santorum Wins Despite Disadvantages and Recent Stumbles
Super Tuesday could have been a disaster for Santorum, but he was able to post three impressive wins despite being outspent and beat up by negative campaign ads. More importantly, Santorum won Oklahoma and Tennessee in a big way. By limiting Gingrich to a victory only in his home state, Santorum remains the conservative alternative to Romney. The Gingrich comeback is nothing more than wishful thinking.
Trouble Ahead for Romney
The calendar does not favor Romney in the days ahead. With contests in Alabama and Mississippi next week, the Romney opposition could get big wins that will generate momentum and campaign contributions. That spells trouble for Romney moving forward.
Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography.com
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