March 16, 2012 Leave a comment
By Sean McDonough
Mitt Romney reaffirmed his position as the favorite to win the GOP presidential nomination, as the former Massachusetts Governor won six of 10 states that held primaries Super Tuesday. Rick Santorum took three states, and Newt Gingrich won his home state of Georgia.
Alaska, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Vermont, Tennessee, Idaho, Georgia, Virginia, North Dakota and Ohio all voted Tuesday.
Santorum, who is viewed by many as the most viable alternative to Romney, was able to bolster credibility to his campaign by winning Oklahoma, Tennessee and North Dakota, along with a closely contested second-place finish in Ohio, which was Tuesday’s most sought after contest. Santorum’s three wins will be portrayed as momentum for his grass-roots campaign and will figure to keep the former Pennsylvania senator in the race for the long haul.
But the biggest prize Tuesday went to Romney in the form of a win in Ohio, where he narrowly edged out Santorum. Romney’s 38% of the vote bested Santorum’s 37%, as approximately 12,000 votes represented the difference maker in the one percentage point victory.
Ohio is seen as crucial because of its status as a major battleground state in the general election. Although Romney secured the win, the less-than-decisive win will be viewed as more of a moral victory because he was not able to separate himself from the rest of the field, something a larger win margin would have done.
“There’s a great deal of divide within the Republican Party,” said Wayne Steger, a political science professor at DePaul. “It’s not narrow, it’s still an open race.”
Romney’s victory in Ohio came down to his ability to win counties of the state’s three major cities and their suburbs: Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. In Cuyahoga County, where Cleveland is located, Romney handily defeated Santorum by winning 49% of the vote to Santorum’s 30%. Moreover, Romney also won big in Hamilton County, where Cincinnati is located, in which he also received 49% to Santorum’s 22%.
On the other side of the spectrum, Santorum won decisively in Ohio’s more rural counties, where he centered much of his campaign on trying to appeal to middle-class factory workers, one of his key demographics.
David H. Kalsbeek, senior vice president of DePaul, who spent much of his life in Cincinnati, said he was not surprised Santorum did well in rural Ohio. “Santorum speaks the rural message,” he said. Kalsbeek added that Romney’s success in Cleveland and Columbus didn’t shock him either because those areas of Ohio tend to lean toward the center of the political divide.
Unlike Ohio, the results of the other Super Tuesday contests surprised very few. Romney and Gingrich both had convincing wins in their home states of Massachusetts and Georgia, respectively. Romney won 72% of the vote in his home-state, whereas Gingrich received 47% of the Georgia vote to earn his second primary win.
“I’m not surprised [by Romney’s success]. He’s been the favored candidate the whole race,” said Sandy Schoeneich, a junior at DePaul who majors in health studies.
Romney’s win in Virginia was more of a formality because only he and Texas Congressman Ron Paul appeared on the ballot. Additionally, the Mormon vote in Idaho enabled Romney to cruise to an easy victory, garnering 62% of the vote. Romney’s wins in Vermont and the Bay State bolstered his presence in New England, adding to previous wins in New Hampshire and Maine.
The former governor also added Alaska to his list of primaries won.
Romney’s second-place finishes in Tennessee and Oklahoma reinforce the notion that he will not fare well in most southern states, whose populations tend to be more conservative-leaning. Thus, wins in both of those states will be seen as big moral victories for Santorum who believes he is the only true conservative in the race.
Santorum’s PAC, Red, White and Blue Fund, has called for Gingrich to exit the race. “With Gingrich exiting the race it would be a true head-to-head race and conservatives would be able to make a choice between a consistent conservative in Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney. For instance, with Gingrich out of the race Santorum would have won both Ohio and Michigan,” Red, White and Blue Fund adviser Stuart Roy said.
The GOP race will now set its sights on Alabama, Hawaii and Missouri caucuses.
(Note: Story originally ran in The DePaulia, March 12 edition)