Romney wins AK, OH, VA, MA, VT, and ID; Gingrich wins GA; Santorum wins OK, TN, and ND. Here are some random thoughts.
1) It looks like Romney will eke out a very narrow win in Ohio. The pattern is becoming familiar. Romney can’t just outspend his opponents; he must swamp them in order to pull out a narrow victory. There is simply no comparison between Romney’s campaign apparatus and Santorum’s primitive organization. Yes, a win is a win, and Romney is racking up many important ones. But if superior money and organization is the only way to compensate for his flaccid appeal to the public, then what does that say about his chances against Obama in the general election when he will lack those advantages?
2) Ron Paul was able to garner 41% against Romney in Virginia, where Santorum and Gingrich were off the ballot. He even won CD-3, picking up 3 delegates. This is not a vote of confidence in Mitt Romney.
3) All the talk of Romney closing in on Santorum in Tennessee was unfounded. Romney clearly does not resonate in the south, even with Santorum trending down and splitting the vote with Gingrich, and even as he put some resources into the state late in the game. In fact, Romney’s Super PAC outspent Santorum 3-1. In the end, he only won 3 counties by narrow margins. Romney clearly has a problem with southern and evangelical voters, a key component of the GOP base. From here, the show moves on to Kansas, Alabama, Mississippi, and then Missouri. Rick Santorum should be in a strong position to win those states.
4) According to exit polls, 50% of Massachusetts voters feel that Romneycare went too far.
5) Newt put almost all of his time and treasure into winning his home state. He won it. Yay! But he came in third place even in other southern states like Oklahoma and Tennessee. He has been coming in dead last in almost every primary. If he really wants to see Romney defeated, he is clearly not the one with the credible plan to do so. Santorum definitely has a more legitimate narrative.
6) Ron Paul has really fizzled since his strong performance in Iowa. He has yet to win a primary or caucus, and all the hype about him winning North Dakota was false.
7) With Santorum losing opportunities to pick up delegates in Virginia, Georgia, Massachusetts, and part of Ohio, it is hard to see him ever winning a majority of delegates. On the other hand, Santorum’s relatively good performance, in conjunction with a favorable calender, will encourage him to fight on and make it difficult for Romney to turn his delegate lead into a winning majority. This might raise the hopes of those who are rooting for none of the above at the convention.
8) Perhaps, the biggest news of the night is outside the confines of the presidential election. In OH-2, Representative Jean Schmidt was defeated in a stunning upset by conservative challenger Brad Wenstrup. She is the first of those who voted for the debt ceiling deal to go down in a primary. This should encourage us to focus our attention on congressional races in the coming weeks. There are primaries in Alabama and Mississippi next week. Several weak incumbents, such as Jo Bonner, Spencer Bachus, and Steve Palazzo, have primary challengers. I’m especially interested in Bachus’s seat. Let the house cleaning begin. We should not leave any stone unturned.