Election 2012: Reality Check Tuesday

Note: The author has been supporting former US Senator Rick Santorum since August 2011 and is actively involved in his campaign. Weigh the opinions expressed and arguments presented as you see fit.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and ex-US Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania both had good nights while it seems to be “goodnight” for ex-US House of Representatives speaker Newt Gingrich.

For Texas Congressman Ron Paul it was more of the same. ‘

Super Tuesday revealed glaring weaknesses even for the victors.

The most startling number of the night wasn’t the sliver separating Romney from Santorum in Ohio but the 40% Ron Paul “protest vote” in Virginia. Though only the two were on the Old Dominion GOP ballot, that so many people who disagree with Paul would cast ballots for him is a measure of the disgust much of the party base has with Romney.

And while Romney won Ohio with 38%, it could be argued that 52% of Buckeye voters cast ballots for conservatives. Not since Goldwater has there been such an open rebellion by the party base against the party establishment.

Though the Bain Capital executive very much remains in the driver’s seat on the road to Tampa Bay, site of the 2012 Republican National Convention, Romney’s continuing performance struggles despite the substantial financial and organizational advantages over his rivals is noteworthy and should be disconcerting.

While there is no threat of Santorum or Gingrich voters supporting President Barack Obama in November, a lack of enthusiasm by the party base could be fatal.

Santorum racked up some badly needed wins on Super Tuesday yet missed another opportunity to “close the deal” in a large state. And once again fell short of a plurality after previously enjoying a big lead over Romney.

Santorum desperately needs to score a big win somewhere before his candidacy devolves into that of a social conservative protest vote.

The upshot for Santorum is that he achieved an important secondary objective: burying Gingrich in two southern states the week before Republicans in two Deep South states hit the polls.

Gingrich experienced his first actual victory party since his South Carolina win back in January.

Granted his landslide win came in his home state of Georgia and though he avoided the indignity of losing the place where he launched his political career.

However there were no shortage of electoral indignities for Gingrich across the Super Tuesday map, particularly with third place finishes in Tennessee, Oklahoma and Ohio.

Gingrich needed more than just a strong showing in Georgia to resuscitate his floundering candidacy. Winning Oklahoma and Tennessee would have better positioned him in next Tuesday’s Mississippi and Alabama primaries.

Instead, Santorum enhanced his status as the conservative alternative to Romney while Gingrich is increasingly being viewed as a “conservative bleeder” enabling Romney’s nomination by remaining in the race.

Expect Gingrich to flail mightily in Alabama and Mississippi, and barring a shocking turnaround, with the kill shot to his candidacy coming in Louisiana on March 24th.

Since Paul’s candidacy steered towards collecting delegates for a purpose unrelated to actually winning the party’s presidential nomination, his effort remains immune to his failure to win a state. Ever.

Overall Romney achieved what he wanted, bagging a big state while Santorum has recovered from two rough weeks and goes into friendly territory against a frontrunner distrusted by conservatives and an increasingly marginalized Gingrich.

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