It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t impressive, but Mitt Romney came out a winner Tuesday night.
He came into Super Tuesday with one significant goal: winning Ohio. And, it appears that he did – albeit by a narrower margin than he had wanted.
He won the most delegates. He won more states than anyone else.
He didn’t win over the hearts of GOP voters, but he won their heads.
As ABC News’ Gary Langer has noted: “In all seven states holding primaries Tuesday night combined, 61 percent of voters picked either electability or experience as the top attribute they were looking for in a candidate – and 51 percent of them supported Romney. His challenge is that a sizable remaining chunk of the GOP electorate, 36 percent across these seven states, picked a different attribute as more important – either the candidate with ‘strong moral character’ or the ‘true conservative.’ And among these true believers, Romney’s support plummeted to just 17 percent. Forty-six percent instead voted for Santorum, 20 percent Paul, 16 percent Gingrich.”
But, while Romney desperately wants to close the book on the 2012 GOP primary, his opponents are ready to simply start another chapter.
Santorum may have come up short in Ohio, but he’s likely to rack up wins next week in Kansas, Alabama, and Mississippi.
All three states have an electoral make-up that looks much more like Tennessee and Oklahoma – two states Santorum easily carried Tuesday night – than they do Ohio or Massachusetts.
For example, in 2008, evangelical voters made up 77 percent of the vote in Alabama and 69 percent of the vote in Mississippi.
In Tennessee, Tuesday night, 73 percent of GOP primary voters considered themselves to be Evangelical, while 72 percent of Oklahoma voters defined themselves as Evangelical.
So, while it is all but impossible for Santorum to win enough delegates to win the nomination outright, he will be able to continue to rack up victories in a number of primary and caucus states this month.
In fact, it’s not until April 3 when the states with the demographic profile more suited for Romney – like Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, and DC – get to vote.
So, the slog continues.
Romney continues to grind away at building his delegate lead while trying to ensure that the prolonged primary contest doesn’t continue to grind down his already weak approval ratings among the voters he needs this fall.