Ohio: Super Tuesday to November

It looks like Mitt Romney will sneak past Rick Santorum in Ohio by about 38%-37%.  Romney had some momentum with some victories last week, and conventional wisdom said that Santorum would be hurt by all the negative press on the social issues.  (This would be the Limbaugh – Fluke flap.)  But Santorum had obviously built up enough trust and good will among Ohio voters to give him the edge through most of the night.

Romney has done well with urban Republicans, a fact that causes some people concern while other people see it as an asset.  Here is a side-by-side comparison of the Romney-Santorum county map with the Obama-McCain county map.

We see that Romney beat Santorum in most of northeast Ohio, then in the Columbus and the Cincinnatti areas.  The rest of the state including the appalachian and rural areas went to Santorum.  In 2008, Obama won the three big cities plus more of northeast Ohio, the Toledo area, and a few counties by the Ohio river.

So Romney’s strength is regionally identical to Obama’s strength.  The Optimist: “Romney’s urban strength will weaken the margin of victory Obama has in the cities, while the more conservative areas will still hold strong for the Republican.”  The Pessimist: “the turnout in the cities will overwhelm the Republican, and the conservative turnout will be dampened by a candidate like Mitt Romney.”  It remains to be seen which scenario is correct, but I’m afraid that this is the question we’ll be asking ourselves for the next eight months.

In addition to winning the state, Romney has won ten congressional districts while Santorum took six.

There are seven Romney districts in red and three in pink.  These pink disctricts are ones where Rick Santorum failed to get his delegate nominations on the ballot.  These include the Lake Erie district (Marcy Kaptur) and the Younstown district (Tim Ryan) which both would have been won by Romney anyway.  Rick Santorum won the counties included in the southeastern ohio River district (Bill Johnson), so he could have closed it to a 9-7 split with this district flipping to his side.  The red district just to the north of Columbus (Pat Tibiri) was a close call for most of the night, but Romney ended up with a slight edge here.

Santorum had a very slight edge in the 8th district just north of Cincinnatti (John Boehner), but won more comfortably in the rest of the state with particular strength in the northwest districts (Bob Latta and Jim Jordan).   He also won the Democratic 3rd district in Columbus, an unexpected result given Romney’s win in Franklin County.

In other races in the state, Josh Mandel won the Senate nomination with 63% of the vote.  The second place challenger got 14% and ran for Senate as a Tea Party Independent in 2010, while I’ll admit that Donna Glisman is a surprise getting 12%.  I believe Mandel will be a strong candidate with some national appeal (RedState and Jim DeMint), and will bring a good fight to Sherrod Brown and his national appeal (DailyKos and MSNBC).

Two incumbent Congressmen lost in primary races.  Toledo’s Marcy Kaptur was endorsed by Cleveland’s Plain Dealer, and her strength in the Lake Erie distrct was too much for Dennis Kucinich to survive.  I look for him to either move to Washington state to continue his political career, or maybe he’ll switch gears and become a contributor to FoxNews.  Either way, his chapters in Cleveland seem to be coming to a close.  In a surprising race, Brad Wenstrup (http://usabrad.com/) beat Jean Schmidt in Ohio’s 2nd district.  Jean Schmidt had never had a comfortable race since taking over the seat vacated by Rob Portman in 2005, and she obviously could not appeal to newer voters in a redrawn district.  Finally in the new Columbus 3rd district, Joyce Beatty (http://beattyforcongress.com/) won a tight race against former one-term Congresswoman MaryJo Kilroy and she is likely to win this Democratic seat in November.

A long night here in Ohio.  Romney seems to have held his 2:1 margin in delegates over Rick Santorum.  Next week we move south, and if Romney is the front runner then he’ll have to try and compete in Alabama and Mississippi.  Losses there will cause people to continue to question his strength as a front-runner and he’ll have to chalk up victories in the dominican territories (which are likely wins for Romney) which follow afterward.  Two weeks from now is the next Super Tuesday with Illinois in play.

The path to victory is more difficult after tonight for Santorum and especially for Gingrich, but it is not impossible. Mitt Romney was the conservative choice four years ago, and voters may have to satisfy themselves with pushing him even more to the right in 2012.