Santorum in Ohio and After

A new Quinnipiac poll was released this Friday and PPP and other firms are going to be polling through the weekend, and it shows that Mitt Romney got a bump after his Michigan win but not enough to take an Ohio lead over Santorum. National polls show a bigger jump, but that has changed after every state election. Super Tuesday will be very important for Rick Santorum if he is going to win the nomination. Ohio is as close to a must-win as you can get.

Currently Romney has about twice as many delegates as the second-place Santorum. Even if Santorum wins Ohio on Tuesday, his absence in Virginia and Romney’s strength in Massachusetts will more than cancel out the margin of victory in Ohio. Santorum also was not able to get on the ballot in every Ohio congressional district.  Looking at the total delegate count on Tuesday, it will likely be about a 2:1 victory for Romney which will certainly get every television soul with a mouth proclaiming that Santorum should give up.

In reality, Gingrich should be the one to give up first. (Ron Paul should as well, but nobody expects that.) If Gingrich only wins Georgia and neither Oklahoma nor Tennessee, it’ll be doubtful he could win Alabama and Mississippi the following week. With Gingrich out and Santorum sticking strong, those states may not be likely to vote for Romney and should give their delegates to Santorum.  (Although Alabama has an interesting Republican problem, as presented in Redstate by Daniel Horowitz.)

The weekend after Alabama / Mississippi is the Missouri caucus where Santorum’s “beauty contest” win will be challenged by Romney in a very severe way. The next Tuesday is a big fight in Illinois with Hawaii, Samoa, and Puerto Rico chalking up votes along the way. Santorum needs to play for and get delegate wins because at this rate, Romney can just play for delegate ties and keep his lead in place.

Looking at the crosstabs in Quinnipiac poll, it shows an expected divide among conservative and moderate Republicans as opposed to the strange exit polls out of Michigan.  Santorum leads Romney and Gingrich among conservatives 40-27-18 and among Tea Party supporters 42-25-22, and also among people who do not identify themselves as Tea Party supporters 35-32-13.  Romney leads among moderates by 46-26-13.  Romney also has small leads among those with a college degree 37-34-14 and with non-evangelicals 37-35-13, and Romney has a significant lead among those 65+ by 40-27-17.  Every other demographic, even among women, shows that Santorum is the current favorite.  Finally, Santorum also has the smallest unfavorable rating at 24% with Romney at 34%, Gingrich at 38%, and Paul at 42%.

This weekend will show different numbers and maybe Romney will catch up and take a small lead.  He is definitely outspending his competition with radio and TV ads, although the Gingrich PAC has also made its presence felt.  Ohio Republicans have had election problems for about a decade.  Josh Mandel should be a good candidate for Ohio conservatives to rally around, but that competition has not started yet.  Mitt Romney has the establishment smell of a Bob Taft and Bob Ney, but only for conservatives who recognize those names.  Santorum has had a very good run as the last of the anti-Romneys and Ohio will be a nice notch in his belt if he can get it.