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.

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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.

DeWine and Santorum: Together Again

Mike DeWine, Ohio’s Attorney General, is one of the first major officials to publicly switch his support from Mitt Romney to Rick Santorum.  These two share the dubious distinction of getting smashed in their 2006 Senate re-election campaign, although their losses were for different reasons.  Santorum, from what I remember, was attacked for being too conservative and out-of-step with his fellow Pennsylvanians.  Mike DeWine had sometimes swayed to the left with the Gang of 14, and Ohio’s Republican Governor and other officeholders had dirtied the waters with their ethics and competence problems.  Nevertheless, they both lost by over 15% in that awful year of 2006, which also saw Senate losses in Virginia and Montana not to mention the Democrat takeover of the House.

While Mike DeWine gave the conservative right a reason to be apathetic towards Senate bid and even towards his campaign for Attorney General, his instincts seemed to be better than his Senate cohort George Voinovich.  (Voinovich, for the record, has backed Romney.)  DeWine initially favored Tim Pawlenty, and then endorsed Mitt Romney after the Minnesota governor bowed out.  Last summer, Mitt Romney was the obvious choice for a member of the establishment and a career politician like Mike DeWine couldn’t be seen with the likes of Bachmann, Perry, or Cain.

But Mitt fever has never caught hold in Ohio.  Four years ago, Mike Huckabee took about 30% of the vote in a March primary that was more noted for its support in the Democrat primary for Hillary Clinton.  Ohio is politically separated by its cities and the turnpike with the urban areas and the counties closest to Lake Erie being more Democratic.  Coincidentally, these areas also supported McCain by a greater margin than the more rural central counties in the state.

I expect that Romney will concentrate his efforts in Cuyahoga and Franklin counties while Santorum will get support from the rural areas.  Romney’s Michigan coattails unfortunately meet a wall at the Port of Toledo and he will need to work for Ohio’s votes like he hasn’t seemed to work before.   In the absence of Santorum, Newt Gingrich would be winning the rural areas hands down and he has an appeal with some urban Republicans as well.  But Santorum’s experience with worker’s unions and mining towns actually help him in these Appalachian areas of Ohio more so than in any other state thus far.  DeWine sees it, smells it, and is jumping on board the Santorum train.

Santorum for President

After a year of saying that I’d vote for any one of these candidates over Obama (which is still true, of course), it seems like Ohio will have a battle for the Republican primary this year. Four years ago, I kept going back and forth between Romney and Huckabee. When Huckabee did not win South Carolina or Florida, he did not seem to have a realistic path to the nomination. When Romney failed to beat McCain in many of the winner-take-all Super Tuesday states in early February, he decided to pull out and essentially to let McCain win. This prompted Rush Limbaugh to promote Operation Chaos in states like Ohio and Texas where Republicans could cross over and vote for Hillary Clinton in the Democrat primary. It felt a little odd, but you bet I did it.

Earlier this summer, I was gently backing Herman Cain and I likely would be voting for him next month if he had survived the harassment allegation stories. Newt Gingrich seems to be one of those thinkers who can talk his way through any side of any issue, and I think this aspect of his personality has gotten him in more trouble than he deserves. I believe he would govern as a small-government Reagan conservative and I entirely respect his record of balanced budgets, which would never have happened under a Democrat Congress or a Bob Michel Congress. I would vote for Mitt as well in the general election, but I would like to ask him where he was on April 15, 2009. He was in the weeds with other Republican crickets whispering that these Tea Party folks are crazy.

When Rick Santorum speaks, you know that his conservative message is from the heart. He hasn’t rationalized it (Newt) or been coached at it (Mitt). My hesitancy to this point has been his electability, and I write this before the results come in from Minnesota or Missouri where they are predicting a Santorum victory.  Ideologically, Santorum is the closest to my views and I have a growing respect for people who continue to stand by their religious beliefs despite catcalls from the “tolerant” left.  In fact his negatives from the people with whom I’ve spoken mostly seem to be related to his faith and whether or not he can separate it from his governing.  I’d rather make that argument on personal faith and liberty than an argument on RomneyCare or on irratic monologues.

So previously I was for the Haagen Dazs Black Walnut candidate; now I’m for dry white toast in a sweater vest.  I hope Rick Santorum wins over Ohio and then the rest of the nation.