Osburn: Super Tuesday fails to clear up GOP fieldWritten by Ben Osburn | | email@example.com
On March 6, voters in 10 states went to the polls to cast their ballots. The day is called Super Tuesday because it is the day where the greatest number of states hold their elections and the most delegates are up for grabs. Yet compared to others, this Super Tuesday wasn’t so super. A relatively low number of states held their elections on Super Tuesday this year and after looking at the results, Republicans still look undecided as to who they want their presidential nominee to be.
The 10 states that held their primaries were Oklahoma, North Dakota, Tennessee, Alaska, Vermont, Massachusetts, Idaho Virginia, Georgia and our native Ohio. More than 400 delegates were up for grabs. Alaska, Idaho and North Dakota all use caucuses while the other states use primaries. Delegate allocation of the contests was convoluted. All competing states use proportionate delegation, aside from Virginia and Idaho, which use winner-take-all formats. Some states, like Ohio, will use a winner-take-all system only if a candidate gets more than 50 percent of the popular vote.
Make no mistake — after Super Tuesday’s results, one can make the argument that former Gov. Mitt Romney is going to be the eventual nominee; he won six of the 10 contests on Super Tuesday (Vermont, Massachusetts, Idaho, Ohio, Alaska and Virginia). He was awarded at least 210 of the delegates, bringing him to 415 and counting. His closest competition, former Sen. Rick Santorum, lags behind with 176. Romney has the best ground game, the most money and, quite frankly, the most experience, at least business wise, of all the candidates. Not only has he won the most states of any candidate, he has won states in every region of the country. On Super Tuesday he beat Santorum, 1.4 million to Santorum’s 819,000. Romney won here in Ohio, albeit by only 12,000. Ohio Republicans have correctly chosen the eventual Republican presidential nominee every four years since 1976.
Yet for Romney, the path to the nomination has been more difficult than anticipated. Let’s look at Ohio. The polls closed at 7:30 p.m. and the results did not come until around 1 a.m. What was the reason for this? It’s because, as usual, the state was too close to call. Going into the contest, the polls showed the candidates in a dead heat and as the results started to pour in, it was easy to see why. For most of the night, Santorum held a small percentage lead over Romney. His key areas were the rural parts of Ohio, like Wood, Defiance and Ottawa counties. Oddly enough, Santorum even won Lucas County, but only by 1 percent. The results from urban counties were what won the election for Romney. Cuyahoga and Franklin counties, which contain Cleveland and Columbus respectively, both went for Romney. The most important county of the night was Hamilton. Home to Cincinnati, Hamilton County has historically been a predictor of which candidate gets the win. It overwhelmingly went for Romney, who beat Santorum there by 20 points.
So why was it such a close race? One answer lies in Romney’s faults, more so than Santorum’s strengths. The demographic groups Romney lost in Ohio represent his weaknesses countrywide. For example, Romney has not fared well with young voters. This was true in Ohio as well, as Santorum won every age group younger than 65. Romney also has not fared well with voters who make under $100,000 a year, and this fact held true in Ohio. Finally, Romney has not done well with evangelicals, a strong coalition of the GOP. In Ohio, 47 percent of evangelicals voted for Santorum, to Romney’s 30 percent. Combined with his decline of favorability with independents, these statewide statistics show what Romney needs to work on nationally.
Santorum’s lack of staff and ground game led to his demise in Ohio. In three of the congressional districts, he had no delegates tied to him, allowing Romney to win them even though Santorum earned them. Santorum will need more resources if he is to truly compete. He did not have a bad night though, and some may say he did better than expected. Given his plight in Ohio, he was still able to get 19 delegates and almost won the popular vote. His wins in Oklahoma and North Dakota were not momentous in terms of the delegate count, but certainly provided a boost to his campaign. Tennessee was the biggest win of the night for him, in terms of delegates and consensus. He won every region in the state. Santorum is favored to win the upcoming Kansas and Alabama primaries.
It was thought Ron Paul might have a chance to win North Dakota, but Santorum blocked him and Paul remains winless so far.
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich won Georgia, his home state. Despite only winning one state on Super Tuesday, Gingrich won the state with the most delegates. Calls from fellow conservatives and the Santorum campaign to drop out have not fazed him, as he intends to wait to see how well he does in his native South.
Ben Osburn is a graduate student in political science at the University of Toledo. Email him at letters@toledo freepress.com.