Who was the big winner on the GOP’s biggest day so far this year? It’s becoming a cliché to say Barack Obama, but it is hard to come up with a plausible alternative answer. Mitt Romney was widely expected to win in Massachusetts, Vermont, Virginia and Idaho. While he did do that, his winning percentages in the additional states he won were 38 in Ohio and 32 in Alaska. Even his Vermont percentage was a remarkably low 40. Rick Santorum could not hold the early polling lead he had in Ohio after being outspent by Romney by 4 to 1. He did come away with wins in Tennessee, Oklahoma and North Dakota, but his percentages never topped 40. Newt Gingrich poured all of his efforts and resources into winning his former home state of Georgia, but could not crack the 50 per cent barrier. In the state where he resides currently, Virginia, he was not even on the ballot. Ron Paul, thought to have a chance at winning one of the caucus states, is still looking for his first win this year.
There was a point earlier in this process when dismissing Paul’s chances at attaining the nomination was both widespread and often criticized by commentators because he had an enthusiastic level of support. His prior strategy of amassing a significant block of delegates to bring to the convention is dissipating, and the commentariat now believes he has become a stalking horse for his son’s run in 2016. He is, however, regularly receiving more votes than he did the last time he ran, and finished second in three states yesterday, narrowly missing another by .1 per cent. His 41 per cent in Virginia, where only he and Romney were on the ballot, is perhaps the true testament of how weak the front runner is.
By contrast, Newt Gingrich only made it to the top two in Georgia. While he runs best in the South (for some reason, Oklahoma is now considered a southern state, probably because of its voting patterns), his performance outside that region is pretty dismal. He ran fourth in every state not viewed as southern, with the exception of a distant third in Ohio, and usually did not even make it to double digits. His campaign will nonetheless continue, and he may even experience yet another surge as it will be southern states voting next.
In the past two weeks Rick Santorum has demonstrated how he could both lose as an incumbent U.S. Senator by 18 points and be a serious threat to Mitt Romney’s inevitability. His foolishness before last week’s primary in dissing John Kennedy, college and women using contraception probably cost him the W in Michigan. But his “victory” speech last night shows why he remains a threat. He spoke after winning three states, but before the Ohio results came in and, more significantly, before Romney spoke. He was passionate, engaged and optimistic, and looked like a winner. As I watched him, I was wondering how Romney’s staff was once again outfoxed on a tactical political decision.
And then came Romney’s speech. It was authentic, charming and substantive. Unfortunately, that was Ann not Mitt. Her one false note was recognizing that “honorary Buckeye” Donald Trump. Why this campaign insists on being identified with that clown is beyond me, but it is a campaign decision, not hers. His speech was his usual uninspiring, slogan-filled pablum lacking in substance. At one point he said he was “happy to be in the Bay State.” Now, as a lifelong resident of Massachusetts, I have never heard anyone actually refer to the “Bay State” in conversation. He was also surrounded by obviously programmed and fake chanting. Once again, he gave no reason for his candidacy other than he is not Barack Obama. The speech sounded more like a nomination-winning one, but not one that would have people rushing to take part in the campaign.