Brian Snyder / Reuters
Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks to supporters at his "Super Tuesday" primary election night rally in Boston, March 6, 2012.
Romney wins the most delegates, the most states, and the big prize of Ohio… But he’s still unable to pull away from his GOP competition… Why? Look no further than ideology… The good news for Romney: He increases his delegate lead… Question for Gingrich: Does he stay or does he go?... What’s next: the non-Romney-friendly states of Kansas (March 10), Alabama (March 13), and Mississippi (March 13)… Team Romney continues to enjoy an ad-spending advantage in these upcoming states, but do note that the Romney camp hasn’t spent a DIME in them… Obama lectures GOP rivals on their Iran rhetoric… And Kucinich and Schmidt lose.
Chuck takes a Deep Dive into the delegate counts out of last night, and discusses the total amount of delegates each candidate has up to this point in the race, and how the race can play out from here.
*** Unable to pull away: It’s hard to imagine that someone could win the most delegates (and a MAJORITY of all available) on Super Tuesday, the most states, and -- after midnight -- the big prize of Ohio, but still come out of it bloodier and more bruised than when the day began. But that’s exactly what seemed to happen to Mitt Romney last night. Yesterday, we wrote that Super Tuesday could come down to math vs. perception. And the perception from Super Tuesday was that Romney continues to win when it matters, but that he also continues to be unable to put the GOP race away, despite enjoying almost every advantage (the money, the organization, the pro-Romney Super PAC, the fact that this is his second presidential bid, the divided Santorum-Newt vote). It was one thing for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to duke it out in ’08, trading victories and splitting up the delegates; it was a clash of political titans. But it’s another thing for Romney -- the always-assumed GOP front-runner -- to be unable to pull away from Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. The story on Romney remains the same as it was six months ago: It’s difficult to see how he’s denied the nomination, but it’s also difficult how he gets there, at least as soon as he wants to. How does he land this nomination plane? How does the Romney campaign gently start bringing conservatives aboard without using the "you have no choice”/”Santorum/Gingrich can't make the math work" sledgehammer?
*** Why is Romney unable to pull away? The answer to that question continues to come down to ideology. According to the exit polls in Ohio, Santorum easily won among very conservatives (48%-30%) and overall conservatives (41%-35%), while Romney won the other ideological subgroups (somewhat conservatives, moderates/liberals). Santorum won Tea Party supporters (39%-36%), while Romney won Tea Party detractors (45%-30%). And Santorum ran up the score with evangelicals (47%-30%). Given that kind of very conservative resistance we’ve seen in other contests -- Iowa, South Carolina, Michigan, and Ohio -- it’s a tribute to Romney that he remains on track to winning the GOP presidential nomination. But it also explains why he’s unable to pull away from his under-funded and less-organized opposition.
*** The good news for Romney: He increases his delegate lead: So that’s the bad news for Romney. The good news for him is the delegate score from last night. Here are our projections how the delegates will split: Romney 219, Santorum 97, Gingrich 82, Paul 22. And overall (with those projections), it’s Romney 338, Santorum 114, Gingrich 112, and Paul 30. But if it’s only about delegates, then consider this: It’s likely that Romney won’t be able to get the necessary 1,144 needed to capture the nomination until late May or even afterwards, if Santorum and Gingrich stay in the race. And that race would continue 1) as the battleground moves next week to the non-Romney-friendly states of Alabama and Mississippi, and 2) as Santorum has begun to ramp up his criticism of Romney’s health-care law. But to demonstrate the math advantage Romney has, consider this: To get to 1,144, Santorum would need to win 62% of all REMAINING delegates; if you assume that Romney wins in his regional strongholds (New York, Connecticut etc), then Santorum needs to win in all other places at a 67% clip; and if you assume that party insider delegates (the RNC version of super delegates) break for Romney 65%-35%, then Santorum would need 71% of the remaining delegates in primaries, caucuses and conventions to get the nomination. Bottom line: The math for Santorum isn’t TECHNICALLY impossible, but it’s HIGHLY improbable.
*** Does Gingrich stay or does he go? Then there’s the question about Gingrich: Does he stay or does he go? Last night, NBC’s Andrew Rafferty notes, Santorum chief strategist John Brabender said the campaign wants the race to become a one-on-one contest, though Brabender maintained it won’t call for Gingrich to drop out. "We're never going to call on anybody to get out, but what we are calling is on Tea Party supporters and conservatives is to rally behind the only candidate that has demonstrated over and over again that he's the one who can compete against Mitt Romney," Brabender said. But a senior Gingrich aide replied, per NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell: "In turn we can make the same argument. The worst part of Santorum's analysis is he doesn't realize he is splitting the moderate vote with Romney." Yet consider this: Outside of Georgia (the one state he won), Gingrich finished third or fourth in every primary where he was on the ballot. Not a single SECOND place anywhere else -- not in Tennessee, not in Oklahoma.
*** What’s next: The GOP race now moves to Kansas (March 10); Alabama, Hawaii, and Mississippi (March 13); Illinois (March 20); and Louisiana (March 24). Based on past races, the only safe ground for Romney might be Illinois (and maybe Hawaii, too). Then again, Romney continues to have the ad-spending advantage in all of these states, except for Hawaii and Kansas. .
Alabama: Restore Our Future (pro-Romney $840,000), Winning Our Future (pro-Gingrich) $290,000
Hawaii: Paul $39,000
Illinois: Restore Our Future $660,000, Gingrich $16,000
Kansas: Winning Our Future $144,000
Louisiana: Restore Our Future $460,000, Winning Our Future $3,000, Gingrich $1,000
Mississippi: Restore Our Future $750,000, Winning Our Future $240,000, Santorum $4,000
*** Three notes on this ad spending: One, notice that the pro-Romney Super PAC -- but NOT the Romney campaign -- is advertising in these states. It’s yet another sign that the Romney campaign doesn’t have much money left (the FEC report on March 20 will be interesting to see. Two, where would Gingrich be without Sheldon Adelson and the Adelson-funded Super PAC. And three, no one has gotten more bang for his campaign-spending buck than Santorum.
*** On the trail, per NBC’s Adam Perez: Gingrich holds four events in Alabama… And Santorum spends his day in Mississippi.
*** Obama lectures GOP rivals, especially Romney, about their bellicose rhetoric: In addition to Super Tuesday, the other big political event yesterday was President Obama’s White House news conference. And what struck us the most was when he lectured his GOP rivals on their rhetoric toward Iran. “Those folks don’t have a lot of responsibilities,” he said. “They’re not commander-in-chief. And when I see the casualness with which some of these folks talk about war, I’m reminded of the costs involved in war. I’m reminded that the decision that I have to make in terms of sending our young men and women into battle, and the impacts that has on their lives, the impact it has on our national security, the impact it has on our economy. This is not a game. There’s nothing casual about it.” When can tell you that Obama was, in particular, referring to Romney and his speech at AIPAC. Here’s what Romney said, via satellite:”I will station multiple carriers and warships at Iran’s door.” The Obama White House gets particularly animated over these criticisms about Iran, and believes Romney should be held more accountable for his rhetoric. It was quite striking that Romney decided to sound not just hawkish but almost as if he'd overrule his military commanders about where to move American battleships.
*** Kucinich, Schmidt lose: Finally, it’s worth pointing out that we saw two congressional incumbents go down to defeat in Ohio last night. First, in a race due to redistricting, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D) lost a primary race to Rep. (D) Marcy Kaptur (D). And get this: “Kaptur moves on to the November general election where she likely will face Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, better known as ‘Joe the Plumber.’” And also in Ohio, Rep. Jean Schmidt (R) lost her GOP primary against Brad Wenstrup, “a doctor who has never held political office,” the Cincy Enquirer says. We know that there will be other member-vs.-member contests as a results of redistricting, but you have to ask yourself: Is this the start of another anti-Washington year?
Countdown to Alabama, Hawaii, and Mississippi: 6 days
Countdown to Election Day: 244 days
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