Demographics proved to be destiny once again for Mitt Romney, who is one big step closer to wrapping up the Republican presidential nomination.
NBC News has declared Romney the winner in Wisconsin. He won 42-38 percent over Rick Santorum with 99 percent of the vote in, and familiar patterns emerged that led to his win, according to exit polls.
Santorum faced an uphill battle going into Wisconsin because, despite its blue-collar voters, Wisconsin lacked the evangelicals that have fueled his insurgent campaign. And he only won those voters by a narrow margin.
Romney also went beyond his traditional base, winning with Tea Party supporters (48-37 percent), those making below $100,000 (40-38 percent), non-college graduates (42-38 percent), and tying with very conservatives (43-43 percent).
Just 38 percent of Republican primary voters Tuesday said they were born-again or evangelical Christians in Wisconsin – the same number that said so in 2008. But Santorum won them by just a 43-39 percent margin.
Santorum has not won in a state with less than 57 percent evangelical population. The average evangelical population in states Santorum has won was 72 percent.
By contrast, the average evangelical population in states where Romney won was 36 percent, about where it was in Wisconsin Tuesday.
Voters were more downscale and blue collar than in typical Romney wins. States where he has won averaged 50 percent college grads and 33 percent making more than $100,000. In Wisconsin, 43 percent had a college degree and 26 percent said they made more than $100,000 a year. But both numbers were up from 2008.
Romney’s biggest margin was on one question. Voters said the one quality that mattered most in deciding how they would vote was being able to defeat President Obama. Almost one-in-four (36 percent) said that was their top priority, and overwhelmingly, they picked Romney by a whopping 68-23 percent margin.