He outspent Rick Santorum 4-to-1 on air (including super PAC money) and owned the momentum heading into a center-right, centrist state. So how, exactly, did Mitt Romney manage to win by a scant 12,000 votes?
The explanation may lie in two factors: Early voting, and poorer-than-expected returns around Columbus.
On Tuesday, Romney found success in and around cities like Cleveland and Cincinnati. But in Franklin County, home of the state capital, he underperformed.
The former Bay State governor won only 41 percent there, compared with 49 percent in Cleveland's Cuyahoga County. In Hamilton County, home to Cincinnati, he also won 49 percent. But in Franklin County, his margin was only 5 points. In Cuyahoga and Hamilton counties, his margin was 19 and 20 points, respectively.
"For some reason, his win in Franklin County was not as big as his big wins in Cuyahoga and Hamilton counties," said Curt Steiner, a Columbus-based GOP strategist who supported Romney. "The party machines did more for him there, obviously."
Steiner also pointed to the fact that Santorum led Romney by double-digits in polling done only a week before the election. That meant the state's early voting likely skewed heavily for Santorum – 10 days before Super Tuesday, 159,000 people had voted, according to Secretary of State Jon Husted.
NATIONAL JOURNAL’S SUPER TUESDAY REPORT
With No Knockout Punch, a Bruising Battle Plods On
[New York Times, 3/7/12] Romney had hoped that a string of Super Tuesday victories in contests from Vermont to Alaska would effectively bring the GOP race to a close. But he found himself winning over Santorum by only the slimmest of margins in Ohio, while losing other contests across the South.
Romney Camp: Face the “Harsh Logic of the Math”
[MSNBC, 3/7/12] Eric Fehrnstrom, a longtime adviser to Mitt Romney, argues that rival campaigns needs to face “the harsh logic of the math” in the delegate count. “There is virtually no opportunity for either Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich to overtake Mitt Romney in the delegate count,” Fehrnstrom told MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell.
The Bucket List: Why Older Whites Are Dominating the GOP Primaries
[National Journal, 3/7/12] National Journal’s Ronald Brownstein writes that the latest exit polls for turnout in the Republican race over its first two months underscore the extent to which the modern GOP coalition revolves around white voters – and increasingly, as the graying baby boom moves right, older white voters.
Super Tuesday Voters Frustrated With GOP Campaign, Candidates
[Washington Post, 3/6/12] Millions of Republican voters finally had their say in the protracted presidential race, but in interviews, they sounded a theme: They’re frustrated. Voters have expressed dismay with the infighting, negativity, and lack of message discipline among the GOP candidates.
Romney and Galactus: Five Lessons from Super Tuesday
[Slate, 3/7/12] Dave Weigel observes that a plurality of last-minute deciders broke Romney's way in Tennessee and Ohio, which bodes well for the future.
Romney's Coalition Just Big Enough to Hold Off Challengers
[National Journal, 3/7/12] Tuesday night's results reinforce the stark differences that still remain in the Republican Party, NJ’s Brownstein writes. Still, the momentum is clearly on the side of Romney, as he reinforced the inevitability factor to move one step closer to the GOP nomination.
Mitt Romney Fights Back With Math
[Politico, 3/7/12] It's almost numerically impossible for Romney's rivals to win enough delegates to take the nomination at the Republican National Convention. Romney's campaign said that even if Romney doesn't win every state in the rest of the primary race, he'll still pick up delegates, continuing to widen his lead and increase his chances for an eventual win.
Meet Romney, Independent Candidate for President
[National Journal, 3/7/12] In the end, Super Tuesday only supplied another heap of evidence that Romney is seen as yesterday's Republican by the party's fast-evolving base, which is in the throes of a rebellion against big-government-accomodating Republicans and a country they think has evolved fatally leftward in social values.
Ohio’s Divided Political Passions on Display in Vote
[New York Times, 3/7/12] Once again, Ohio lived up to its reputation as a state of deeply divided political passions. Romney and Santorum battled for primacy in the state on Tuesday night, separated by only a few thousand votes in the most contested battle of the evening.
In the Rural South, Romney Just Couldn’t Connect
[Los Angeles Times, 3/6/12] Romney's perceived trouble in empathizing with Americans who struggle to pay their bills is part of his larger difficulty in consolidating his party's base, particularly voters most animated by social issues.
Virginia’s Message for Romney
[National Journal, 3/7/12] Virginia, a big win for Romney on Tuesday? Hardly. The exit polls for the state show Romney being forced to share roughly 40 percent of the Republican primary vote with Ron Paul, the fourth candidate in the race, who has virtually no chance of winning the nomination.
Romney Raised $11.5 Million in February
[National Journal, 3/7/12] Romney raised $11.5 million in February, his campaign announced on Wednesday. Spokeswoman Andrea Saul said the haul was Romney's second-highest fundraising month to date, his best being December 2011 when he took in almost $12 million. He raised more than $6.5 million in January.
Super Tuesday Super PAC Spending Blitz
[Roll Call, 3/6/12] Super PACs backing the presidential candidates made hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of last-minute expenditures on TV and radio ads, direct mail, and phone banks on the eve of Super Tuesday, with the big spending concentrated on Ohio.
Santorum, Gingrich Look Headed to Long Duel
[Wall Street Journal, 3/6/12] Santorum and Newt Gingrich effectively split the Southern states in Tuesday’s contest, and both men used the results to argue that they were the conservative alternate to Romney. Now, the race ahead is about who blinks first.
Santorum Camp Asking Conservatives to Pressure Gingrich to Drop Out
[NBC, 3/6/12] Santorum's campaign is calling on conservatives to pressure Gingrich to abandon his White House bid. Senior strategist John Brabender said that while he wasn’t specifically calling for Gingrich to drop out, he was urging conservatives to “rally behind the only candidate that has demonstrated over and over again that he's the one who can compete against Mitt Romney.”
Cain: Santorum, Gingrich Need To Be ‘Realistic’
[National Journal, 3/7/12] After Romney won several critical victories on Super Tuesday, former GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain said that Gingrich and Santorum need to look at the numbers, be “realistic” and come up with a "plan B."
Road Ahead Unclear for Gingrich
[Atlanta Journal Constitution, 3/6/12] Tuesday was meant to be Gingrich’s moment, in which after a fallow February his presidential campaign could rebound by showing strength in the GOP’s Southern core. But by claiming only a single victory in the state he once represented in Congress, Gingrich’s viability is in doubt.
No Wins in Sight for Ron Paul
[Politico, 3/6/12] Paul placed second in the North Dakota caucuses, eliminating his best shot at a Super Tuesday first-place. It’s a cycle that has repeatedly played out during Paul’s third White House bid – huge crowds show up to Paul events, but then the losses roll in.
Attend a National Journal LIVE event | Sign up for National Journal newsletters
Don't Miss Today's Top Stories