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Romney wins Ohio and five other states, Santorum wins three states     Permalink

Mitt Romney won the grand prize yesterday--Ohio--but only with 38% of the vote, edging Rick Santorum by only 1% while outspending him 4 to 1. In Massachusetts, where he was governor, he won with a landslide of 72%. He also won big (63%) in Idaho, which has the second largest percentage of Mormons of any state and he had a nice win (60%) in Virginia, where his main opponents, Santorum and Gingrich, weren't on the ballot, but elsewhere, where he didn't have some special advantage, the picture was less rosy. Even in Vermont, next door to his home state of Massachusetts, he got only 40% but won because the not-Romney vote was fragmented, as usual. And he didn't even crack 30% in Oklahoma, North Dakota, and Tennessee, which all went to Rick Santorum. Georgia went to favorite son Newt Gingrich as expected. Here are the results.

Mitt Romney 33% 26% 63% 72% 24% 38% 28% 28% 40% 60%
Rick Santorum 29% 20% 17% 12% 40% 37% 34% 37% 24% -
Newt Gingrich 14% 47% 2% 5% 8% 15% 27% 24% 8% -
Ron Paul 24% 6% 17% 10% 28% 9% 10% 9% 25% 40%

Romney won more states and more delegates than anyone else, but it was still a mixed night for him. On the positive side, he is almost certain to be the Republican nominee now. On the negative side, his wins were mostly in states were he had a built-in advantage (geography, religion, etc.). Ohio was the main exception. It is the mother of all bellwether states, a rust-belt state that where he was vulnerable to the charge of not caring about the automobile industry and where he has no historical connection. He won, but win an unconvincing 38% of the vote. A look at the county-by-county map of Ohio is instructive.

Ohio map

Romney won in the big cities of Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati and their suburbs, but was beaten decisively in the rural areas of the state. Now think about the consequences of this for the general election. He will surely lose all the big-city counties to Obama in November so his hopes for winning Ohio rest on big turnouts in the rural counties--where the voters demonstrated last night that they don't like him very much. Of course, in a race against Obama, most of these conservative voters will probably hold their collective noses and vote for him, but some may say he is hardly better than Obama and stay home. Ohio is always close and Romney can ill-afford an unenthusiastic "less of two evils" electorate.

Is Romney going to get a big bounce from yesterday's voting? Probably not. The inescapable fact remains that a majority of Republicans do not want him as their nominee and he is merely winning because the opposition to him remains bitterly divided and he can outspend them 4 to 1 or more. In the general election, he won't have that advantage. Furthermore, within a week Kansas, Alabama, and Mississippi are going to vote, and if Santorum wins all three--which is a serious possibility--the contest will continue for a while. If Gingrich does poorly in the two deep South states, Gingrich's financier, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, may finally decide to pull the plug on him, giving Santorum a real boost.

Why can't Romney close the deal? Basically, because the Republican Party is badly divided internally. Young, libertarian, voters clearly prefer Ron Paul and dislike Romney enough that some of them might just write in Paul's name in November just to make a point. For them, Obama is no worse than Romney, and in some ways, like abortion and gay rights, arguably better. Downscale, evangelicals have little interest in Romney, as evidenced by his shellacking in rural Ohio, Tennessee, and Oklahoma. Wealthy Republicans can identify with Romney and are simply voting their economic interests. For them, Jon Huntsman or any rich Republican would do just as well. Once Romney is the nominee, all factions will nominally close ranks behind him, but the big question is how much enthusiasm there will be. When a noted conservative pundit like George Will basically concedes the presidential election to Obama and says conservatives should focus on winning the Senate and holding the House, there clearly is an internal problem within the Republican Party and unless Romney knocks out his contenders quickly, it is only going to get worse.

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Previous headlines

Mar06 Today is Super Tuesday
Mar06 Independent Throws Maine Senate Race into Turmoil
Mar04 Romney Wins Washington, Paul Second (Maybe)
Mar03 Washington State Holds Caucuses Today
Mar03 Maine Senate Field Taking Shape
Feb29 Romney Barely Wins Michigan
Feb29 Olympia Snow Announces Her Retirement
Feb28 Michigan Too Close to Call
Feb28 Kerrey May Run for the Senate in Nebraska
Feb23 Romney Attacks, Santorum Defends, Nothing Much Changes
Feb23 Of Vaginas and Veeps
Feb21 Too Late for a White Knight
Feb21 Another Republican Debate Tomorrow
Feb17 Santorum Leading Romney in Michigan
Feb12 Romney Wins the CPAC Straw Poll
Feb12 Romney Edges Out Paul by 194 Votes in Maine
Feb12 Santorum Leading in Michigan and Nationwide
Feb08 Santorum Wins Big in Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado
Feb05 Romney Wins Nevada Caucuses
Feb05 Republican Primary and Caucus Schedule
Feb04 Romney Expected to Win Big at Nevada Caucuses Today
Feb04 Economy is Improving
Feb01 Romney Wins Decisively in Florida
Jan31 Romney Set to Win Big in Florida
Jan31 Santorum Faces Easy Choice Tomorrow
Jan31 Prediction: Florida Will Win Today
Jan27 Romney Takes Off the Gloves in Final Florida Debate
Jan27 Romney Failed to List Foreign Investments on Legal Form
Jan25 Obama Lays Groundwork for a Populist Campaign in State-of-the-Union Speech
Jan24 Romney Releases 2010 Tax Return
Jan24 Role Reversal in the Debate: Romney Attacks, Gingrich Plays Defense
Jan24 Fred Thompson Endorses Newt Gingrich
Jan22 Gingrich Crushes Romney in South Carolina
Jan20 Perry Drops Out and Endorses Gingrich
Jan20 Gingrich Surging in South Carolina
Jan20 Gingrich's Second Wife Attacks Him
Jan20 Romney Loses His Win in Iowa
Jan20 Romney Reported to Have Millions of Dollars in the Cayman Islands
Jan20 The Final Four Take Off the Gloves in the Last Debate before the South Carolina Primary
Jan17 Hard-Hitting Debate in South Carolina Changes Nothing