Next battleground: Ohio

posted at 8:40 am on February 29, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

After Mitt Romney’s sweep last night and a fresh delegate haul, the road ahead gets tougher for Rick Santorum.  Santorum never really came close in Arizona, but he had a lead in Michigan until a mediocre debate performance a week ago gave Romney an opening to take his native state by a small but significant margin of 32,000 votes, about three percentage points of the overall vote.  Turnout appears to be slightly higher than in 2008, and that means that Romney can avoid another knock about his impact on voting in the primaries being depressed in his wins.  Even the hope that Santorum might end up with more of Michigan’s delegates, thanks to rules that allocate them by Congressional-district votes, ran aground this morning:

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won the popular vote by a 41-38% margin as well as the tally in seven of 14 congressional districts, most of them in southern Michigan.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum won six congressional districts, including the 1st district, which includes the Upper Peninsula an a portion of northern Lower Michigan by just two votes. All of Santorum’s wins came in the northern and western portions of the state. …

As a result, Romney wins 21 delegates from the congressional district results, according to results posted by the Michigan Republican Party, but only 14 of those delegates will be allowed to vote at the national convention because the state broke national GOP rules by moving its primary before the Super Tuesday contests next week.

Santorum wins 18 delegates from the congressional districts, but only 12 of those people will be able to vote at the national convention.

The statewide popular vote will be distributed between Romney and Santorum on a proportional basis with 14 at large delegates at stake, but only two of those delegates will have voting privileges. How those will be divvied up hasn’t been determined.

Santorum’s team claimed a moral victory in a close second-place finish:

“A month ago they didn’t know who we are, but they do now,” Santorum told supporters gathered in a downtown hotel. “We came into the backyard of one of my opponents, in a race that everyone said, ‘Well, just ignore, you have really no chance here.’ And the people of Michigan looked into the hearts of the candidates, and all I have to say is: I love you back.”

Santorum’s advisers noted that Santorum and Romney essentially split the delegates in the Michigan contest because of new party rules, regardless of what the popular vote may have been. Senior strategist John Brabender and others suggested Romney would emerge from Michigan as a weaker candidate.

“God bless him for spending a fabulous amount of money to come into his home state to eke out a victory in the total count and to walk away with many fewer delegates than anybody thought humanly possible two weeks ago,” Brabender said.

The problem with that spin is that, eventually, wins matter, and not just in delegate counts.  One does not win the nomination through a series of second-place finishes.  For a campaign that runs one campaign at a time rather than an organization competing in multiple states at a time, victories are even more important.

In six days, the candidates will compete again in ten states for the Super Tuesday threshold, and the consensus is that Ohio will hog the spotlight.  Georgia might come into play, too, if Newt Gingrich can’t hold onto his lead in his own native state, and Santorum has a big lead in Oklahoma that Romney will not likely bother to challenge.  Santorum didn’t get on the ballot in Virginia, and has a smaller slate of electors in Tennessee thanks to a failure to qualify them.  Ohio has the largest delegate haul next week, and it also consists of the kind of blue-collar, Rust Belt voters that Republicans need to draw to win in November.

So far, Santorum has a lead in the RCP poll average of about eight points, but that may change with the loss in Michigan among the same kind of voters.  Santorum cannot afford another loss in the Rust Belt, especially since Romney is likely to do well in most of the other Super Tuesday contests.  Since all of the binding contests on Super Tuesday are proportional-allocation primaries, Santorum will get a significant number of delegates from second-place finishes again, but without a couple of big wins, Romney will keep adding to his delegate lead and making the case for donors to get on the bandwagon now.

It’s not over for Santorum, but a win in Ohio is a must.  Expect to see Romney and Santorum in Buckeye country all week long.

Update: I had forgotten about this, but my friend Salena Zito of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reminds me that Santorum won’t be on the ballot at all in three of Ohio’s Congressional districts:

Political strategists consider Ohio a critical win for the eventual Republican nominee because none has won the White House without winning the state.

Among 10 states holding Super Tuesday primaries on March 6, Ohio will award 66 delegates to the Republican National Convention. Santorum is not on the ballot in three of the 16 congressional districts, potentially putting him at a nine-delegate disadvantage.

That complicates matters for winning the state, obviously.  If Santorum loses Ohio overall because he couldn’t make the ballot in three CDs, that won’t be an excuse — it will become a reason for voters in later contests to stick with the candidate with better organization.  Santorum will need to win by enough in the other thirteen CDs to overcome his omission, and that will be a very tall order.

Update II: Actually, voters in those districts can vote for Santorum — but he can’t win the delegates, according to Politico:

All six major GOP candidates have been certified and will appear on the Ohio ballot, according to a list released by the Ohio secretary of state’s office today. But Rick Santorum, the release said, did not file delegates in the 6th, 9th or 13th congressional districts — and loses his chance at getting any delegates in those districts.

Forty-eight of the state’s 66 delegates are awarded proportionally based on the vote in each congressional district — three per district — and the remaining 18 delegates are awarded based on the at-large vote statewide. That means that while Santorum can get votes toward the at-large total in those three districts, he has no shot at taking a share of the nine total delegates those districts will award.

That’s still going to be an issue in the Ohio election, but it’s not as bad as it first looked.  Thanks to Daren B for the update.

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Joana is a paid Mitt hack most likely.

SparkPlug on February 29, 2012 at 4:26 PM

joana on February 29, 2012 at 3:46 PM

How nice that you decided to quote James Madison. So what. Levin agrees with Madison. Apparently, you haven’t heard Levin, in his “ahem, peculiar debating style” denounce Obama with respect to Obama’s failure to have Congress okay the action in Libya. No. Instead, you come up with some fictional narrative of what you think Levin would say, in direct contravention of what he has actually said.

totherightofthem on February 29, 2012 at 3:59 PM

Oh my, it gets worse.
“I don’t believe in politicizing the Constitution. I believe the Constitution is the rock of this society. So all this talk about the attacks on Libya are unconstitutional because we don’t have a declaration of war, that’s ridiculous. That’s absolutely ridiculous
– Mark Levin

Levin fans are a weird bunch. They swear the Great Educator endorsed Romney only because he was a better option than Giuliani and McCain as, unfortunately, conservative candidates like Huckabee and Thompson had dropped out – when the reality is that Huckabee, not Rudy, was the one still in the race. Then they boast about how well informed and educated he is – to reckon that he endorsed Romney 4 years ago because “he wasn’t aware of Romneycare”. Even though health-care was a big issue 4 years ago too.

Oh well. Not much of a point in discussing with cultists who think some guy without a single academic paper publish is the leading scholar in the Constitution.

joana on February 29, 2012 at 4:47 PM

joana on February 29, 2012 at 4:47 PM

Why don’t you read the rest of the quote? This was at the beginning of the action, which was not characterized as a war (because there were supposedly no boots on the ground) and Levin was pointing out that Congress still had recourse and could defund the action at, that point, at any time. I heard him with my own ears, castigating Obama on what obviously became a war without declaration once we committed more resources.

Nothing changes the plain fact that you are rude and condescending. Levin’s Landmark Legal Foundation writes legal briefs submitted to this nation’s courts on a variety of issues. You think publishing an op-ed in the New York Times qualifies someone as a scholar? That’s rich.

Why don’t you read some of the legal briefs submitted by LLF and get back to me. After you go to law school.

totherightofthem on February 29, 2012 at 5:46 PM

Oh, and joana, why don’t you proof your comments, or at least correct some of your more glaring grammatical gaffes before calling me an ignorant cultist.

totherightofthem on February 29, 2012 at 5:47 PM

Because I don’t have time.

Krugman’s serious scholarly work isn’t published in the NYT. Filing legal briefs isn’t scholarly work either.

What’s Levin’s theory? That a military action only requires Congressional authorization as long as it involves boots on the ground?

joana on February 29, 2012 at 6:31 PM


but I’ll still have to have a lumbar surgery at some point. I have to get an epideral shot there tomorrow. Short vesion, I broke my back in 91, then again in 04, severe arthrits caused 4 points of stenosis in my neck, which was surgically rebuilt, c-3 to t-1. about 4 inches of my neck are largely artificial.

Retired, disability..

but, I do ok,.. much better than the doctors expect, something about being a stubborn mule… or something..

but I’m ok..

mark81150 on February 29, 2012 at 3:11 PM

I’m glad you are doing better. Back pain is a b*tch. I’m 54 and move like a 70 year old. Ah, well …

Gelsomina on February 29, 2012 at 7:37 PM

Look commie, I know you guys tend to be oblivious to the most simple concepts, but I’ll give it another try:

The problem of this country isn’t Wall Street. Or Main Street. Or unions, for that matter. It’s the insane amount of power politicians have in their hands.

joana on February 29, 2012 at 3:37 PM

Aren’t you the one who whines and cries fowl when someone call you names…yeah, you are the one, the one I first noticed your faux indignation when someone defends themselves against your spurious attacks.
The problem is the power of the politicians…and you think that power is just for fun? It just materializes? There is no other reason like….a company or union, or organization that “pays” for that power?
Honey or sir, whatever you really are…It’s not “Wall Street” that is a problem, it’s when they are pulling the strings of the people they elect…It’s not the oil companies, it’s the strings they pull of the people they elect, it’s not the unions, it’s the money they make by pulling the strings of the people they elect…the fact is, capitalism and government have to work together in this country, and when one works “together” one is in control of the other.
If you think all “Capitalism” is perfect without flaws, without leveraging their influence with politicians, judges, you are naive (and ignorant of history)…but you are not naive, you are protecting the man who is controlled by a small group of investors, and lobbyists.
A small wealthy group can buy an election…and this is now being played out.
Like I said, you want a repeat of the Big Dig and Bechtel? Here it is, only much bigger and much more dramatic…
I have no problem with Wall Street, I just don’t want to bail them out when they make a bad investment…I don’t get that favor, but Mitt supported that.
His people make money on every decision a President makes, every job report, every bill, whether it is “good” or “bad”, they just need to know what it will be before anyone else…they just want that control.
They can sell short, or take the gains, it doesn’t matter to them…just as long as they are pulling the strings, or they have someone that will bail them out with bills or TARP or outright loans and gifts, and that is who Mitt is.
18 of his top 20 investors/supporters are Wall Street bail out precipitants, and he has taken in more lobbyist money than all the other candidates combined.
So who do you think he is “beholden” to, the public? Or Wall Street and K Street…you are trying to convince people it’s the public…but we know better.

right2bright on February 29, 2012 at 10:23 PM

Oh well. Not much of a point in discussing with cultists who think some guy without a single academic paper publish is the leading scholar in the Constitution.

joana on February 29, 2012 at 4:47 PM


right2bright on February 29, 2012 at 10:26 PM

I live in Ohio Missey,.. Rick definitely leads here..

mark81150 on February 29, 2012 at 1:29 PM

Ohio votes with the polls. No brain of it’s own. If Romney’s up nationally, he wins it.

jan3 on February 29, 2012 at 10:42 PM

The main reason Romney eeked out win in MI was he spent 6 times the amount Santorum spent.

I’m no huge Santorum fan, but the only time I’ll vote for Milquetoast Mitt is on Nov. 6th, 2012 (if he is on the ballot).

IMHO, Mitt has already signaled he’s going to be a colossal wimp come November, e.g. “We’ve seen throughout the campaign that if you’re willing to say really outrageous things that are accusatory and attacking President Obama that you’re going to jump up in the polls. That’s not who I am. He sounds just like John McCain to me!!

If Mitt attempts to attack Obama’s abysmal record, the press will begin to bleat “Personal attack! Mitt’s making personal attacks!!” and Mitt will dutifully fold up like a cheap lawn chair under an elephant.


electric-rascal on March 1, 2012 at 12:02 AM

Maybe it’s the crowd that I run with… but no Buckeye that I know of is going to select Romney.

I’ll happily vote for Santorum next Tuesday if it means this will mean no clear winner leading into the GOP convention.

Maybe they’ll get together and nominate some charismatic personality willing to elucidate what has made our nation great (and what we need to return to): constitutional principles, limited government, free markets, self-reliance and individual responsibility and freedom.

If we would dare do this, the people would massively reject the Marxist-in-chief in November. If we (again) run another Bob Dole/John McCain “vanilla Jello” type, we don’t stand much of a chance.


electric-rascal on March 1, 2012 at 12:18 AM

The main reason Romney eeked out win in MI was he spent 6 times the amount Santorum spent.

electric-rascal on March 1, 2012 at 12:02 AM

That’s a lie that’s already been debunked, but if it helps feed your cognitive dissonance, you’re welcome to keep pretending.

jan3 on March 1, 2012 at 7:47 AM

Maybe it’s the crowd that I run with… but no Buckeye that I know of is going to select Romney.

electric-rascal on March 1, 2012 at 12:18 AM

You’ve got to get out of Findlay more often.

jan3 on March 1, 2012 at 7:49 AM

joana on February 29, 2012 at 6:31 PM

You sit there and laud Mr. Stimulus as an economic genius and have the gall to call yourself conservative? You’ve outed yourself. It’s clear you’re nothing but a leftist shill posing as some sort of right-wing warrior for Romney.

You have no credibility.

totherightofthem on March 1, 2012 at 12:51 PM

The main reason Romney eeked out win in MI was he spent 6 times the amount Santorum spent.
electric-rascal on March 1, 2012 at 12:02 AM

That’s a lie that’s already been debunked, but if it helps feed your cognitive dissonance, you’re welcome to keep pretending.
jan3 on March 1, 2012 at 7:47 AM

I reject your statement that it has “been debunked”, and will continue “feeding my cognitive dissonance”, and “continue pretending.”

E’-rascal makes a valid point.

listens2glenn on March 1, 2012 at 2:01 PM