Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Super Tuesday

Republicans in one–fifth of the 50 states voted in primaries or caucuses yesterday.

Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times insists that no "knockout punch" was delivered — and that may be so, but it is hardly surprising that someone at the Times, given the overwhelming advantage that left–leaning columnists enjoy there (and the fact that the Times' general editorial policies have favored the left for a long time), should feel that way.

The Wall Street Journal, which is not a left–leaning publication, also is not convinced that Super Tuesday has given anyone the momentum he needs to win the nomination. The Journal says Super Tuesday was a "split decision"While Mitt Romney had a good night and stretched his lead among delegates, Rick Santorum did well enough to more than justify staying in the race."

The fact remains, though, that Mitt Romney finished first in six of those 10 contests. His margin of victory ranged from impressive to slim, but he can claim to have beaten party rivals in two of the biggest prizes that are likely to be up for grabs on Election Day in November — Florida and, now, Ohio.

Three if you include Romney's victory in Michigan (which hasn't necessarily been in doubt in recent elections, but, because it has been through such a difficult time in this recession, it could be a swing state in 2012).

The win in Ohio was particularly impressive, I thought. Santorum led Romney there by double digits a few weeks ago, but he finished second to Romney there yesterday.

True, Santorum did win three contests (North Dakota, Oklahoma and Tennessee), but they were in states the Republicans are sure to win in November, anyway — and only the win in North Dakota was unexpected.

And Newt Gingrich won Georgia, the state he represented in the House for 20 years, but Georgia, too, is all but certain to be in the Republican column.

If Gingrich had lost in Georgia, that could have been a game changer. Without a win in his home state, Gingrich's best move probably would have been to fold up his tent — leaving the ultra–conservative vote to Santorum, who could have re–focused his efforts on winning the support of Republican centrists and right–of–center voters.

Instead, the fight for the extreme right will go on — to Alabama, Mississippi and Kansas next week.

Romney also won a few states that will probably vote Republican in the fall — Alaska and Virginia (which voted for Barack Obama in 2008 but are likely to be in the Republican column this November) — but he demonstrated an ability to win in states that will be important to Republican hopes for recapturing the White House.

No one is suggesting, of course, that Romney can win in Vermont or Massachusetts. But the voters there are more centrist than the Republican voters in general, and being able to win their support is going to be an important element in what is likely to be a complex and extremely tight campaign this fall.

There are still serious issues to be discussed — and, hopefully, they will be discussed between now and Election Day. Hopefully, this campaign will not prove to be like so many in recent times — in which minor distractions have been given most, if not all, of the attention.

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