Super Tuesday offers little change as Mitt Romney claims lukewarm victory

Georgia resident Shirley Cagle leaves a polling station after she voted at St Andrew Presbyterian Church in Sandy Springs, Georgia. The religious vote was strong yesterday.

Mitt Romney claimed a decidedly lukewarm victory in the nation’s Super Tuesday contests, winning some states but ultimately failing to seal the deal with voters. The former Massachusetts governor — who was leading in estimated delegate counts going into the big 10-state competition — scored a few points, but upsets in Tennessee and Oklahoma, plus a nail-biter in Ohio, threaten to extend the campaign until the August convention.

Romney won the most obvious contests: in Massachusetts, where he served as a moderate governor, for example, and in Virginia, where only he and Ron Paul were on ballots due to the other candidates’ organizational failures. But a closer-than-expected win in the Old Dominion and a too-close-to-call race with Rick Santorum in Ohio underscored the difficulty the Romney camp has had in definitively ending the damaging competition. 

In Ohio, a key battleground state and one of the most closely watched contests yesterday, Romney picked up delegates but lost the intangible sense of his inevitability. The results were unclear as of press time, but a strong victory would have sent a message that conservatives were ready to board the battered bandwagon. What he got instead says that Republican voters remain unwilling to commit to the candidate seen by many as the most likely to best President Obama in
November — but one who is
also seen as the most moderate of the four GOP candidates.

None of which deterred Romney’s characteristic enthusiasm, however. “This is a process of gathering enough delegates to become the nominee,” he said blandly yesterday, “and I think we’re on track to have that happen.”

Voters, on the other hand, were not all quite as certain. “I’m not really thrilled with any of them, so I just figured I’d vote for Ron Paul,” said Ohio voter Tim Kell, 50. “I just think with everything — with all the TV commercials and all the phone calls and everything … I think it’s crazy. Nobody seems to run on their own merit.”

(Ad spending has been a major component of the 2012 race, with candidates and associated groups spending nearly $10 million on TV and radio ads for Super Tuesday alone.)

For his part, Newt Gingrich won his adopted state of Georgia, a widely predicted outcome but one that makes things more difficult for his fellow not-Romney candidate, Santorum. In this way, Romney gets a small win despite losing — the promise of continued vote-splitting among the two candidates billed as being more conservative benefits the current delegate leader.
Rep. Ron Paul claimed no victories.

The day’s results hold significance, with nearly 20 percent of Republican convention delegates at stake. A candidate needs 1,144 delegates to win the nomination; some 419 were up for grabs yesterday.

Get smitten for Mittens

Mitt Romney is the one you’ve always had around, your Plan B, the one you fear to settle on; but not “the one.” That is, unless the others break your heart, or maybe you’ve just run out of time.       
         
For eight months, fickle GOP voters speed-dated six candidates. Trump, Bachmann, Perry, Cain, Gingrich, and now Santorum charmed and crashed faster than a Kim Kardashian marriage. For some strange reason, lunar colonies and banning contraception got no love from voters. And now, after Super Tuesday’s results, the party seems settled on taking Mr. Romney to the ball, but with flip-flops rather than glass slippers.  

Everyone wants to be smitten, no one likes to settle. But voters wisely showed yesterday that they are tired of the drama in the dating game. Few would dispute that this drawn-out primary process has at least temporarily hurt the Republican brand. No current GOP candidate garners a favorability rating above 40 percent in any recent poll, while President Obama’s job approval stands at 48 percent in the Real Clear Politics average.  Even if it means settling on an imperfect candidate in Gov. Romney, it is imperative that our attention now be focused squarely on Obama.

Republicans should begin crafting a narrative that concentrates on the president’s economic failures. If the unemployment rate continues its downward trend, Romney will need more to win than just being America’s job-creating CEO. For all his policy failings, Obama is still likeable, serenading us with Al Green while Romney was screeching “America the Beautiful.”

Romney should turn off the karaoke mic and focus on two issues: the $15.5 trillion debt and inflation — at the gas pump and the grocery store, where Americans feel rising prices the most.

With his stiff personality, Romney will never win over the majority of Americans, but he can win on competence, having balanced budgets his entire career. Maybe “settling” isn’t such a bad word?

– Michael Kan is currently a second-year law student at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Contact him for comments, criticisms and Groupon deals.

Metro does not endorse the opinions of the author, or any opinions expressed on its pages.


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