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GOP Analysis: Super Tuesday A Thrilla in Vanilla

Tom Dotan |
March 7, 2012 | 1:18 a.m. PST



Image Courtesy of ornl.gov
Image Courtesy of ornl.gov


Super Tuesday was supposed to be when Mitt Romney arrived to save the day.

It was the time for him to rip open his button-up shirt, fling off the glasses, and, lo, the middling candidate who we thought could never seal the deal had revealed his true indentity.

The GOP had been holding out for a hero and lord knows the dude models himself after Superman.

Yet Romney was no man of steel on Super Tuesday. More like Ironman-- a rich corporate scion. Bionic, still untrusted, and never brilliant enough. He won Massachusetts, Vermont, Virginia, Idaho, Alaska, and barely Ohio.

Rick Santorum, then, was The Fantastic Four's Human Torch-- unable to draw much on his own, but capable of igniting dormant forces through sheer force of will (a shame Santorum has not adopted "flame on" as his campaign slogan). He took Tennessee, Oklahoma, and North Dakota.

Newt Gingrich was the Juggernaut. He's not a real superhero, you know, more of a human battering ram, but when he puts his helmet on and lowers, his gaze he can inflict a fair amount of damage. He grabbed Georgia.

Who's Ron Paul…dunno. Hancock? He didn't win anything.

It's a ragtag bunch of crime fighters that showed up on Tuesday, and while Ironman soared highest there was nothing all that Super about it.

Ohio provided the most thrilling finish on the day and the cipher for how the primary has unfolded. With early returns, Romney was out in front until a wave of Santorum-heavy districts reported and the Pennsylvania senator jumped 3-4 percentage points in the lead.

It was at this point that the two men gave their speeches on the night. Each touted their victories in smaller states and explained why it proved their worth as a candidate.

But Romney remained measured in his declarations of achievement.

"I think we'll pick up a lot of delegates, and this is a process of gathering enough delegates to become the nominee," he said. "I think we're on the track to have that happen."

A few hours later, the Ohio districts that included wealthier suburbs of Cleveland reported; just as it seemed too late in the night to be casually discussing the word "Cuyahoga" Romney lept ahead for good. His final victory hovers around 1 percentage point but given the districts he took, the bigger share of delegates are his.

Delegate counting is insider speak for a mathematical victory rather than an emotional one. As Romney keeps splitting states on primary days the likelihood of pulling in the magic number of 1,144 delegates before the GOP convention becomes fleeting.

Obama too won the epic 2008 primary through overwhelming delegate math, so before you buy the media line that this drawn-out primary is a slow death to the GOP, know that there is a lot of calendar left for a winning candidate.

What is more concerning for Romney, however, is the weakness of his wins and the lack of variety in the states. As Santorum pointed out, he has won races in all regions of the country; Romney has yet to take a Southern state and his Midwestern wins are squeakers. His big wins Tuesday were in Massachusetts and Vermont-- reliably Democratic states.

Ohio is an absolute must for the GOP in November--it's essentially the race that gave Obama his presidency. Though the Republican establishment has grown fearful of the tenor and length of the primary, they have to wonder when Romney's presence is going to gain traction rather than friction.

Santorum, meanwhile, reaffirmed himself as a strong challenger and an acceptable vessel for an uneasy conservative voter. But to seriously consider his chances of winning? It doesn't seem possible with Gingrich still in the race.

Should Newt drop out, and there is every indication that he will not, those anti-Romney votes might coalesce into a true force. 

Also, as the New York Times reported on Monday, the Santorum campaign is still a bare-bones operation that is hardly steeled for a national run. They whiffed big time in Georgia by not spending enough resources to garner 20 percent of the vote and a stake in the state's delegate apportioning.

Santorum no doubt represents a weakness for Romney--the kryptonite for the Superman wannabe. Yet he isn't the green kryptonite that merely saps Superman's energy, but the red variety.

That's the kind that confuses him, misdirects his powers and makes the superhero entirely transparent.

Worst of all about red krytonite is the only way to get rid of it is to hope it burns itself out.


Reach Tom Dotan here

Follow Tom on Twitter @cityofthetown



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