Romney drew GOP faithful; Santorum got crossover help

Ex-governor doing better than McCain

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ANALYSIS:

Though he has called himself the true conservative in the Republican presidential field, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania continued to benefit from crossover Democrats in Super Tuesday’s primaries, while front-runner Mitt Romney easily won the vote among actual Republicans, according to a Washington Times analysis.

Mr. Romney did well across the board, winning six of the 10 states that voted Tuesday — a better success rate than Sen. John McCain had in 2008, when he won less than half of that year’s Super Tuesday’s 21 contests. And of the 23 states to have voted so far this year, Mr. Romney has won 38 percent of the votes cast, which is also slightly better than Mr. McCain did in those same states.

For his part, Mr. Santorum won three states Tuesday, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich won one. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas once again failed to win a contest, leaving him 0-for-23 this year.

Super Tuesday [and its 437 delegates] was a one-time opportunity for Governor Romney’s opponents to diminish his delegate lead and claim any kind of ‘comeback.’ They failed yesterday, and the calendar now only offers incremental opportunities to make headway,” Romney campaign political director Rich Beeson said in a memo outlining the field of play Wednesday.

The night’s key contest was Ohio, where Mr. Romney edged Mr. Santorum 38 percent to 37 percent, or about 12,000 votes out or nearly 1.2 million cast.

But Mr. Santorum benefited from his effort to get Democrats to take part in the Republican primary. Subtracting self-identified Democrats, Mr. Romney won by more than 22,000 votes, or better than 2 percentage points, according to a Times analysis of the networks’ exit polls.

That trend held true throughout the night.

In the three states where exit polling was able to break out Democratic voters, Mr. Santorum won 41 percent of them, compared with Mr. Romney, who won just 23 percent, despite being portrayed by Mr. Santorum and others in the field as the least-conservative potential nominee.

Projections show Mr. Romney has more delegates than the rest of the field combined, and his campaign argues there’s no realistic path for any other single candidate to collect a majority — meaning that a prolonged battle would only lead to a divisive convention.

But Mr. Santorum rejected that logic as he campaigned in Kansas on Wednesday.

“What won’t they resort to, to try to bully their way through this race?” he said. “If the governor now thinks he’s now ordained by God to win, then let’s just have it out.”

For his part Mr. Gingrich has said he must win next week’s Southern primaries in Alabama and Mississippi to remain viable. He has only two races under his belt so far: Tuesday’s win in his longtime home state of Georgia and one in neighboring South Carolina.

Mr. Santorum agreed with that analysis of Mr. Gingrich’s prospects, telling supporters at a rally Wednesday in Tupelo, Miss., that “if you deliver a victory for us on Tuesday, you will make this a two-person race.”

“And once it’s a two-person race, the conservative will be the nominee. You can change it all, Mississippi,” he said.

Mr. Santorum added to his previous four victories with a win in North Dakota’s caucuses and in primaries in Tennessee and Oklahoma.

But Mr. Romney won Tuesday with his six victories: caucuses in Alaska and Idaho and primaries in Massachusetts, Vermont, Virginia and Ohio.

Democrats argued Mr. Romney should have sealed the nomination earlier against what analysts say is a weak field.

Jim Manley, a former aide to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy who has been watching Mr. Romney since his failed bid to unseat the now late Mr. Kennedy in 1994, said the Republican candidate has a fundamental difficulty in reaching voters.

“The reason people aren’t willing to accept him now is the same reason why he lost against Sen. Kennedy in ‘94,” Mr. Manley said. “When it comes right down to it, people don’t have the faintest idea what he stands for. He has no backbone, no spine. He was for Romneycare but is against Obamacare. Give me a break.”

But he may be suffering from moving goal posts.

The Times analysis found that while some previous Republican nominees had sewn up the race by this point, Mr. Romney is slightly ahead of where Mr. McCain was in 2008.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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