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Ohio, Ohio, Ohio

at 08:21 PM ET, 03/06/2012

Super Tuesday has played out exactly as we expected thus far. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has won in Massachusetts, Virginia and Vermont while former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has claimed his home state of Georgia and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum has claimed Tennessee.

What do those status quo results mean as we go forward tonight? That Ohio remains the entire ball of wax — or close to it.

Ohio is the only swing state on the ballot tonight and winning it would almost certainly signal that Romney was the party’s best chance of taking back the White House this fall.

The stakes are even higher for former Pennsylvania Rick Santorum in Ohio. If he can’t win a Rust Belt state where his economic populist message should resonate best — for the second week in a row no less — it’s going to be difficult for him to make the case that he is the only viable conservative alternative to Romney.

If he does lose Ohio, look for Santorum to hang his night on his Tennessee win. It’s a state where Restore Our Future, a Romney-aligned super PAC, spent better than $1 million on TV ads and where there is a significant business-minded Republican community that are Romney’s base.

Still, Ohio is pivot point of the night. Win Ohio and Romney has won Super Tuesday — and seized a stranglehold on the nomination.

 
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