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Romney finally puts it all together

at 06:30 AM ET, 04/04/2012

For the first time in a competitive primary, Mitt Romney won some elusive demographics.

Exit polls from the Wisconsin primary Tuesday showed Romney expanding his appeal to groups that have consistently voted against him this year, including evangelical Christians, voters who describe themselves as “very conservative,” strong supporters of the tea party movement and voters making less than $50,000 per year.

The result was Romney’s most complete performance of the 2012 campaign. And it strongly suggests that the Republican Party is dropping its long-standing resistance to embracing Romney.

Exit polls available late Tuesday showed Romney nearly equaling Rick Santorum among the most obstinate group — evangelical Christians — with 43 percent backing Santorum and 38 percent backing Romney. That’s Romney’s best performance in a contested state since Jan. 10 in New Hampshire (which wasn’t very competitive).

Among voters making less than $50,000 and strong supporters of the tea party, Romney outpaced Santorum by 11 percent and 2 percent, respectively. The only previous competitive primary in which Romney won both of those demographics was in Illinois on March 20, when he carried them both narrowly.

And perhaps most illustrative, Romney tied Santorum among voters who described themselves as “very conservative” at 43 percent. Even in neighboring Illinois and Michigan, Romney lost that demographic by double digits.

The fact that Romney won or competed for all of these demographics in a competitive Midwestern state shows that he’s expanding his brand and reaching new groups of voters. As it’s become clear he’s very likely to win the nomination, the holdouts appear to be relenting.

Previously, Romney has relied heavily on his strength with wealthier, more moderate voters and has won in spite of his massive struggle to woo evangelical voters. Earlier in the GOP presidential contest, it would have been unthinkable that Romney would nearly win the evangelical vote in a Midwestern state.

Without those things standing in his way — and assuming that he can at least remain competitive among these groups in states like Pennsylvania, Indiana, North Carolina and Texas, he’s going to foreclose Santorum from pulling any surprise victories going forward in the GOP presidential contest.

That’s assuming, of course, that Santorum can continue on to those states.

Given Santorum’s regression among these key demographic groups, the justification for his continued campaign has taken a hit as well. If ”very conservative” voters in Wisconsin picked Romney over Santorum, after all, what reason does Santorum have to stay in the race?

Delaney to challenge Bartlett: Businessman John Delaney won the Democratic primary Tuesday to face Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.), who survived a primary scare of his own.

Delaney defeated the establishment favorite in the race, state Sen. Rob Garagiola, who had been endorsed by both Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). Late results Tuesday night showed him leading Garagiola 55 percent to 27 percent.

Bartlett, meanwhile, was taking less than 50 percent of the vote, but benefitted from a crowded primary field in which state Sen. David Brinkley was his closest competitor at 21 percent. (It’s very unusual for an incumbent to take less than 50 percent of the vote, so this is likely to feed an anti-incumbent narrative.)

Delaney will be favored to unseat Bartlett in a new 6th district that Maryland Democrats re-drew to be much more Democratic. It’s now a district that went 57 percent for President Obama.

Fixbits:

Romney begins fundraising for the general election.

Obama mixes up his Supreme Court history.

Former New York governor George Pataki (R) offers a very tepid Romney endorsement.

A USA Today reporter remembers the day Romney got him to try the dangerous Olympic event, the Skeleton.

A new poll from Democratic-leaning automated pollster Public Policy Polling shows Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) leading Rep. Shelley Berkley (D) within the margin of error

Former congressman Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) raised a strong $550,000 in the first quarter as he seeks a return to Congress in Florida’s new 9th district.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and his two GOP opponents will debate tonight at 9 p.m. eastern time. The live stream can be found here.

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) has a political action committee, and it’s endorsing a series of GOP Senate candidates.

Must-reads:

Orrin Hatch, rivals wooing 4,000 delegates — one at a time” — Lee Davidson, Salt Lake Tribune

Rick Santorum has much riding on Pennsylvania primary” — Sandhya Somashekhar, Washington Post

 
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