Super Tuesday: Winners and losers

at 12:25 PM ET, 03/07/2012

Super Tuesday is over. Long live Super Tuesday!

The Republican presidential primary campaign’s busiest night — 10 states voted in all — turned more into a marathon than a sprint as the Ohio primary wasn’t called for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney until early Wednesday morning. (More on that below.)

After a (short) night’s sleep to think on what we witnessed, we came up with a handful of winners and losers from the night that was. Our picks are below. If you have winners and losers of your own, add them in the comments section.

WINNERS

* Rick Santorum: The way the night played out wound up creating a storyline that the former Pennsylvania senator had overperformed expectations. His victories in Oklahoma and Tennessee came during primetime coverage by the cable networks and for most of the night he was leading in Ohio. (He wound up losing well after most normal people went to bed.) Santorum helped his own cause with a very solid victory speech in which he cast himself as the voice of economic populism in the race. Santorum’s delegate math still doesn’t add up but he bought himself more time in the race with his performance on Super Tuesday.

* Rob Portman: The Ohio Senator delivered for Romney in a major way on Tuesday. In Portman’s political base of southwestern Ohio, Romney beat Santorum by a margin of 28,500 — more than double his statewide margin. Sliced more narrowly, Romney won Portman’s old 2nd district by 6,400 votes — roughly half of his entire margin in Ohio against Santorum. Portman is already in the vice presidential mix and he only helped his cause last night.

* The South: That Romney was unable to close out the race on Super Tuesday is good news for the South, which is where the presidential race heads over the next few weeks. Mississippi and Alabama vote next Tuesday and then Louisiana holds its caucuses on March 24. That run of races will shine a spotlight on the South and its continued influence in picking the Republican presidential nominee. That’s good news for Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — and not such good news for Romney.

* Mitt Romney: The former Massachusetts governor won six of the ten states on the ballot including the big prize of Ohio. He increased his delegate lead over Santorum and Gingrich significantly. It’s hard not to see him as the nominee — eventually. And yet...

* Twitter: Seriously how the heck did we get through closely-contested elections before Twitter? It’s hard to imagine an election without Twitter now. (Sidebar: Hootsuite, Fix Original Recipe’s preferred Twitter dashboard, gets a big thumbs down from us for deciding to do scheduled maintenance during Super Tuesday. Hello?)

LOSERS

* Ohio: To quote Amy Poehler and Seth Myers: “Really, Ohio? Your polls closed at 7:30 p.m. Five hours later the votes weren’t totally counted. Really?” Yes, we know Ohio is a big state. And, yes, we know that the race was very, very close. Still, this isn’t a new problem for Ohio. Its slow counting is legendary/infamous in political circles. Given its centrality to the 2012 general election, it seems like we are headed to (another) very late night as the Buckeye State vote trickles in.

* Mitt Romney: Everything that we wrote above in the “Romney as winner” entry is indisputably true. But, the feeling leaving Super Tuesday was that Romney remains a deeply flawed candidate in the eyes of the base of the Republican party. He lost “very conservative” voters in Ohio by 18 points to Santorum and evangelicals by 17 points. The base of the Republican base is looking for someone — anyone —to be a Romney alternative. And, if he hasn’t made the sale to them by now it’s hard to see how he does it anytime soon. What that reality means is that Romney’s only course of action now is to muddle through March, April and even May in delegate-collection mode. At the end of it, he’s virtually certain to be the Republican presidential nominee. But at what cost?

* Incumbents: While Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s (D) loss is drawing most of the attention today, it’s the defeat of Rep. Jean Schmidt (R) that will have the longer lasting impact on House Members. Kucinich lost a redistricting-forced primary against fellow Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D). Schmidt lost to someone named Brad Wenstrup. (What’s a Brad Wenstrup?) Schmidt had done plenty over her relatively brief career in Congress to make her a target but her loss came out of the blue and will be read by many panicky Members of Congress that a “throw the bums out” mentality is alive and well in the electorate.

* “Media elites”/”National elites”: We got served. And Newt Gingrich did the serving. In your face, elites!

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