But many Republican voters also expressed dismay with the campaign they’re witnessing. They’ve seen infighting, negativity and a lack of message discipline among the GOP candidates.
Some have detected ideological wobbliness. Or they’ve stared at the ballot wishing to see a name that just wasn’t there. Barely more than four out of 10 voters in Ohio said they were strongly behind their candidate, according to exit polls.
This is an echo of what many GOP stalwarts have been saying all along: They worry about a lack of enthusiasm for their contenders after months of rancorous and chaotic campaigning. On Monday, former first lady Barbara Bush, speaking at a conference on first ladies in Dallas, called the 2012 contest “the worst campaign I’ve ever seen in my life.”
As Super Tuesdays go, this one was fairly modest: just 10 states, none of them on the scale of California or Texas. It had the usual Super Tuesday Southern drawl, with Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia holding primaries. Ohio spoke for the Midwest, Oklahoma for the southern Great Plains, and Massachusetts and Vermont for New England. Throw in the frozen north — North Dakota, Idaho and Alaska — and this was an event all over the map.
For the first time, the presidential candidates had to appeal to a spread-out and culturally disparate electorate — a miniature version of what they would face in November if they win the nomination. This remains a diverse country, and there are distinct regional differences even within a political party. For example, in Tennessee, three of four voters identified themselves as evangelical in exit polls, compared with only about half in Ohio.
If there was one thing Republicans seemed to agree on Tuesday — beyond the need to oust Obama — it was that the candidates have spent too much time attacking one another.
“They just spend so much time and money bashing each other. I don’t know why they would do that,” Jen Reneker, a 36-year-old professor from Canton, Ohio, said after casting her ballot for former senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.
“I think it’s a nightmare,” said Tim Kell, 50, president of a painting and decorating firm in North Canton, Ohio. “I just think with everything — with all the TV commercials and all the phone calls and everything that’s going on, I think it’s crazy. Nobody seems to run on their own merit.”
“Honestly, in my circle, I think there are more people disgusted with Obama than there are pro-Romney,” said Fred Ladebauche, 74, an Army veteran who voted Tuesday in Franklin, Tenn., south of Nashville. He remembers the candidate’s father, George, as an excellent governor of Michigan. He feels less passion for the son, Mitt. “None of my passionate Republicans ran. The governor of New Jersey. Allen West in Florida,” Ladebauche said.