Why Ohio Matters for Mitt Romney

This week, Michigan was the “must win” state for Mitt Romney. Next week—according to the world of punditry—it’s Ohio, where Romney has to win over a similar electorate—downscale, blue-collar workers—without the help of name recognition or family ties. There, his tendency to remind voters of his massive wealth (in the worst way possible), could prove fatal.

But what would actually happen if Romney lost Ohio? He wouldn’t lose the nomination; even with the setbacks of the last month, the fact remains that Romney is advantaged by overwhelming resources and the support of GOP leaders. Moreover, he’s up against an opponent—Rick Santorum—whose popularity with the base of the Republican Party hasn’t been enough to make up for his lack of cash and poor public performances. It’s much easier to beat a candidate who can’t help but disparage college, rail against birth control, and attack the religious beliefs of millions of Americans.

The most obvious consequence of a loss in Ohio is that the primaries would continue, as muddled and divisive as they’ve been since the beginning of the year. The proportional allocation of delegates on Super Tuesday means that both Romney and Santorum are likely to walk away with a fair number of delegates. What’s more, with a big win behind him, Santorum can convince donors and voters to take a chance on his candidacy, and continue the fight.

Of course, if Romney is still the favorite for the nomination, then we can safely assume that a short expiration date on this second Santorum surge. It might sustain him through March or even April, but Mitt Romney is the only candidate in the race with the organization and resources needed to make it to the end.

That said, it’s at the end of the process where an Ohio loss might matter most for Romney. If Santorum wins in Ohio, it doesn’t just fuel his case that he is the most electable conservative; it bolsters the broader right-wing conviction that “true conservatives” are the party’s best bet for victory in November.

The right wing of the Republican Party has convinced itself that moderation is fatal to the electoral success of conservatism; they blame the GOP’s post-Bush unpopularity on the former president’s “moderate” policies, and they blame John McCain’s loss on the same. The 2010 midterm elections—in which Tea Party Republicans took control of the House—gave ammunition to their claim, and 2012 is the year where they intend to prove it.

If Romney wins Ohio and sweeps other Rust Belt states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, it reinforces the established view that his moderation will take the GOP to victory in the fall. Losing to a right-wing Republican, on the other hand, would give Tea Party conservatives the leverage they need to demand absolute fealty from the eventual nominee. The argument is straightforward: If you move to the center, you’ll lose, just as Republicans lost in the last election. We proved that conservatism wins, and if you want our support, you’ll be sure to tout our message at every opportunity.

Put another way, if Romney loses Ohio, he might also lose the room he needs to make a move to the center during the general election. And if this seems unlikely, remember—Romney has already made huge jumps to the right during this campaign. Romney is so desperate to win the GOP’s approval that if the base tells him to jump, he’ll almost always ask, “How high?”

Comments

I don't think it is a matter of Romney's wealth that bothers people. Everyone knows he is very wealthy. His problem is he comments or brags about his wealth with statements that show how out of touch he is with mainstream America. With all the ugliness each candidate has displayed against their opponent, they have done the voters a favor by revealing just how unqualified their opponents are but in the process they have given their opponents an opportunity to hit back, thus exposing their own weaknesses. Santorum will never be acceptable to the majority of Americans. He is far too radical and seems to be possessed or obsessed with the sex lives of everyone straight and gay. His stand against separation of church and state will not help. Romney is simply not likeable. His personality sucks. It is hard to ingnore his "fakeness" which extends all the way to his dirty look jeans. Get real -- this man, who is worth around $250 million would not be caught wearing jeans in public if he were not running for office. All the candidates brag about how they are going to return the US to a state of Camelot. They are big on rhetoric and very, very short on viable, workable solutions. They are all talk -- full of sound and fury signifying nothing.

Romney took Wyoming this week, he is taking Washington state today. Tuesday he will take Ohio. Santorum is tracking down in all polls since the AZ/MI loss and his fatal mistake of robo calls to Dem's to crossover and vote for him.That was not good for his character image, no matter how Limbaugh spins it. Santorum is non electable in a general election. He is a religious fanatic on separation of church and state, women's rights, birth control, morning after pill, stem cell research, minorities, gays, Satan.etc, the American public will not buy his radical political ideology. No one calling themselves a Republican should vote for this guy when he was doing the same thing in Mighigan as were unions asking Dem's to crossover and vote for him. He sold his soul for votes, and lost. If the GOP lets the self righteous religious fanatics nominate him they will have the largest loss since Goldwater in 1964 and he will take the House and Senate with him.

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