Last night, in the Republican contest to be that party's presidential nominee, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney looked relaxed as he addressed supporters in Michigan (one of his multiple home states; New Hampshire and Massachusetts most often cited as the others). He sounded it, too.
Then again, on Tuesday evening, Romney was in the needed winning position, having fought off a strong challenge in the aforementioned home state, from the former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum, whose post-primary speech (text and video of Santorum's speech here) has been described by some observers as a bald-faced mea culpa to women.
Arizona was called by the news organizations early on. I was watching CNN; the polls closed at 9pm EST and immediately, the race was called for Romney, who won by more than 21 percentage points over Santorum (47% to 26%).
Mitt Romney with wife Ann and son Craig. Image: © Mandi Wright/Detroit Free Press/MCT/ZUMAPRESS.com
For those counting, Arizona has 29 winner-take-all delegates and conducts a closed primary, the opposite of Michigan. This meant that Democrats and independent voters couldn't vote unless they had previously switched to the Republican party.
Michigan gave me some anxiety in terms of my bedtime, but it was eventually called before I became a pumpkin. Romney eked out a win with 41.1% of the votes, just barely three percentage points over Santorum who received 37.9% of the votes cast.
Delegates in Michigan are apportioned by congressional district, of which there are 14. Then, two are doled out on a statewide basis. Currently, 22 delegates are split between the two top candidates and the remainder are pending.
And now, of course, the spin is coming in as to why these results are what they are. For such answers, I love the exit polls.
In Arizona, Romney won it all with only very few exceptions, all of which tie into being very conservative and concerned about moral values. Romney won Catholics, he won women, he won men, he won people of all education levels, he won people of all incomes. He also won the electability and "how would he do on the economy" questions.
Michigan was different, but held multiple pockets of support for Romney that previously had toggled in Santorum's direction. Two demographics upon which many eyes are resting are gender and religion. Romney won women 43-39 over Santorum, and with Catholic voters, Romney outperformed the Catholic Santorum, 44-37. Santorum got the Protestant voters, but only by two points (42-40). Watch Soledad O'Brien deconstruct Santorum spokeswoman Alice Stewart this morning on this very fact.
As for the women's vote, this piece from NPR's Ron Elving puts it in context:
How much did these issues [saying he wanted to throw up at JFK's ideas about separation of church and state, calling President Obama a "snob" for his support of college experience, continued pursuit of topics related to contraception] matter? In Michigan, Santorum nearly matched Romney vote for vote among men. But he lost by 5 percentage points among women. In the end, he lost the state by 3 percentage points.
Did he get the message? You only had to hear his concession speech, in which he lavished praise on his wife and his college-educated mother, who made more than his dad. The word contraception did not feature in his lengthy remarks.
What I predict to be a bad consequence of this not-so-nuanced turnabout in terms of Santorum's speech's rhetoric around the place of women is that it bolsters the idea that he does the political savvy thing, rather than the idea that he sticks to his convictions -- an idea which had been part of his appeal up until now.
It makes voters have to face the question of who is the worst flip-flopping voter-pandering political opportunist, as opposed to being able to finger point at just one or the other candidates as being the flip-flopper. As I hear and watch it, Santorum could turn into the ultimate flip-flopper precisely because of his often righteous attitude, leading him to be unable or unwilling to explain these narrative turns. I'd even go so far as to call his behavior immature in terms of his experience on the center stage of presidential politics.
Could it be that in 2012, Santorum is the 2008 Romney, who ran second to the more experienced McCain? It took Romney another election cycle to get close to fighting weight. Likewise, Santorum is now running second to Romney in his first major bid for the nod; and I'm betting voters will eventually go for the more experienced Romney over Santorum -- who is beginning to look like the neophyte he is, and still has to endure the damage likely to be inflicted on Super Tuesday next week.
Speaking of which, my current home state, Ohio, as opposed to the one I grew up in (Connecticut), has already been descended upon, as they say. While I was tweeting off my thumbprints last night (check out http://twitter.com/jillmz with the #blogher hashtag), I actually got a robocall, along with numerous other Ohio Democrats, yes, Democrats, from someone implying "Romney good -- Santorum bad" because of the latter's robocalling Michigan's Democrats and asking them to go vote for him!
Why oh why, Ohio, indeed. I'll be voting on election day here in Ohio (not in the GOP primary, but on other items, obviously), as will my 18-year-old son, who just registered and is pretty psyched. However, now that the state has done away with the need to sign a pledge if you are party switching for the purposes of a primary vote, I know he is thinking about mischief. I've advised him that he is 18 and responsible for whatever he does -- but that as a mom and elected official, I will not do the party switch thing, even in an open primary. Just doesn't feel right.
How would you vote? How did you vote? How will you vote?
What? No more debates? See the old ones & the rest of the schedule
The Ohio Poll has Santorum up but nearly 50% of Republican primary voters aren't firm in their decisions at all
More from entertainment