Deep South Tuesday.

 
So despite polls predicting that Santorum stood no chance, and foreseeing Romney potentially wrapping things up last night, Rick only went and grabbed both Deep South states. Reaction round-up below.

Silver:

[T]hese were the sort of states that Mr. Romney was “supposed” to lose based on their demographics. Although the polls overestimated Mr. Romney’s standing, projections based on demographic models did reasonably well.

Mr. Romney will not have such excuses, however, if he loses Illinois, which votes a week from today. It’s the only contest that evening and Mr. Romney is thought to be the favorite there, although polls and my demographic model show a fairly tight race.

Mr. Romney will have a significant lead in delegates even if he loses Illinois. But a loss there would be more characteristic of those scenarios where he falls short of a delegate majority and needs help from super delegates and other unpledged delegates to win the nomination.

Sullivan:

If this were a race between [Romney] and Santorum, he would have been wiped out tonight. The pressure on Gingrich to quit will be intense, but if Adelson wants to keep financing him, his own ego would rather rip his own party apart than concede to allow a final fight for victory between Mitt and Rick.

So the odds of a brokered convention rise slightly; Romney remains unable to get any serious momentum; and Santorum keeps winning the vote of those earning under $50k. The evangelical vote against Romney remains solid, unchanging, resilient. The dynamic of the race has not altered; it has complicated marginally in Santorum’s direction.

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Super Tuesday round-up.

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I presumed that if Romney squeezed through in Ohio (which he did, just – full results here) then everyone would call this thing a day. But apparently not. The margin of victory over Santorum in that crucial swing state was so small, and Romney’s ability to attract conservatives and evangelicals still so weak, that the questions are likely to linger for at least a little longer. And if Newt put his ego to one side and let Santorum take Romney on alone, the race would be quite something. It looks like commentators have a consensus on this.

Walsh:

Romney lost Tennessee, Oklahoma and North Dakota to Santorum, even after his advisors were suggesting a Tennessee win was possible, and would prove their man could carry the South. Even where he won, it wasn’t pretty – Ron Paul got 41 percent of the votes in Virginia, where Newt Gingrich and Santorum weren’t even on the ballot. Romney decisively carried Massachusetts – his actual home state – and Idaho, where the electorate is heavily Mormon, indicating he’s able to win states with a lot of Mormons and states that he’s claimed as home, and not much else.

Tobin:

Santorum’s victories in Tennessee and Oklahoma not only will pump new life into the Pennsylvanian’s campaign, the results also reinforce Romney’s problems with conservatives. Rather than spending tomorrow talking about Romney’s inevitability, the discussion may be more about his continued difficult in closing the deal with his own party’s base.

Sullivan agrees:

Santorum won three states and basically tied in Ohio. That keeps him afloat with some forward direction, especially given the upcoming primary states where Santorum has a demographic edge. The fact that he did this well despite being buried by Romney ads and money in Ohio is a real achievement. Romney, for his part, still cannot win blue-collar votes and still cannot nail down evangelical support. He comes away with many more delegates, but few bragging rights. In Ohio, he won everywhere Obama will win in the fall.

If Newt bowed out, we might have a real cotest. But he won’t. So we have, perhaps, the worst of all possible worlds for the GOP: a front-runner who cannot be stopped, but who is losing altitude against Obama with every vote, and being slimed by Republican rivals for at least another month. Even his stump speech has deteriorated. And his unfavorables continue a relentless rise.

As does Jones:

Romney will have to endure at least another seven weeks of primary warfare, and even longer if he fails to land that ‘knockout blow’ in the five primaries (including New York and Pennsylvania) on 24 April. The happiest campaign team this morning will no doubt be the Obama one.

Frum also notes that despite grabbing delegates, Romney faces a serious amount of apathy:

Outside the Federalist heartland and the peculiar Virginia ballot, Republicans won’t accept Mitt Romney. Against such a weak field, for Romney to be battling to carry Ohio is deeply, deeply ominous. The donors all made up their minds months ago. The rank-and-file are refusing.

The Economist:

Mr Romney continues to struggle with tea-party supporters, evangelicals and voters who describe themselves as “very conservative”, according to exit polls. He also has not yet won any Southern states, bar his limp preeminence in Virginia. In other words, Mr Romney has not yet won over the heart of the Republican Party. And all that is despite outspending Mr Santorum and the others by a huge margin across the board.

Bernstein offers a reality check and a different emphasis:

[T]he bottom line is that he won the most states, the most votes and the most delegates; he has overall won the most states, votes and delegates; and he has a solid lead in national polls, money and endorsements. It’s not just that no one has ever lost a nomination after building this kind of lead; it’s that no one, since the modern system was fully in place in the 1980s, has ever come close to losing after building this kind of lead. So it goes on, but for all the fun of close vote counts in the occasional state, there’s really not very much suspense here.

And Cassidy:

Unless Newt Gingrich drops out quickly and endorses Santorum—not much chance of that: see below—it remains virtually impossible to see how Mitt can be denied the nomination. But, oh, what a painful victory march it is turning into.

 

Santorum, freedom and happiness.

The Economist digs this gem up from Santorum:

’Happiness’ actually had a different definition, ‘way back at the time of our founders. Like many words in our lexicon, they evolve and change over time. ‘Happiness’ was one of them. Go back and look it up. You’ll see one of the principal definitions of happiness is ‘to do the morally right thing.’ God gave us rights to life and to freedom to pursue His will. That’s what the moral foundation of our country is.

I have few problems with equating morality and happiness, but when this philosophical belief becomes the crux of one’s politics, and when it grows to be seen as a licence for imposing one’s own obviously correct whacky morality on everyone else for their own good – that’s when America must get worried. Santorum thinks his natural law logic is flawless, and he thinks we can liberate gays by banning same-sex marriage.  The nerve is quite shocking.

There are some things, I believe, we can all agree on as the valid content of a political morality which we do feel entitled to be bold about when it comes to enforcement. I don’t doubt the legitimacy of installing secularism and defending the right to freely pursue one’s own idea of what the good life is, assuming one uses this liberty in a way consistent with the freedom of others to do likewise. And that’s what America is really about, and its diversity reflects that.

But Santorum’s not interested in it. He’s blind to the fact that this is most reasonable. Because of his special relationship with God, he knows the exact details of the good life, and he’ll help you by coercing you into copying it. By ‘the pursuit of happiness’, what we must realise is that the Founding Fathers really meant the ‘freedom’ to follow the dictates of Catholicism as revealed specifically to Rick (not as revealed to the Vatican, because they get it wrong on torture). So don’t dare think freedom requires the ability to use birth control. Because that’s contrary to how things ought to be.

Sullivan summarises the ideology:

America is a special nation because of this unique founding on the Judeo-Christian God. It must therefore always be guided by God’s will, and that will is self-evident to anyone, Catholic or Protestant, atheist or Mormon, Jew or Muslim, from natural law… [In] its fusion of explicit religion and explicit politics, [the GOP] is itself, in my view, an attack on America – and the possibility of a civil republic.

Michigan primary round-up.

Nate Silver forecasts that tonight’s big one is too close to call, but Romney just about has the best chance of winning.

Cassidy bucks the trend and predicts a Santorum snatch. His reasoning:

In several of the previous primaries, the polls have underestimated Santorum’s strength. It happened in Iowa. And it happened again in Colorado and Minnesota. Michigan is bigger and more urban than any of those states, which might suggest caution in making direct comparisons—the polls in Florida didn’t underestimate Santorum’s support—but I still think it might be worth a point or two in Santorum’s favor.

Also:

Michigan is an open primary, where anybody can register as a Republican for the day and vote. It’s also a strong union state. I can imagine many union members wanting to vote against Romney both for personal reasons (his job-slashing tactics at Bain Capital and his opposition to the auto bailout) and to saddle the Republicans with an unelectable candidate: Santorum.

Kornacki also looks at what’s going wrong for Mitt.

Jon Stewart lays into Santorum’s ‘snob’ outburst amongst other recent speech-blunders here. Anderson 360 fact-checks the snob claim here, as does Politifact here.