The first warning flags that Mitt Romney may not be the strong general election candidate the Republican Party establishment sold him as were spotted on March 6th, otherwise known as Super Tuesday.
Though numerous states held contests that day, it was Ohio that was considered the big prize. Rick Santorum had almost defeated Romney in Michigan, one of his home states (it was so close that they essentially split the delegates). With Santorum surging in Oklahoma and Tennessee, Newt Gingrich poised to win his home state of Georgia, and Virginia written off after most Republican candidates failed to qualify for the ballot, all eyes were on the Buckeye state.
With an army of nationally-known conservative leaders lining up behind him and several conservative southern states still to come on the primary calendar, Ohio was Santorum’s shot to upset the party establishment’s best laid plans if he could win the crucial battleground state.
And he almost did.
The state of Ohio has 88 counties, but Romney only won 19 of them on primary night. Romney won the Ohio primary, although he won just 22% of the counties in the state. It’s where Romney won that tells the tale.
Romney won Cuyahoga County by 16,029 votes. Romney won Hamilton County by 15,653 votes. In other words, Romney’s margin of victory in those two counties was over 50% higher than his overall margin for victory in the whole state. If you were to remove those two counties from the total tally, Santorum would’ve won Ohio by over 21,000 votes—or twice what Romney actually won the state by. And had Santorum won Ohio, Romney might not be the nominee today.
While Romney’s campaign is fortunate that the vote in Cuyahoga and Hamilton Counties was counted on Super Tuesday, come November 6th they’ll likely have a different opinion. That’s because in 2008, President Obama received 650,638 votes in those two counties alone, which accounted for one-fourth of the total vote he received in beating John McCain for Ohio’s 20 vital Electoral College votes. Furthermore, all but 5 of the 18 counties won by Romney in the 2012 Ohio primary were won by Obama in the 2012 presidential election.
Now you know why polls show Romney’s chances of winning Ohio are fading. But this isn’t just true of Ohio. How about the aforementioned Michigan primary? Romney won Michigan by 32,378 votes over Santorum with about 975,000 total votes cast. Romney’s win was largely attributable to a 31,565 vote margin in one county—Oakland County. In the 2008 presidential election, Obama won Oakland County by 15 points! Romney’s second-biggest margin for victory in Michigan came in Wayne County, where Obama received 74% of the vote in the 2008 presidential election.
Translation: Romney won arguably the two most crucial Republican primaries (and thus the nomination) by winning where Democrats win. Not swing counties, but Democrat counties. For Romney to win the presidency without winning Ohio, he’ll have to win Florida, Virginia, Wisconsin, Nevada, Colorado, and Iowa (or he can lose Wisconsin, Colorado, or Iowa if he wins New Hampshire).
A Republican hasn’t done that since Ronald Reagan’s historic landslide in 1984.
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