The Lessons of Super Tuesday

I’m a newcomer to all this myself but it seems to me, Super Tuesday is a little bit like a pit stop at a race track, where you can see what’s dragging you down, tweak, and re-launch. And if you do it right, that re-entry might give you exactly the momentum you need to clinch it.

Wednesday morning, Mitt Romney was probably wishing that delegates were still awarded on a winner take all basis. Because they’re not, Rick Santorum is actually going to get a big chunk of the delegates even in states he didn’t win. What he didn’t get was a big chunk of Catholic votes. Catholic voters, one of the biggest groups of swing voters, have consistently voted for Romney in state after state.


According to CNN’s exit polls, Romney took 43 percent of Ohio Catholics on Super Tuesday, compared to 31 percent for Rick Santorum. Why is this? Because Catholics, not unlike Republicans, have more depth and individualism than many people assume. And Santorum’s reaching out to social conservatives may be turning some Catholics off who care more about job creation than rewriting creation.

Super Tuesday is like a snapshot that shows a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses with different kinds of voters in different parts of the country. While Romney’s loss in some southern states is a concern, the good news is by winning Ohio, he proved he could win another big industrial state. Michigan was the first.

For sure, it’s time for Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul to bow out gracefully. Yes, Newt, Georgia thinks you’re a peach. Now, would you please step aside and help stop the creeping rot that is hurting the whole crop! As for Rick Santorum, somebody needs to get a bucket of water and douse the religious fire. An admirable crusader, he is unfortunately leading the troops straight towards a cliff. There’s no doubt that Romney stands head and shoulders above Santorum when it comes to all matters related to the economy. And when voters say their biggest concern is job creation or taming the deficit, Santorum’s religious sanitizing of the Republican party seems a little, well, off-topic.

I just read a great article by Major Garrett in the National Journal about the division in the Republican party and the split between what the writer calls “The Rationals” and “The Notionals.” It has nothing to do with rational versus irrational thinking. Instead the Notionals are the Republicans who have a notion that there is someone out there who is better than Romney. And they have been flipping back and forth for a year and a half about who that may be.

To take this line of thinking a little further, I would say it is Rick Santorum’s good fortune that the Notionals have discovered him at this stage of the game. But does someone, who soundly lost a re-election bid as Senator in his home state, have what it takes to defeat President Barack Obama in what is going to be a tough general election driven in large part by voters concerns about the economy?

Garret says the Notionals are the grass roots activists who are trying to effect change by staying longer and talking louder. They are the Tea Party-ers, the Bachmann and Palin fans, the Donald Trump fans, the Rush Limbaughs, who get a lot of attention but do not speak for most Republicans I know. The Notionals are the ones who said in polls that it is important that a candidate share their religion.

I would add that the Rationals are the people who recognize the range of social opinions within the party when they hear George Bush’s daughter advocating gay marriage. They care when someone they trust, like Barbara Bush, says they’ve known the Romneys for years and they really are good people. The Rationals are the same people who can take an objective look at Mitt Romney’s resume and see a pretty compelling match between his skills and our country’s most pressing needs right now.

One obvious target Romney could reach out to to bolster himself in the final months leading up to the nomination is moderate Republican women. According to CNN, half of Republican voters are women and two-thirds of new small businesses are started by women. We’re here and we tend to vote Republican. And we really like Barbara Bush. In fact, we’re waiting for her to come up with another zinger like, “It rhymes with rich.”

What would she say about this current hard right/then hard left/now hard right turn into the bedroom and the ensuing flap on birth control? Hmmm. If anyone can put it in perspective, she can! And God knows, Republican women could use a good laugh right now!

By the way, Romney took Vermont, too. According to CNN’s Super Tuesday polls, Vermont is the only state where the majority of Republican voters heading to the polls on Super Tuesday identified themselves as Moderates. I believe the majority of Republicans actually are moderate right now and that they view the social conservatives with suspicion. They’re just waiting for the reasonable Republican to be revered the way the social conservative is now feared. That is what it is going to take to re-engage them and get them to the polls! I guess it’s clear who I am voting for -- the Rational! Or Mitt Romney.

This post is part of a weekly conversation with our 5 Moms Matter 2012 political bloggers. To see the original question and what the other bloggers have to say, read Super Tuesday Results: The Battle Continues.

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