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 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.
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