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It Didn't Feel Like It, But Romney Won

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

At 10:08 PM Rick Santorum was hanging on to a two percentage point lead in Ohio, but it was a very good night for Santorum no matter what happens as the rest of Ohio's votes are counted.

The pre-game analysis - by me - was that Romney would probably win Ohio fairly easily - by four or five percentage points. He had closed a double-digit gap over the past 10 days and I thought he was catching Super Tuesday on an upswing.

I was wrong.

I also thought that he would have a good chance of picking off Tennessee where he had been doing well among late deciders.

I was wrong. The high-level of Evangelical voters there boosted Santorum to an easy 9 percentage point win.

I thought Ron Paul might pick up his first win in North Dakota.

I was wrong. Santorum won there, too. Even though only about 10,000 people participated, Santorum got about 40% of them.

Each candidate won where he should have. Newt Gingrich won Georgia but was not competitive in any other state. At 10:30 last night, Gingrich was just shy of the 50 percent he needed to get all of Georgia's 76 delegates. If he doesn't reach that threshold they will be apportioned.

Romney won in Massachusetts, Vermont, and Virginia - where neither Santorum nor Gingrich were even on the ballot. Santorum can only wonder what his night might have been like had he had the campaign infrastructure to get his name on the ballot in the Commonwealth.

Santorum won in Tennessee, Oklahoma, and North Dakota - which I thought might be a Ron Paul win.

As I was typing this, Romney had jumped out to a lead in Idaho, and Alaska was still an hour and 45 minutes from closing its caucuses so we'll have to wait to see what happens there.

Tennessee was a state that geniuses like me thought Romney might have had a shot at, but the high-level of Evangelical voters there boosted Santorum to an easy 9 percentage point win.

Mitt Romney's campaign will claim that the real contest is for winning delegates, not winning the popular vote in these states and he's right. But, the story of last night was supposed to be that the race was now all but over because Romney demonstrated such strength in so many places.

Even if Romney ends up winning Ohio and Idaho - bringing him to wins in five of the 10 Super Tuesday states - he will not get the buzz bump that should have accompanied that because it was far more of a struggle than it was supposed to have been.

Rick Santorum will have won just three of the ten, but it seemed like he won more. He will fall farther back in the delegate race, but it seems like he closed the gap a little. He will still be far, far behind in the money race, but it seems like he has enough to do very well indeed.

Rick Santorum is not going anywhere. He will have the political support and the money to continue at least through the rest of the Spring and perhaps all the way to June.

Or, all the way to August.

Newt Gingrich had early laid claim to being competitive in both Oklahoma and Tennessee where his two high-visibility surrogates - J.C. Watts and Fred Thompson respectively - in addition to Georgia but it became clear that they were both out of his reach. As of this writing, Gingrich came in third in both states.

Ron Paul has still not won a state, but he has said right from the earliest days of this campaign that he was strictly looking at delegates. He said he had neither the stamina nor the money to do major statewide campaigning.

So, now that we have re-established that people like me have no earthly idea what is going on let me explain what's going on.

The race now largely shifts to the South which is not Romney-land.

Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana (as well as Illinois) are all still looming in March. Hawaii caucuses on the 13th and Missouri - where Santorum won the beauty contest last month - has its county caucuses on the 17th.

An hour after I started writing, at 11:08, CNN reported that Romney had pulled ahead in Ohio and the areas outstanding would likely increase Romney's lead.

So, I was right and Romney won in Ohio. But, it sure didn't feel like it.

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