Primary results don't ease doubts about Romney's backing among conservatives

Primary results don't ease doubts about Romney's backing among conservatives

March 8th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

Super Tuesday boosted former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's hopes to be the Republican nominee for president, but his inability to pull decisively ahead despite a vast campaign financing advantage only adds to questions about his chances of defeating President Barack Obama in November.

Romney took a razor-thin win in Ohio, as well as wins in Virginia, Vermont, Idaho, Alaska and Massachusetts. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum won in Tennessee, Oklahoma and North Dakota and was the extremely close second-place finisher in Ohio, though he is running on a shoestring budget. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich won overwhelmingly in Georgia.

So far, Romney has been able to win only two states in the South: Florida and Virginia. But Florida is demographically quite different from other, more conservative Southern states, and in Virginia, Romney benefited from the fact that the two more conservative GOP candidates -- Santorum and Gingrich -- were not on the ballot.

The reality is, Romney is struggling to motivate conservatives. That may not be too important in states such as Tennessee and Georgia, which are unlikely to vote for ultraliberal Obama no matter who the Republican candidate is. But it is far more problematic in swing states such as Ohio, where Romney won Tuesday but with less than two-fifths of the vote. The combined Ohio votes of Santorum and Gingrich exceeded 50 percent, which hints anew that moderate Romney's success so far in the primaries is in considerable measure linked to the splitting of more conservative votes.

The Republican nominee will have to win a number of swing states to defeat Obama in the fall, but it is uncertain whether crucial conservative voters would turn out in sufficient numbers for Romney in those states.

Despite Romney's higher delegate total so far, for many Republican voters, he has not yet sealed the deal.