Ohio Win, Delegate Haul Cap Solid Night for Romney

Ohio Win, Delegate Haul Cap Solid Night for Romney

By Carl M. Cannon - March 7, 2012

The 2012 Republican presidential nomination is now within Mitt Romney's grasp.

The election on Super Tuesday came down to Ohio -- as it might again in November -- and when the votes were finally counted, Romney eked out a narrow victory in the Buckeye State's raw vote, and a significant win in the statewide delegate count.

Coupled with his triumphs in Virginia, Vermont, Massachusetts, Idaho and Alaska, the Ohio returns finally gave definition to a GOP primary season that has, until now, been characterized mainly by ambiguity and indecision.

Last night, Rick Santorum won Tennessee, Oklahoma, and North Dakota. Newt Gingrich, running third in most of the 10 Super Tuesday states, managed to win only his home state of Georgia.

But the night belonged to Romney. The former governor of Massachusetts, an unsuccessful 2008 candidate, has now won 14 of the first 23 primaries and caucuses on the 2012 calendar, with Santorum winning seven, and Gingrich two. Ron Paul had hoped that a victory in the caucuses in Alaska would finally put him in the win column, but that was not to be.

The Republicans’ proportional delegate selection process makes it hard to come up with exact delegate tallies on Election Night. But it was clear as Super Tuesday lapsed into Super Wednesday and the last election returns from Ohio trickled in that Romney can claim more delegates than his three rivals combined.

“This is a process of gathering enough delegates to become the nominee, and I think we're on track to have that happen,” Romney told journalists as he arrived in Boston to vote Tuesday. Later, after sweeping to a landslide victory in the Bay State, he told supporters gathered in Copley Center, “I’m going to get this nomination.”

At a White House press conference earlier in the day, President Obama breezily wished Romney “good luck,” with a wry smile that implied he expects to be facing him in the fall -- and is ready to start running against him right now.

Until Tuesday, the possibility of a brokered convention had intrigued political scientists, journalists, and politicos themselves. In an afternoon interview with CNN, Sarah Palin, another 2008 national candidate, refused to rule herself out as a candidate in such an event.

“Anything is possible,” she said. “I don’t close any doors that perhaps would be open out there, so, no, I wouldn’t close that door. My plan is to be at that convention.”

Her role might just be diminished: For some reason, Palin revealed late Tuesday night in an appearance on Fox News that she had voted for Gingrich, the candidate she called “the cheerful one.” Regardless of Palin’s role, if any, in Tampa, the upshot of yesterday’s results is that a brokered convention is less likely, and that if there is any suspense, it will be over the identity of the GOP vice presidential nominee.

“It’s almost impossible to make a case that anyone but Romney can win a majority of delegates at the convention,” GOP pollster and consultant Frank Luntz told RCP last night. “But there’s been damage to his image that needs repair.”

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Carl M. Cannon is the Washington Bureau Chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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