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Dems Helped Keep Santorum Close in Wisconsin

Dems Helped Keep Santorum Close in Wisconsin

By Scott Conroy - April 4, 2012


According to exit polls, Mitt Romney beat Rick Santorum among just about every demographic of Republican voter in the Wisconsin primary on Tuesday.

In addition to his standard, large margin of victory among high-income, well-educated, and less-ideologically-driven Republicans, Romney also beat Santorum among voters making less than $50,000 a year and those who lack a college degree. Romney even eked out a small advantage among Wisconsin GOP primary voters who described themselves as "very conservative."

Santorum did beat Romney by 4 percent among self-described evangelical or born-again Christians, but his biggest boost in the open primary appears to have come from Democrats and those who said they were opposed to the Tea Party.

Santorum won the 11 percent of primary voters who described themselves as Democrats by a sizable 44 percent to 24 percent margin over Romney.

Wisconsin was the third Midwestern battleground in which the margin of Romney’s victory over his chief rival appears to have been driven down by Democrats intent upon extending the Republican race and thus weakening the front-runner -- who is increasingly being seen as the presumptive GOP nominee -- in the general election.

Santorum’s assistance from ideologically opposed voters apparently goes back to late February when he beat Romney by 35 percentage points among Democrats in the Michigan primary. And in March, the former Pennsylvania senator racked up a 20-point Democratic advantage over Romney in Ohio.

As he moves closer to a general election approach following his latest set of victories, Romney is now all but ignoring Santorum.

But his campaign is not masking its frustration with how Santorum remains competitive in key states based, at least in part, on the support of voters highly unlikely to cast their ballots for him in November.

“It’s become increasingly clear that the only people who now benefit from a drawn-out primary process are the Democrats,” said Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul.

As the geographic focus of the Republican campaign moves to Pennsylvania, which joins four other northeastern states holding primaries on April 24, Santorum will not have the same opportunity to benefit from mischief-making Democrats that he had in previous rustbelt battlegrounds. Pennsylvania’s GOP primary is open only to Republicans.

Still, at least one prominent Pennsylvania Democrat has already revealed his rooting interest in the opposition campaign.

“The internal fight that they’re having in their party at the presidential level is having an adverse impact on Republican prospects,” Sen. Bob Casey , who defeated Santorum in 2006, told Pittsburgh station KDKA. “So I don’t want to do anything to slow that down.” 

Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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