When Mitt Romney won the Washington State caucuses on Saturday by a big margin, I observed that he had been running ahead of the polls and expected him a photo finish in Tennessee with the former Massachusetts governor winning by a margin nearly identical to that he enjoyed last week in Michigan. Not so last night, save perhaps in Oklahoma.
Rick Santorum scored a big win in Tennessee, winning the Volunteer State by 9 points, nearly twice his margin in the Sooner State where he was supposed to win by a big margin. And he only won the Buckeye State by 1 point. Interestingly, exit polls showed that 5% of the voters in the Ohio Republican primary were Democrats, with 47% of them going for Santorum.
Even as I was predicting a Romney win in a Facebook exchange with a friend, I told her that Santorum could pull it out on the strength of the evangelical vote in rural Ohio. (A native of the Buckeye State, I have long been aware of the strength outside in such areas.) They went for Santorum by a margin of 17 points (47-30 over Romney). My sense is that whereas Romney had a good campaign organization, Santorum benefited from grassroots networks at churches and evangelical community associations across Ohio.
Santorum had a similar margin among evangelical voters in Tennessee, running 17 points ahead of Newt, 18 ahead of Romney. In Oklahoma, his margin was considerably smaller; the split was 37-27-27.
Some of the statements Santorum made that we found damaging to his cause likely helped him among these voters.
Ron Paul bested Santorum in Vermont and Idaho and edged out Romney in North Dakota. In some counties in the Idaho panhandle, the libertarian Congressman was winning over 50% of the vote.
Mitt Romney did well in both the most Republican state voting last night (Idaho) and the most Democratic (Massachusetts), winning each with about 70% of the vote. Romney did better in his adopted home state (Massachusetts) where he won 72% of the vote than Gingrich did in his where he won 47% of the vote.
Romney came in third in just one state (North Dakota) whereas Santorum came in second in two (Ohio, Massachusetts and Alaska), with complete Alaska returns outstanding.
NB: Changed the title to more accurately reflect the post’s contents.
UPDATE: A good, but not a great night for Romney. He won six of the ten contests, including the big prize (Ohio). (If we eliminate Virginia where all four candidates were not on the ballot, he still won a majority: 5 of 9.) (Updated this post when the Alaska returns came in.)