Last night, in winning last night’s big prize, Amy Walter of ABC OTUS News reported
[Mitt] Romney didn’t simply get more votes than Santorum did in the “must-win” state of Wisconsin, he won over the kinds of voters who have been skeptical of his candidacy for much of this primary season: very conservative Republicans, middle income earners, strong Tea Party supporters and non-college graduates.
His victory in the Badger State coupled with wins in the District of Columbia and Maryland allowed the former Massachusetts governor to pull a hat-trick last night. And he might had higher percentages in Wisconsin if not for Democratic shenanigans there, as Michael Barone observed, in sifting through the exit polls:
According to the exit poll, 30% of Republican primary voters identified themselves as Independents and 11% as Democrats. Among self-identified Democrats, Rick Santorum beat Mitt Romney 37%-19%. That amounted to a Santorum popular vote majority of 2% of the total vote. You might want to keep that in mind in interpreting the statewide percentage. Among self-identifed Republicans, Romney won 51%-37%. That’s pretty conclusive about what Republicans want.
. . . . Santorum also carried (and Ron Paul ran second among) the small number who said Romney was too conservative; he carried, narrowly, those who say the economy is getting better (which includes all those Democratic crossovers); he carried those who disapprove of Governor Scott Walker. In other words, Romney consolidated the Republican vote in Wisconsin, and Santorum’s total was boosted by crossover Democrats who want the Republicans to nominate what they believe to be a candidate who would be easy to defeat.
In responding to last night’s results, Santorum offered a strange speech, never once mentioning Mitt Romney and saying in his conclusion that “The clock starts tonight. We’ve got three weeks to go out here in Pennsylvania and win this state and after winning this state, the field looks a little different in May.” Not sure his victory in his home state would make the field look any different, but his defeat there would (most conclusively) end his political career.
And in focusing on that home state, he all but cedes the other states to Romney, allowing the frontrunner to expand his already substantial delegate lead.
That frontrunner, by contrast, gave a feistier, more upbeat address, faulting the president for increasing government spending and offering an alternative to the Democrat’s government-based society. He doesn’t want to transform America, but restore it. He heralded free enterprise as the mans to lift people out of poverty:
In this last year, I have been all over this country, from student union cafeterias to kitchen tables, from factory break rooms to boardrooms, and I’ve heard frustration and anger but rarely hopelessness. Many Americans have given up on this President but they haven’t ever thought about giving up. Not on themselves. Not on each other. And not on America.
Mitt Romney did what he needed to do last night, both on the ground in those three jurisdictions and in his speech after we learned the results. He’s got a lot of work ahead of him in the next seven months, but he’s better equipped to face those challenges than he was seven months ago.