Romney Beats Santorum in Ohio as Results Signal Long Race

Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his wife Ann Romney arrive at a Super Tuesday night gathering in Boston, Massachusetts. Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Mitt Romney, facing an extended fight for the Republican presidential nomination, is boosting his fundraising efforts as his campaign seeks to outspend and outlast his rivals.

In a sign that his campaign is gearing up for a prolonged battle, Romney is planning to attend three fundraisers in the New York area next week. The events -- two in New York City and one in nearby Stamford, Connecticut -- are expected to bring in as much as $2.5 million, according to people familiar with the plans who weren’t authorized to speak about them publicly.

Romney raised $11.5 million in February, Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman, told reporters today. It was his second-biggest fundraising month after December 2011, she said.

The day after Super Tuesday -- in which Romney won six of 10 contests in which the vote counted ended -- his aides worked hard to sell a message of confidence.

“I don’t want to say he’s inevitable, but I think that he’s the likely nominee,” Russ Schriefer, his media strategist, told reporters outside his Boston headquarters today.

Asked about Romney’s best opportunities for wins in the coming weeks, Schriefer named contests in Illinois, Hawaii, Maryland and Washington, D.C. He didn’t mention races in the Midwest and South, including March 13 primaries in Mississippi and Alabama, where Romney’s aides say he may lose, yet collect delegates.

“This is going to go on for a while,” Schriefer said.

Weaknesses Exposed

Romney’s narrow win yesterday in Ohio’s primary -- the most coveted prize on Super Tuesday -- exposed anew his weaknesses. The former Massachusetts governor edged Rick Santorum by less than 1 percentage point in Ohio and the pair split yesterday’s other major races, so neither candidate could claim a decisive showing.

Primaries in Virginia, Vermont and his home state of Massachusetts also went to Romney, as well as caucuses in Idaho and Alaska. His financial and organizational advantages helped in Ohio, yet the closeness of that contest revived questions about his appeal to working-class voters and his party’s base.

Romney, who padded his delegate lead over the other candidates, put the best face on his showing in remarks to supporters last night in Boston and again today.

‘Pretty Darn Good’

“After last night, I feel pretty darn good,” Romney said on CNBC today. “We had a very strong response across the country, everywhere from Alaska to Vermont.”

Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, won the Tennessee and Oklahoma primaries and caucuses in North Dakota. He aggressively competed against Romney in Ohio with the goal of establishing himself as a challenger capable of derailing the front-runner.

“We’re going to get at least a couple of gold medals and a whole passel full of silver medals,” Santorum told supporters last night in Steubenville, Ohio. “We’re ready to win across this country.”

In Ohio, with 100 percent of precincts reporting, Romney had 37.9 percent of the vote and Santorum 37.1 percent, according to the Associated Press tally. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich had 14.6 percent and Representative Ron Paul of Texas had 9.2 percent.

Romney’s Ohio victory solidifies his status as the Republican front-runner, said John Green, a political science professor at the University of Akron.

‘A Win Is a Win’

“A win is a win, even if it’s a close win and even if it’s not really pretty,” Green said. “The winner of Ohio will likely get a boost, even if it’s a very slim win, and a loss is a loss.”

Gingrich won the primary in Georgia, the state he represented in Congress for 20 years, by 22 percentage points over Romney, with Santorum running third. It was Gingrich’s second victory -- he won South Carolina’s Jan. 21 primary -- and kept his candidacy alive.

Still, he faces an uphill climb in seeking to replace Santorum as the main alternative to Romney. And in one way his Georgia win is a plus for Romney. Gingrich and Santorum have focused on the party’s most socially conservative members, including those who want to outlaw abortion and same-sex marriage; with both running, that vote probably won’t consolidate behind one of them.

An adviser to the political action committee backing Santorum called on Gingrich to withdraw from the campaign.

Head to Head

“With Gingrich exiting the race it would be a true head-to-head race and conservatives would be able to make a choice between a consistent conservative in Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney,” Stuart Roy, an adviser to the Red White and Blue Fund, said in a statement today.

The AP reported that Gingrich would begin receiving Secret Service protection starting today, leaving Representative Ron Paul of Texas as the only remaining Republican candidate without a detail assigned to him.

The nomination fight now moves to primaries and caucuses that include Kansas, Alabama and Mississippi, with the next major contest being the March 20 Illinois primary.

“These guys have to differentiate themselves from one another, and I think it’s healthy,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said today on Bloomberg Television. “A little bit of drama and a healthy primary fight is good for the party.”

Ohio Battle

Although yesterday’s voting stretched from Massachusetts in the east to Alaska in the West, much of the attention was on Ohio, a battleground in presidential elections and the state that drew the most candidate attention and money.

The Ohio campaign was in many ways a rematch of the contest Romney and Santorum waged in Michigan a week earlier, as they competed for voters in a state with similar demographics and economic challenges following the loss of manufacturing jobs. Romney won the Feb. 28 primary in Michigan, a state where he was born and his father was a governor, by 3 percentage points. He also won in Arizona that day.

Santorum had led in Ohio polls before those primaries. Over the past week, surveys showed momentum shifting to Romney.

Echoing a strategy then-Senator Barack Obama of Illinois used against then-Senator Hillary Clinton of New York in the 2008 Democratic nomination fight, Romney’s campaign has stressed using every available technique to collect the 1,144 delegates needed for his party’s nod to win, rather than only focusing on winning selected states. More than 400 delegates were at stake in yesterday’s voting.

Delegate Haul

After Super Tuesday, Romney had 415 delegates, Santorum 176, Gingrich 105 and Paul 47, according to the AP.

In a memo to reporters today, Romney’s political director said his candidate has won more than half of all delegates awarded so far and holds almost 40 percent of the total needed.

“Super Tuesday dramatically reduced the likelihood that any of Governor Romney’s opponents can obtain the Republican nomination,” political director Rich Beeson wrote. “As Governor Romney’s opponents attempt to ignore the basic principles of math, the only person’s odds of winning they are increasing are President Obama’s.”

Santorum’s campaign is paying the price for having run a bare-bones campaign for the past year. He failed to do the required work to get his name on Virginia’s ballot or to file a full slate of delegates in 9 of Ohio’s 16 congressional districts. Gingrich also didn’t get on the Virginia ballot, creating a face-off in the state between Romney and Paul.

Wyoming also began its delegate-selection process at county conventions that end on March 10; Romney took an early lead in that contest.

Exit Polls

According to exit polling in Ohio, Romney won 45 percent of the vote of those making more than $100,000 a year, while Santorum had the stronger showing among those with lower incomes: He won a plurality of those earning between $50,000 and $100,000. Romney also won slightly more votes among women.

People who identified themselves as white evangelical Christians represented 46 percent of the Ohio electorate. Within that group, Santorum won 46 percent and Romney 30 percent.

Among Catholics -- 33 percent of the Ohio vote -- Romney won 43 percent, compared with 31 percent for Santorum, who is Catholic.

Santorum won a plurality of those who haven’t attended college, while Romney won a plurality of those who had a college degree or higher level of education.

Romney won almost half the vote of those 65 years of age and older, a group that represented about a quarter of the Ohio turnout. Santorum outperformed Romney among those under 49 and younger.

Conservative Voters

Almost a third of Ohio’s voters described themselves as “very” conservative, and Santorum won roughly half of that contingent.

Ohio Governor John Kasich, a Republican who ran for president in 2000 and didn’t endorse a candidate in the field, said yesterday’s results were “not decisive.” While Santorum doesn’t have a lot of money, he may be “tapping into something,” and Romney is “not delivering,” he said.

“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Santorum; he’s winning a lot of these states,” Kasich said a press conference today in Houston, where he was speaking at an energy conference.

Kasich said Santorum “will play well in the South,” a reference to forthcoming primaries, and that “it’s a long road to Tampa” and the Republican National Convention there in August.

‘Lie With the Money’

Gingrich, speaking yesterday to supporters in Atlanta, vowed to campaign this week in Alabama and Mississippi as he accused Romney of lying about him in campaign ads.

“It’s one thing to have lots of money,” he said. “It’s another thing to lie with the money.”

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee who announced in October that she wouldn’t seek the White House this year, told CNN yesterday she’s open to being drafted at the national convention if a nominee isn’t obvious by then.

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

Romney’s fundraising advantage was evident in Ohio. Broadcast television spending by Romney’s campaign and a political action committee backing him outpaced expenditures on behalf of Santorum by more than 10-1 through March 5, according to data from New York-based Kantar Media’s CMAG, an advertising tracking company.

The Romney campaign and Restore Our Future, a super-PAC that supports him, spent $3.4 million to air ads 6,323 times on Ohio stations, CMAG reported. The Red White and Blue Fund, a PAC backing Santorum, spent $316,750 to air ads 693 times.

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