The grueling Republican primary season continues with more of the same. Romney won the biggest races and the most delegates, but given his crushing advantage in money, organization, endorsements, and conservative media help, his performance was underwhelming.
Mitt did win his home state of Massachussetts, Virginia (where only Romney and Paul were on the ballot), Idaho, Vermont, Ohio, and he’s projected to win Alaska. Newt, on the other hand, only won his home state of Georgia while Santorum won Oklahoma, North Dakota, and Tennessee.
Yet, Mitt barely managed to win Ohio, where he outspent Santorum 6-to-1, he only beat Ron Paul (!!!) 59-41 in a two man Virginia race, and his loss in Tennessee underscores his weakness in the South that would put North Carolina and Virginia in play in the general election.
Still, we’re at the point where it has become obvious that neither Newt or Santorum has any chance of overtaking Mitt in delegates before the convention unless one of them drops out. The thing is, although Santorum is ahead of Newt in delegates and nationally, his campaign appears to be running out of money while it seems extremely unlikely that Sheldon Adelson would have agreed to give Newt’s Super PAC so much money unless he promised to stay in the race long-term (Adelson reportedly doesn’t like Santorum and wants Mitt as the nominee if Newt can’t come out on top).
So, what happens from here? It’s hard to say for sure. Newt or Santorum could drop out and suddenly things could get a lot more interesting. Alternately, if both stay in, voters may tire of the primary, conclude only Mitt can pull in enough delegates, and may start to coalesce around him. On the other hand, this could go all the way to the convention and if Mitt STILL doesn’t have enough delegates, it would be such a sign of weakness that all bets would be off. A brokered convention isn’t the most likely outcome at this point, given Mitt’s weakness, it’s far from an impossibility if Santorum and Newt stay in until the end.
Unfortunately, the longer this race goes on without either Newt or Santorum showing they can seriously challenge Mitt, the more likely it is that he will capture the nomination. So, underwhelming performance or not, last night’s performance still moves Mitt that much closer to capturing the nomination.