The janitors are sweeping up the confetti after the Super Tuesday celebrations last night (at Gingrich 2012 HQ, those janitors are fifth graders) and looking back, “Super” seems a little hyperbolic. By the numbers, Mitt Romney’s the big winner, but the battle actually left him looking weak. In his least contested and most decisive win — Massachusetts — turnout was positively anemic. You could argue that this was because Mitt was a shoe-in, so people didn’t bother voting. But that doesn’t explain Ohio, a hotly contested race with likewise light voter turnout. “Turnout has been low… modest, you can insert the term you want,” says Secretary of State Jon Husted.
In that state, Romney outspent Santorum 3:1 and it was a nailbiter all the way to the wire. As a result, it looks more like an election bought than an election won. And momentum? It’s just not there.
Romney, as we’ve written before, is likely heading into another bounce-free news cycle. The former Massachusetts governor’s campaign and its backers had hoped to use a strong night to start making the case that it’s time to wind this down, and his election night speech, delivered from Boston, was supposed to convey the aura of a nominee-in-waiting.
But in the end, he underperformed. He does not head into Wednesday with the spin on his side, and his campaign has done little to finesse expectations throughout this race. The muddled results Tuesday — Romney’s cache of victories, Newt Gingrich’s win in Georgia and Santorum’s surprisingly strong clinch in Tennessee accompanied by wins in Oklahoma and North Dakota — are going to do little to bring an immediate end to the primary.
So on it goes. No one but the candidates are talking about who should drop out or who can’t go on. Romney hasn’t put this thing to bed. The self-destructive primary season continues. It seems that after every big GOP primary night, the biggest winner has been Barack Obama. It’s so true that it’s becoming cliché to type those words out.
There isn’t really much more to write about it without padding the post, so this will be a short one; Super Tuesday was a Super Yawn. No knockout punch by anyone, no candidates shed, no big turn-around, no excited crowds of voters. Just the same story we’ve seen over and over: people not very excited about Mitt Romney, but convinced — at the last minute and through great expense — that he has the best chance at beating President Obama. He’s racking up the delegates, slowly but surely, and his (probable) road to the nomination seems like a long slog, if not a death march; an exhausting trudge through unfriendly territory.
At the end of that march, bone-weary and bruised, he’ll meet an opponent who’s freshly rested, showered, shaved, and has had a good breakfast. As a metaphor, it should seem heroic. But the truth is that it’s all beginning to look so slow and predictable as to be dull.