If the past is indeed prologue, a look at the exit polls from the presidential primaries in Michigan and Arizona may give us a sneak peek at the contests that come up on Super Tuesday and the week after. These contests include Michigan's neighbor Ohio and Dixie primaries in Oklahoma, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. Analysis of this week's results suggests the road ahead could be rocky for former Gov. Mitt Romney.
Mitt Romney may have the Midas touch but he clearly doesn't have the common touch. In Michigan and in Arizona, he did much better with rich people then he did with working people. This pattern spells trouble in the five southern contests coming up where incomes are lower.
Ohio may be tough for Romney without the help he got from his father's legacy in nearby Michigan. Romney captured half of the senior vote in Michigan but only a third of the youth vote. This suggests that older voters who remembered the candidate's father were disposed to vote for the son. In Michigan, Rep. Ron Paul was the big winner among millennial voters.
Romney captured the minds of voters in both states but former Sen. Rick Santorum captured their hearts. Romney kicked butt with voters who were looking for a candidate who could beat President Barack Obama and who was experienced. But Santorum scored well with primary voters who wanted a true conservative and someone who has strong moral character.
Santorum is in danger of becoming a one-trick pony. Santorum's emphasis on social issues might have cost him support among economic conservatives. In both states, the former Pennsylvania senator did much better with born again Christians than he did with Tea Party supporters. In Michigan, Santorum captured three-quarters of the prolife vote, but only a third of the voters who were most concerned about the federal budget deficit and the economy supported Santorum. Santorum's religious base should help him in the upcoming southern states where there are large numbers of evangelicals but hurt him over the long haul in states that are more secular. This pattern may also be an indication that religious conservatives question Romney's Mormon beliefs.
Romney's victories in Michigan and Arizona Tuesday night may hurt him next week on Super Tuesday. After Tuesday's two contests, Mitt Romney looks like the inevitable GOP nominee for president for the 12th or 13th different time. But every time it looks like Mitt will be the guy, Republicans get a case of buyer's remorse and slap him down. All things considered, the next couple of weeks could be ugly for Romney and put his quest for the nomination in doubt again.
- Read the U.S. News debate: Can Mitt Romney Close the Deal With Conservatives?
- Follow the Thomas Jefferson Street blog on Twitter at @TJSBlog.
- Check out U.S. News Weekly: an insider's guide to politics and policy