6 Super Tuesday surprises
Super Tuesday unrolled much as the polls and pundits had predicted: Mitt Romney won the most states and the most delegates, but failed to quash his competitors or the lingering doubts about his candidacy. "We're basically exactly where we were at the start of the day," yawned Erica Grieder at The Economist. Still, Tuesday wasn't without its share of little surprises and unexpected twists. Here, six developments that added some spice to an otherwise bland Super Tuesday:
1. Obama barely won Oklahoma's Democratic primary
Santorum scored a big win in Oklahoma's Republican primary, but Democrats had their primary on Tuesday, too. And in "further evidence that Oklahoma doesn't have much regard for the president," Obama only managed a "shockingly low" 56 percent of the vote, says Aaron Blake at The Washington Post. Anti-abortion activist Randall Terry, who won 18 percent, went so far as to claim victory, telling Slate's David Weigel, "I beat a sitting president over the cause of the babies!" Terry vowed to carry his "Obama suppression campaign" to the Democratic convention, since any candidate who wins more than 15 percent of the vote is eligible to claim a delegate.
2. Democrats nearly propelled Santorum to an Ohio win
Despite being outspent 5 to 1 in Ohio by Mitt Romney, Santorum only lost by 1 percentage point. His secret weapon? Democrats, says Micah Cohen in The New York Times. "Operation Hilarity, in which Michigan Democrats planned to meddle in the Republican nominating process," didn't help Santorum much in the Wolverine State. But Democrats nearly put him over the top in Ohio, going for him almost 2 to 1 over Romney — and giving him "a 1 or 2 percentage point bump" in the GOP primary.
3. Catholics voted for the Mormon...
Santorum may have won the Democrats in Ohio, but Romney claimed victory there because many "Catholics refused to vote for the two Catholics in the race," Santorum and Gingrich, says Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast. A full one-third of Tuesday's Ohio voters were Catholic, and Romney, a Mormon, won 43 percent of them, versus 30 percent for Santorum, who extended his perfect record of losing the Catholic vote in every state.
4. ...And evangelicals voted for the Catholics
Romney lost the evangelical/born-again Christian vote by wide margins in Ohio, Tennessee, and Oklahoma, where between 47 percent (Ohio) and 75 percent (Tennessee and Oklahoma) of voters were evangelicals. Even worse for Romney: More than 60 percent of primary voters in those states said it was important that a candidate share their religious beliefs, and those voters flocked to Santorum. Romney's inability to win over evangelicals is a big problem, but not a new one, says Ryan Lizza at The New Yorker. His support among the key GOP voting bloc has dropped over the past six years, and in this year's contests, he's lost evangelicals by an average of 15 points.
5. Ohio's GOP primary was the closest in decades
With nearly all the Ohio results tallied, Romney leads Santorum by a mere 12,000 votes out of more than 1 million ballots cast. That razor-thin margin marks "the narrowest Ohio Republican primary since the modern primary system was established in 1972," says The New York Times' Cohen. The last GOP primary in Ohio that wasn't a massive blowout was in 1976, and even then President Gerald Ford easily topped challenger Ronald Reagan, 55 percent to 45 percent.
6. Dennis Kucinich lost his seat — and a chance to beat Joe the Plumber
Super Tuesday wasn't only about presidential politics, and it was anything but super for former Democratic presidential contender Rep. Dennis Kucinich. After Ohio lost two U.S. House seats in the last Census, Kucinich's district was merged with that of Rep. Marcy Kaptur, pitting the two veteran Democrats in a fight for Ohio's new 9th district. Kucinich lost. "One of the biggest — and most overlooked — surprises of Tuesday night," though, was the winner of the GOP primary to face Kaptur in November, says Alex Isenstadt at Politico: Samuel Wurzelbacher, or "Joe the Plumber," who narrowly beat an underfunded and "obscure auctioneer named Steve Kraus." Kaptur is heavily favored to beat Joe the Plumber in November.