PATCHWORK NATION -- March 7, 2012 at 4:45 PM ET
Romney Won Most States on Super Tuesday, But His Weaknesses Stick
Coming out of Super Tuesday, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has a bigger lead in delegates, a nice push of momentum and, in some quarters, a growing sense that the GOP presidential nomination is slowly falling into his hands.
Romney won six out of the 10 states on the calendar and he won Ohio -- the state largely thought to be the most crucial. But looking at the results through Patchwork Nation's demographic and geographic breakdown of counties, nagging problems remain.
Even though he scratched out a victory in the Buckeye State over former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Romney still had trouble with the same lower-income communities that have troubled him through the primary process thus far -- the Emptying Nests and Service Worker Centers. The culturally conservative Evangelical Epicenters also still are very bad territory for him. (Mouse over the icons to see how each candidate performed in each type on the map.)
And those trends reach beyond Ohio to the full docket of Super Tuesday states. Scroll through the state maps on the right side of Patchwork Nation's homepage and you'll notice Romney lost those county types everywhere except Massachusetts, where he was governor, neighboring Vermont and Idaho, which has a sizable Mormon population.
We wondered Tuesday on this blog whether Romney was reaching the point where rank-and-file GOP voters would look at the numbers and fall behind Romney as the endorsements and delegates pile up. The answer out of Tuesday seems to be not yet.
The income gap we have written about is still very much a part of the Romney divide as you can see on the county type map of Ohio above. His biggest vote margins came in the wealthy Monied Burbs, Boom Towns and Industrial Metropolis counties.
And even within those categories there are differences based on how much income people have. For instance, Santorum won six Monied Burb counties, but only one with an income of more than $60,000. Romney also won six of those Monied Burbs, but four of them have a media household income of more than $60,000 - that includes the state's two wealthiest counties, Delaware and Geauga.
And that split in the number of Monied Burb counties -- six for each candidate -- may suggest Romney is having trouble with the blue-collar voters in those critical swing-voting places.
When all the votes were counted, Romney won the Monied Burbs in Ohio, but not by much -- only 3 percentage points. He carried those counties by 8 percentage points in Michigan, but largely on the strength of Oakland County, where he grew up. Absent that home field advantage is Ohio, the fight was tougher.
And Romney's issues in the Burbs extend to Tennessee and Oklahoma. None of the candidates had any built-in advantages in those places (no history representing or living in them), but both states hold large numbers of Evangelical voters -- even in the Monied Burbs -- particularly in comparison to other Super Tuesday states as you can see on the map below.
Romney won only one Monied Burb county in Tennessee and none in Oklahoma -- those Monied Burbs also tend to be less affluent than similar counties in the north. And he struggled everywhere else in those states other than the Boom Towns, where he won in a few places, generally with higher incomes.
Nights full of victories like Tuesday are nice for Romney, but he still needs to find a way to win over lower-income voters and cultural conservative if he wants to secure the nomination, and he might have to fight for them.
The Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling that allows for super PACs means his opponents -- Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich -- can stay in the race as long as their big-money supporters keep funding them. And as long as they stay in the race, there will be alternatives for voters.
All of this is a way of saying that Romney may be at least getting close to landing the nomination, but he still has a ways to go and his turbulence is not going away.
Top photo of Ann and Mitt Romney by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.