Watching Super Tuesday results come in last night, one couldn’t help but ask, what is it that’s preventing Republican voters from showing more enthusiasm for Mitt Romney? Yes, he won six of the 10 states, but in only three states did he get over 50 percent of the vote, including his home state of Massachusetts, while in four states his total was 28 percent or less.
For clues, I thought back to what voters told me late last week and over the weekend in the pivotal state of Ohio, where Romney eked out a win with 37.9 percent of the vote, a scare-inducing 8/10ths of a point over Rick Santorum.
Starting in Dayton, long-time Republican Dave Dysinger, owner of a small company that manufactures precision tools, said flatly, “Romney doesn’t excite me. … Hate to admit it, but I think it may be more about his style than his substance. … There might be something really great about Romney but he’s doing a great job of concealing it.” Dysinger voted early for Newt Gingrich, acknowledging he may not have a chance, but seeing a need to keep “the pot stirred.”
Dysinger tool designer Steve Milam, another Republican, is more direct: “Romney … doesn’t seem like he’s in touch with the middle class.” Milam says he wants the next president to turn the country “into the favor of … the working man.”
About 25 miles to the east, in Springfield, Ohio, at McGregor Toolmaking, sales account manager and member of the owning family, Jamie McGregor, said while he planned to vote for Romney, he doesn’t feel he is “the best that’s out there.” He said he would have liked to see New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie run. Unlike Christie, McGregor said of Romney: “He tries to dance too much. I think he avoids the hard issues.”
McGregor employee Mitchell Reis said he was still trying to decide who to support in the GOP field as of late last week, but added, of Romney, “Unfortunately, not a big fan at this point,” citing the Massachusetts governor’s having “backtracked” on “a couple different things.”
I found the most pro-Romney comments in Powell, an affluent suburb of Columbus, where at a hair salon, physician’s billing manager Heidi Dittman told me, “Romney is by far above the other candidates. He is honorable. He is steadfast. … I know people say he vacillates, he had ‘Romneycare’ But it was different from ‘Obamacare’.”
In the Easy Street CafÃ©, small business owner Melinda Hayes said, “There is something about him that I register and connect with when I hear him speak.”
But farther south, in Chillicothe, at a rally for Santorum, mother of six and home-schooler Kymn Davis pronounced her view emphatically: “I never got the feeling that I could trust Governor Romney. There was always something, somehow, that there was some faÃ§ade, some presentation he was giving more so than he was a real person with a value system that I shared.”
Most of these Republicans said they plan to vote for whomever the party nominates in November, but it would appear, if Romney’s the nominee, his campaign has its work cut out when some of the voters who will make up their base in the fall, hold views like these.
Watch Judy Woodruff’s report from Ohio: