By all appearances, Mitt Romney has won the Ohio primary. At one point down by 18,000 votes, the former Massachusetts governor is now in the lead thanks to the urban, high-income counties surrounding Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland.
Barring anything short of a miracle, Romney will barely squeak by Santorum in the Buckeye State. And by picking up wins in Massachusetts, Vermont, Idaho and Virginia, you can expect to hear the spin out of Boston that Romney is the only candidate that has won major states in all regions of the country and is in the best position to reach the magic delegate number of 1,144 to secure the nomination.
Though it makes me sick to my stomach to say it, the GOP base will need to start coming to grips with the fact that Romney is likely the eventual nominee. While Santorum has given Romney a tough fight and has shown that he deserves to be in a two-way race with the Massachusetts governor, the hubris of Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul — who are determined to stay in the race no matter what — will likely split the anti-Romney vote and deny Santorum any real shot at capturing the nomination.
So where does this leave Mitt Romney? The short answer — in a very weakened position.
Up until today, the former Massachusetts governor had averaged only 36% support in the 12 states leading up to Super Tuesday. Up until today, Romney had only captured a majority of voters in one state — Nevada. Hardly impressive figures. Even with a win in Ohio, 60% of Buckeye GOP’ers said “Thanks, but no thanks” to Romney and his platform.
When (and if) Romney does secure the nomination, he has a lot of work to do to coalesce the conservative base behind him. And that may prove to be more difficult than some think, considering that the candidate has all but refused to meet or speak with conservative grassroots leaders and groups. Will Romney finally reach out to these conservatives? Will he make another pitch to the grassroots for their support?
And while Romney spends time trying to bridge the gap with conservatives, Obama and his billion dollar campaign machine will be preparing — and waiting.