Despite Mitt Romney winning the crown jewel of Super Tuesday early Wednesday morning, the narrow margin in Ohio and other issues could spell trouble for him down the road, according to Ohio State political professors.
Romney won the Ohio Republican primary with 38 percent of votes. He also won Virginia, Idaho, Massachusetts and Vermont on Super Tuesday.
Americans watched Ohio’s outcome closely, which could determine who the next Republican candidate for presidency could be. Throughout the evening, Romney, who was governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum stayed within very close reach of one another, finishing with 37 percent of the vote.
OSU professor of law and history David Stebenne said Super Tuesday only left unanswered questions for Republicans due to the closeness of the race.
“Uncertainty has been the theme of the Republican primary process and that makes a lot of leaders uncomfortable,” Stebenne said. “Super Tuesday only added to this.”
Stebenne also pointed out that voter turnout was low for Republicans, indicating that voter energy might also be low.
“This is a warning sign for Republicans that if Romney ends up being the nominee, he’s not the most energizing candidate for bringing out a lot of folks” Stebenne said.
Ron Paul received 9 percent of the vote in Ohio and Newt Gingrich received 15 percent.
Paul has been the U.S. Representative for Texas’s 14th Congressional District since 1997. He ran for president in 1988 as a Libertarian and in 2008 as a Republican.
Gingrich represented Georgia’s 6th Congressional District from 1979 until his resignation in 1999. He also served as the 58th Speaker of the House.
OSU political science professor, Elliot Slotnick, said he thinks Romney has done average for what he could have done on Super Tuesday.
“He did well where he was supposed to do well,” Slotnick said. “I think Santorum doing as well as he did was a bit of a plus, winning North Dakota, Tennessee and Oklahoma.”
Slotnick said Ohio was a huge part of Super Tuesday, partially because it was one of the only states in which the primary race was not clearly predictable.
“Everything (Tuesday) really depended on Ohio,” Slotnick said. “Because it’s really the only state that was completely up in the air.”
Drew Stroemple, president of Ohio State College Republicans, said he personally supported Romney, but other club members supported different candidates.
“We all thought Romney was going to put away the candidacy in South Carolina, but Santorum had his big surge,” Stroemple said. “He has the chance to really wrap things up this Super Tuesday and I think his odds are good of winning the candidacy.”
Stebenne said a lot of the reason for Santorum’s surge and the very close race in Ohio has been his social conservatism.
“Being that he narrowly won Ohio, there’s the sense that he doesn’t sit well with social conservatives, voters that went for Santorum,” he said. “It will increase the pressure on him to choose a strong social conservative running mate if he does win the candidacy.”
Stebenne said Romney’s negative advertisements could have hurt his success in some cases.
“His negative advertising is what really hurt him because it discourages Republican voters and hurts the Republican brand,” he said.
Romney spoke in Boston in his home state to a group of followers at about 9:45 p.m. Tuesday.
“I stand ready to lead our party and I stand ready to lead our nation to prosperity,” Romney said. “I’m not going to let you down. I’m going to get this nomination. Tonight we’re doing some counting. We’re counting up the delegates for the convention and that looks good and we’re counting down the days until November and that looks even better.”
Tennessee, Ohio, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Vermont, Virginia and Alaska all cast their delegate votes Tuesday, totaling 410 delegates and making up 17.9 percent of the total delegates.
Joyce Beatty, former OSU senior vice president of outreach, also beat out Mary Jo Kilroy, Priscilla Tyson and Ted Celeste in the race for the Democratic nomination for Ohio’s 3rd Congressional District.
Stroemple said he thinks Romney has a chance to beat President Barack Obama.
“The best way to describe it is cautiously optimistic right now,” Stoemple said. “Due to Obama’s low approval ratings on the economy and health care, two big issues in the campaign, I think there is a path to victory, no doubt.”
However Stebenne was not so enthusiastic about Romney’s chances.
“Romney will have to do something that appeals to Gingrich and Santorum voters in order to stand a chance in the election,” Stebenne said.
Slotnick agreed and said the narrow margin by which Romney won points to other issues.
“Winning by a very narrow percentage in Ohio shows that the social issues Santorum is speaking to are resonating perhaps as much with one part of the Republican party just as much as the issues of the economy that Romney has been speaking to,” Slotnick said. “Romney’s got some real trouble getting the Republicans excited and there have been problems since the beginning of the caucuses with this.”
OSU assistant professor of political science, Nathaniel Swigger, said Romney’s performance does not look promising against Obama either.
“Right now I am still concerned about the lack of enthusiasm for Romney. Turnout in previous contests has been extremely low,” Swigger said. “If Republicans aren’t enthusiastic about their candidate, then it doesn’t really matter who the nominee is.”