University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato tells Newsmax that Mitt Romney “averted disaster” by narrowly edging Rick Santorum to claim a near-midnight victory in the Buckeye State.
“While he would have liked to have done better in Tennessee, his seeming comeback in Ohio — and his likely win in delegates on Super Tuesday — helps him solidify his position as the likely nominee going forward,” said Sabato in an exclusive interview on Tuesday night.
Nevertheless, the 10 Super Tuesday contests did little to trim the four-man GOP race to take on President Barack Obama in November.
“It does not look like any of the candidates are close to dropping out,” observed the political science professor, author, and director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. “Gingrich won Georgia; Santorum narrowly lost Ohio and won Tennessee, North Dakota and Oklahoma. And Ron Paul is hanging around to advance a movement. Romney had an OK night, but not a good enough night to end the race.”
Sabato acknowledged that Romney must still overcome “big problems” with the Republican base.
“The Republican Party is a Southern party, and he hasn’t done well in the South,” according to Sabato. “More than seven in 10 Republican voters in Tennessee on Super Tuesday were evangelical Christians; only 23 percent of them supported Romney. It's not a surprise that Romney couldn't win in the Volunteer State. There are more Southern primaries to come, and little indication so far that he can compete with these voters.”
Sabato said that the vote largely unfolded as expected in Virginia, Vermont, and Georgia as the first results from Super Tuesday rolled in.
“Romney’s perhaps not doing as well in Virginia as thought,” said Sabato, adding that Texas Rep. Ron Paul challenged former Massachusetts Gov. Romney in Virginia’s heavily Democratic 3rd District even though Romney was subsequently declared the winner in that state by both Fox News and CNN.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich won a decisive victory in Georgia, the state which he represented for 20 years in Congress.
“A Gingrich romp in Georgia is no surprise at this point,” declared Sabato.
Meanwhile, Romney also appeared to win by a smaller margin than expected in Vermont, the neighboring state to Massachusetts, where Romney served as governor.
“I’m sure he would’ve loved to get over 50 percent in Vermont, but that’s not gonna happen,” added Sabato.
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