It has been two weeks since our last primary race, and in that time, the race has effectively ended. Between then and tonight, Rick Santorum, the only realistic challenger to Mitt Romney, suspended his campaign. Partly this was due to the fact that his position in the race seemed untenable, and also his campaign was in debt, and he had problems with his daughter's illness.
It was also the case that the voting tonight was all in the Northeast, in states that for the most part would have been very favorable to Mitt Romney. The exception is Pennsylvania, Santorum's home state, but even if he had won there, the number of delegates Romney was expected to get from other states would have overwhelmed the win in Pennsylvania. So Santorum left the race, although he has not endorsed Romney, either out of political differences or lingering personal animosity after the unpleasant campaign.
So the race tonight across the Northeast was expected to be anti-climactic, but I was still curious if there would be a surprise. Would conservative voters shift their support to Newt Gingrich? Or would they, perhaps stick with Rick Santorum despite his leaving the race, giving him one last moral victory? Since Pennsylvania is Santorum's homestate, and the most conservative of the states voting, I thought that if there was to be a surprise victory or even close call, it might be there.
But the race went predictably: with 99% of the vote in, Romney won Pennsylvania with 58% of the vote, against 18% for Santorum, 13% for Ron Paul, and 11% for Gingrich. Romney won every county in the state, including the more conservative counties. Since the race was seen by many as a foregone conclusion, turnout was low, with 800,000 people voting in the primary, as opposed to the 1.2 million who voted in neighboring Ohio's primary, despite the states having similar populations. Tonight's results solidify Romney as the nominee, and the chances of Gingrich having a wide resurgence seem remote.
There are two comments I would like to make about tonight's results, and the race in general. A win is a win, and political results are not the result of abstract forces, but of situations. But those situations often have forces behind them. There is a dialectic involved in politics. The dialectic of this year's Republican Primary was rather the business-oriented old Republican establishment (represented by Romney) would win over the conservative, rural and religious wing of the party that is sometimes called "The Tea Party". And while this race went on for a long time, and contained some obvious personal clashes, the issue was never settled. Romney fought and won a tactical victory against Santorum's much less professional campaign, but the larger issue of which direction the Republican Party wants to go, and can go, has remained unsolved.
The second point is that Romney's victory was not, in my mind "inevitable", although I have seen that word kicked around a lot. Those who have read this series since the beginning know that I have been less than enthusiastic about Romney's candidacy, or rather about the general perception of it. Have I been wrong? Well, for one thing I can say that there is a big difference between 99% and 100%: even if Romney was the overwhelming favorite, that is not the same as certainty. And in practical terms, Romney's victory was heavily favored by certain circumstances. If the primary calender hadn't had so many states favorable to him early on, if Newt Gingrich had dropped out of the race earlier, if Ohio or Michigan had shifted just a few points towards Santorum...the outcome of the race would have been different. Again, the winner is the winner, but the winner is not the "inevitable" winner.
Tonight's race will probably be my last regular update on these primaries, unless a race has some type of interesting surprise associated with it. Although not everything has been answered, the Republican Primary is now effectively over, with Romney as the winner.