Kate is a teen participant in the Junior State of America (JSA), a student-run political organization for high school students.
Mitt Romney's delegate count increased from 203 to 415 after Super Tuesday 2012, but while he gained delegates, the day as a whole was not a victory for the former Massachusetts Governor, primarily due to his performance in Ohio. The Midwestern state has been acknowledged by many as the most important primary that occurred on March 6, and Romney's momentum was barely strong enough for him to defeat former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum by a mere one percent. His failure to secure votes in the crucial state of Ohio is reflective of his inability to rally support from the United States overall.
In December, before any primaries and caucuses occurred, Mitt Romney was considered the inevitable nominee. Rick Santorum emerged as a more traditional conservative alternative to Romney in January, and while Romney has retained his lead, he has been losing his edge as increasing amounts of ultra-conservative voters place their faith in Santorum. After a disappointingly narrow win in his home state of Michigan, it was crucial for Romney to soundly secure Ohio, but he was unable to deliver. A decisive win would have given Romney powerful momentum for future primaries and instilled confidence in him as a candidate. Ohio is a battleground state in the general election and has been essential to winning the presidency in recent years. Had either Romney or Santorum won the state by a landslide vote, the winner would have been able to make the case that he is the best candidate to take on Obama. Unfortunately for Romney, that argument is becoming harder and harder to win, as America's middle class grows increasingly disillusioned with him.
On paper, Romney's delegate gain looks favorable, but in reality, his progress has stalled. Although Romney won Ohio, his performance illuminated some of his faults. Holding Romney back is his painful inability to relate to average, middle-class citizens. His attempts to associate himself with middle-class citizens seem disingenuous and have only increased the disconnect. With frequent gaffes about his wealth, Romney continuously brands himself as a wealthy businessman candidate, whereas many middle-class voters seek a leader who can identify with their hardships and improve their lives. His drastic disillusionment with Americans cost him thousands of votes in Ohio, and could cost him even more votes in the general election, should he win the nomination. Romney has a deep disconnect with the "average" American, and no amount of campaign spending can change this. In Tennessee, Romney spent three times the amount Rick Santorum did, and in Ohio, Romney's spending was more than quadruple that of Santorum. However, Santorum easily defeated Romney in Tennessee and nearly edged him in Ohio.
Santorum possesses a quality that Romney can hardly dream of: the ability to inspire the most conservative voters. Santorum's position as an authentic conservative has been a powerful tool in his campaign. However, his staunchly conservative positions make attracting moderate voters nearly impossible. Romney, on the other hand, is far more moderate. He instituted a universal healthcare system in Massachusetts, and historically has been willing to compromise on social issues. Romney's views have the potential to swing Democrats and Independents who are disappointed with Obama. At the same time, however, passionate conservatives and Tea Partiers criticize him for "flip-flopping" on important social issues. Romney is a professional and electable candidate with the ability to swing voters, but his lack of support from the ultra-conservative wing of his party has hurt him in the primaries. Santorum is less appealing to swing voters, but his authentic conservative platform, emphasis on traditional values, and vision of changing Washington D.C. inspires his voters.
While both candidates have unique obstacles to overcome, something that Romney and Santorum both lack is an ability to muster widespread support from young voters. Many high school students view Santorum as a joke. He was, for the most part, not treated as a serious contender through the early debates, and still struggles to be taken seriously. Additionally, many teenagers and young voters are more progressive, and Santorum's heavily conservative stances on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage have, to an extent, alienated this demographic. Romney fares slightly better among the younger demographic, but he does not empower the generation. President Obama champions high school and college students in a way that neither of the GOP frontrunners have done. Romney frequently stresses his experience in the private sector, but most 18-year-old voters care less about his business experience than they do about important social issues. Unless the Republican candidates start reaching out to younger voters, it is unlikely that either will win the support of young voters in the general election.
Far from being decisive, Super Tuesday 2012 has shown that the Republican presidential race is nowhere close to over. In some years, Super Tuesday has cemented the presidential nominee, prompted weaker candidates to suspend their campaigns, and given powerful momentum to a front-runner. While certainly significant -- 35 percent of available delegates were distributed --this year's Super Tuesday primaries were inconclusive. Super Tuesday exemplified the volatility of the GOP presidential race and gave no candidate a reason to drop out. Romney won six states; Santorum had three significant wins in Tennessee, Oklahoma, and North Dakota; Former Speaker Newt Gingrich carried Georgia; and Ron Paul, though he won no states, had strong showings in Alaska, North Dakota, Vermont, and Virginia, and has indicated he has no plans to suspend his campaign. Romney's failure to deliver a decisive victory in key states like Ohio makes his ability to gain enough widespread support and momentum to defeat Barack Obama seem increasingly dubious. A lack of decisiveness at this crucial juncture does not bode well for Republicans in the general election. It only draws out the primary season, and an elongated primary season weakens Republican Party unity moving forward into the general election in November. Candidates will continue vying for their party's nomination through June, spending millions of dollars trying to beat each other, rather than focusing on Obama. The longer this primary season lasts, the more divided the Republican electorate will be in November, making a GOP victory over Obama increasingly difficult.