Well. Super Tuesday was more super than I expected. Rick Santorum showed some real strength, and though Romney ultimately squeaked through to victory in Ohio, his underlying weakness was again exposed.
Charles Krauthammer: Romney "gets weaker, not stronger . . . with every week":
"Ohio determines who gets the headlines tomorrow. If Santorum were to pull it out, if he had a miracle with the last counts of the vote, it would be a big Santorum night, with Romney winning he'll get headlines. But it doesn't change the big picture which has been that Romney, slow, steady and collecting delegates and the wins he's winning, is a relatively weak frontrunner," Charles Krauthammer said on FOX News tonight. . . .Hear his extended remarks on the video. (Not to nitpick, but why does Krauthammer think Santorum is from the Midwest?)
"Romney is on his way but it's going to be a painful, long trip. And he gets weaker, not stronger, I think, with every week," Krauthammer said.
Byron York on what is the matter with candidate Romney:
Why was Romney's performance so underwhelming? Talks over the last couple of days with voters who chose Santorum suggested two reasons. One, they still don't trust Romney. And two, they believe Obamacare will be a critical issue in the campaign, and they don't think Romney, as author of the Romneycare health program in Massachusetts, will be able to effectively challenge Barack Obama over national health care.Read the rest.
"I just don't trust what Romney says," said Jim Gilloon of Steubenville as he waited for Santorum to speak. "I believe what Santorum says."
"I think Romney can't be trusted," said Eric Grover, of North Olmsted, who came to Santorum's election-eve rally in Cuyahoga Falls. "I think he has a fundamental character issue."
"Santorum is the candidate who has true convictions," says Karen Downing of Hudson, Ohio. "He gets beaten up for those convictions, he gets portrayed as a wacko, but I really respect a guy who means what he says and stand by it."
"He has morals and convictions and grassroots principles who's willing to stand his ground," said Rick Frecka, a plumber in Cuyahoga Falls.
"Santorum has been more consistent," said Lisa Deines of Hudson, Ohio.
"Much more consistent," said Deines' friend, Greg Ange of Stow, Ohio.
Voters express doubts like that about Romney all the time. Sometimes they do it at Romney rallies, and sometimes directly to Romney himself. For example, on Monday, Romney appeared at a heavy-equipment manufacturing company in Youngstown to push his new theme of "more jobs, less debt, and smaller government." During the question-and-answer session, a woman stood up to tell Romney she has been trying to convince her Republican friends to support him. But, she said, "It's hard for us who are trying to support you to address them when trying to explain why you would be a better candidate."
The woman was particularly troubled by the issue of Romneycare versus Obamacare. "I've listened to all the debates, and I've done my research," the woman said. "I want to know how I can answer to the doubters."
A few minutes later, another woman rose to say she really needed to hear a commitment from Romney: "I need an emphatic 'yes' from you that you will repeal Obamacare," the woman said.
Romney, who promises all the time to repeal Obamacare, seemed a little taken aback. "Why would I not?" he said before beginning to enumerate Obamacare's various faults.
But the woman still seemed concerned. "When the Obama campaign comes against you -- and they're going to come against you with that -- how are you going to be able to convince the voters?" she asked.
Romney said he was eager for the fight over health care -- "I can't wait," he said. But the two questions suggest that even some of Romney's supporters aren't quite convinced he can defeat Obama on what is sure to be a major issue, perhaps the major issue, of the campaign.
When I went to the polls yesterday to cast my protest vote against Romney, an older gent with a clipboard asked if I'd be willing to help put up signs for the eventual nominee in the fall. I tried to imagine myself doing that for Romney. It was hard. He's the Obamacare candidate, and he's not a conservative. That's still a problem, for him and for the voters.
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