Mitt Romney, having been dragged through the washers over Michigan, is now being told he needs to win Ohio or else the world will end. Santorum is supposed to be the big dangerman because he is from neighbouring Pennsylvania and is all about the blue collar works in the “rust belt”.
Ohio seems important because it is a swing state in the general election. It is vitally important in the general because, as I have mentioned before, only about 12 states are contested in a general election. Some states tend to always vote one way or another. Republicans will not win Massachusetts or California. Democrats will not win Mississippi or Oklahoma. That’s just how it goes. Ohio is one of the states that changes its mind every so often, so you’ll see a huge effort in this state by both parties leading into November.
However, claiming Romney needs to win it in the primary to secure it in the general election is untrue. Although Ohio is an open primary (anyone can vote in it, as opposed to having to register with the party in some other states) it will be a small amount of Republicans who vote on the day. The amount of voters in a primary is always smaller than the number of voters in an election. Now, believe you me, the voters who vote Republican on primary day will almost certainly be voting Republican on election day, in spite of who wins the nomination. In other words, if Rick Santorum wins Ohio, but Mitt Romney wins the Republican nomination, the probability of Ohio falling Democrat or Republican remains pretty much the same.
Let’s look at an example: In the 2008 Democrat primaries, Barack Obama lost the nomination race in five major swing states and still went on to win them in the general election. Michigan, Florida, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and ---> *OHIO*<--- all preferred Hillary Clinton over Obama. But all five states were carried by Democrats.
Also, it’s not as though Romney hasn’t beaten the rest in a major swing state before during this nomination process. He won Florida – remember the state that was so important in handing George Bush 43 the election in 2000? Florida will have 29 electoral votes in the 2012 election, ten more than Ohio. It is a VITAL state to win in a general, and by current media analysis it should factor into the same “need to win” as Ohio. Florida has voted for the winner of the general election in every vote since 1964, with the exception of 1992. Ohio has voted along with the winning party in every election since 1964. So outside one election result, Florida is as determinative as Ohio.
An aside from my point of view, Romney’s biggest danger on Super Tuesday is not Rick Santorum. It is Newt Gringrich who is polling very competitively in southern states: Georgia (Gingrich’s home state), Oklahoma and Tennessee all go a-voting on Tuesday 6 March, with those three boasting 177 delegates between them. Getting drilled in all of the southern states, which is quite plausible, would hurt Romney far more than dropping Ohio.