The dirty little secret of Rick Santorum's 42-38 loss to Mitt Romney in Wisconsin's open primary yesterday is that it would have been a lot worse for him if a bunch of Democrats and Independents hadn't shown up to make mischief. The Dems, at 11 percent of the turnout, voted nearly 2-1 for Santorum; the Independents, at 30 percent, split almost evenly between Romney and Santorum. Put another way, strong Tea Party opponents voted 2-1 for Santorum. The Republicans themselves went for Romney over Santorum by 50-37. Get the picture?
Really, the only folks Santorum had in the bag were the dyed-in-the-wool ultra-religious--the 25 percent for whom the candidate's religious beliefs mattered "a great deal" (49-34 over Romney) and the 12 percent who ranked abortion as the number one issue (64-19). Evangelicals preferred Rick over Mitt by just five points; Catholics who attend Mass every week split evenly between the two. As many of the "very conservative" went for Romney as for Santorum.
John Brabender, Santorum's chief strategist, told the Washington Post last night that Pennsylvania, on April 24, is "do or die" for both Santorum and Romney. Baloney. Even if Santorum ekes out a victory in the state he represented for a dozen years in the U.S. Senate, he's still dead. Even if he wins a few Southern states in May, he's still dead. The conventional wisdom is right. The Establishment Republicans get their way again. Requiescas, Rick. in pace.