No Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio. Ohio is a must.
Mr. Romney, bouyed by twin triumphs in Arizona and Michigan (though the latter may turn out to be a push in terms of delegate count) will look to wrap up the nomination by the end of the upcoming Super Tuesday.
He will fail to get the 1,142 delegates needed. He may, however, restore the air of inevitability to his campaign. Mr. Romney can make the front-runner stench go away if he is able to avoid talking about either of the two things he does not wish to discuss; religion and health care.
Mr. Romney is the rarest of Republicans. He is one who must win without enormous support from the Religious Right, if, by Religious Right, one means Evangelical Christians. Mr. Romney is a Mormon from a long line of Mormons. A prominent Texas baptist pastor has already called Mormonism a cult and named Mr. Romney as a cult member. Evangelical Christians may decide to stay home this fall in record numbers.
Mr. Romney can balance this out because he is going to get the Mormon vote. He may carry large portions of the Western states because of Mormon influence.
Rick Santorum has been forcing the campaign to discuss religion, vis a vis church and state issues, by ham handedly attacking John Kennedy. Mr. Santorum has launched his attacks haphazardly. He even had to apologize for his graphic language about Mr. Kennedy. At first it was hard to see why Mr. Santorum was taking shots at a President who shared many of his values and who, incidentally, has been dead for nearly fifty years.
Artless he may be but clueless he is not. Mr. Santorum wants to swing the campaign around to issues where he is strong. No Republican is stronger with Evangelical Christians than Mr. Santorum this time around. Fifty-one percent of those who identified themselves as Christian voted for Mr. Santorum in Michigan. He will get about that number in Ohio.
Christian voters in Ohio may make the difference. How will they respond to Mr. Romney's sudden semi-surge? Will Mr. Santorum refine his pitch to religious voters?
We will know shortly. And, for the eventual nominee, there will be numerous trips back to the Buckeye State.
Republicans have to have Ohio to win the White House.
Opinions expressed here are mine alone.