Mitt Romney swept all five Republican primary elections Tuesday night, putting an end once and for all to any hopes for a comeback by his beleaguered GOP primary opponents.
The last state to be called was New York, where voting ended at 9 p.m.; Romney was previously projected the winner in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware and Pennsylvania.
There was little suspense in tonight’s elections. Only in Delaware, where Newt Gingrich camped out in recent days and collected endorsements from top local officials, was Romney at any risk of losing. Even a Gingrich victory there would have been unlikely to complicate Romney’s glide to the Republican convention in Tampa.
Yes, nothing but smooth sailing from here on out. Just a non-stop express train to the Oval Office. There's only one hitch: Mitt's actual showing was more than a little weak.
Over at Smart Politics, the blog for the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, Eric Ostermeier is a lot less impressed by Romney's sweep than the folks at Politico. In historical context, Romney's wins were weak.
While there was no doubt Mitt Romney would rack up another five victories in northeastern presidential primaries on Tuesday, the former Massachusetts governor failed to change the lingering narrative that has plagued his campaign throughout the 2012 cycle - that conservatives and the party's base may not coalesce around his candidacy.
For while Romney swept the primaries in Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, he did so in a historically underwhelming fashion.
And he did so twice.
"A Smart Politics review of Republican primary election data since 1972 finds that Mitt Romney's performances in Delaware and Pennsylvania mark the first time a GOP frontrunner has failed to reach the 60 percent mark in a contest conducted after his last major challenger dropped out of the race," Ostermeier continues.
And that's not a good sign.
It's worth noting that history isn't destiny here. That presidents haven't been elected after this sort of showing in the primaries doesn't mean it will never happen. But stumbling off the general election starting block is not the way Team Romney would've like to launch this thing. And it's a sign of just how weak a candidate the presumptive Republican nominee actually is.
Last night, Romney won Delaware with 56% and Pennsylvania with 58%. The average for a primary race after all credible rivals have left the field is 78%. Go ahead and let that sink in. Mittens isn't just below average in these two states, he's below average by 20 points or worse.
"[N]ever has a presumptive nominee won a primary contest with such a low level of support at this stage of the race with his chief challenger no longer actively campaigning," Ostermeier writes.
It strikes me that Republicans really only have themselves to blame for this fix. After all, they the lone defenders of the Citizens United ruling, which made it possible for candidates and their Super PACs to buy elections. Now a candidate has bought the GOP nomination and -- since it was exactly a democratic process -- no one's excited about the result. If voters had chosen Romney on their own, rather than because of an ad campaign designed to promote him as inevitable and the least bad of a bad lot, they'd obviously be a lot more stoked up over his candidacy. But they didn't and they're not. It should strike anyone as an entirely predictable result.
The nomination may have been for sale, but the affections of the voters are not.