Santorum Losses In Ohio But Picks Up 3 Wins

GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum won three Super Tuesday contests: Oklahoma, North Dakota and Tennessee. He just missed in Ohio. Mitt Romney went on to win there.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Let's talk now about Rick Santorum's Super Tuesday. He won three states - Oklahoma, North Dakota, Tennessee, just missed in Ohio, the state where he finished the night, in Steubenville by the Ohio River. NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea was with him and he's on the line.

Don, good morning.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: Well, if Romney was playing "Party in the USA" at his celebration, I hope that Santorum was playing Dean Martin, since he was in the hometown of Dean Martin there.

GONYEA: They were playing Dean Martin, but as the numbers started to go bad, they switched to like bad '80s and '90s pop and dance music. Maybe they should have stuck with Dino.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

INSKEEP: If only. So what does it mean that he came close in Ohio?

GONYEA: Well, here's, you know, he did well where he usually does well, among Christian conservatives, among Tea Partiers, but he just didn't get enough. A lot of it is organization, a lot of it is money. They complain about being outspent all the time.

But it was probably also message. After Michigan, he came into Ohio - OK, he lost Michigan but I was Mitt Romney's home state. He comes into Ohio and he has a big lead at that point but he seemed to get sidetracked right away. There was the stuff about calling President Obama a snob for wanting everyone to have a chance to go to college. And he went after President Kennedy for that 1960 campaign speech about religion. And next thing you know, the week is half gone.

INSKEEP: But then late in the week, he began talking about health care again, and trying to link Mitt Romney to President Obama's health care law.

GONYEA: And it's an old topic. An old topic but he seemed to find a new way to approach it. He would talk about the mandate that was in the Massachusetts Health care Law that Governor Romney signed. And he talked about how Romney addresses that these days, by saying, hey, that was a state solution. What we did for Massachusetts isn't the kind of thing that should be imposed on the rest of the country, that he's not for a national mandate.

But Santorum started hammering on that just in the last 24 hours here. And this is from last night.

RICK SANTORUM: I've never passed a statewide government-run health care system when I was governor because...

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

SANTORUM: ...well, I wasn't governor. But Governor Romney did. And now we find out this week not only the passage of Massachusetts, he advocated for it to be passed in Washington, D.C. in the middle of the debate on health care.

(SOUNDBITE OF BOOING)

GONYEA: And he's talking specifically there about a USA Today op-ed piece that Romney wrote back in 2009, when the health care debate was underway, where he did urge the president to look to Massachusetts to learn things. So he's honed in on that. He seemed to get some traction but it wasn't enough.

INSKEEP: Not enough. And so, what does that mean then that in the state that was critical to Romney and that Romney barely won, and was also critical to Santorum to win?

GONYEA: It is a problem. You and I would be having a very different discussion this morning if Santorum had won Ohio last night. That's all there is to it. He pays the price of being outspent, but he also didn't even do as well as he might have and the delegate front if he had been more organized.

There are a lot of delegates that he might have picked up around the state that he will not get, just because they weren't organized enough early on to get the full delegate slates on the congressional district ballots around the state.

INSKEEP: And let's just remind people that's what this is about in the end, it's gathering delegates, because convention delegates, you get a majority of them, you get the nomination.

Now, what does it mean, Don Gonyea, that Mitt Romney still has three different rivals; none of whom seem likely to drop out anytime soon?

GONYEA: It's good for Mitt Romney. And the Santorum folks last night were kind of spinning it, saying, hey, do the math. Gingrich got almost 15 percent in Ohio. If he weren't in, those votes would have come to us. We're saying, oh, so are you telling Gingrich he needs to get out? They said, no, no, no. It's not our position to tell anybody to get out, but just do the math.

So they are really kind of frustrated that going forward, for the foreseeable future at least, the vote will continue to be divided to Romney's benefit.

INSKEEP: Don, thanks very much.

GONYEA: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Don Gonyea. He's been traveling with Rick Santorum who finished second in Ohio last night, also won three states. Mitt Romney, of course, was a bigger winner on Super Tuesday winning half a dozen states, including the State of Ohio by a narrow margin last night.

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