On Wednesday, March 7, political expert Thomas Mann analyzed the results of Super Tuesday and the grueling road ahead for the eventual GOP nominee during a live web chat with Vivyan Tran of POLITICO.
12:31 Vivyan Tran: Hi everyone, let's get started.
12:32 Comment From Anne: How do you see last night's results? Was it a victory for Romney?
12:34 Tom Mann: Super Tuesday's results did nothing to transform the race or to end it. Romney was and continues to be the front runner and almost certain nominee, but he is not beloved by his party's base and many Republicans are prepared to vote for alternatives who have no plausible route to the presidency.
12:34 Comment From Vi: Independent voters are increasingly showing their disapproval of the GOP field. Is Obama's path to reelection getting easier each day?
12:36 Tom Mann: The Republican nomination battle is taking a toll on Romney and the Republican party. It is unlikely that he will be able to wash away all of the bruises once he is the nominee. The GOP has swung sharply to the right and Romney is paying a price for that.
12:36 Comment From Sarah: Why was Ohio such a close race last night? Do conservatives really think Santorum has any chance of becoming the nominee? Are they just showing their disapproval of Romney?
12:39 Tom Mann: Republican voters who rate electability as their highest priority choose Romney. Those who do not look elsewhere. Republicans are not yet at the stage of settling for someone they do not consider a real conservative. Romney was far behind Santorum in Ohio a few weeks ago and had to work hard to win narrowly. He has not connected with the religious right or blue collar workers.
12:40 Comment From Robert E: What about a so-called "dark horse" candidate?
12:41 Tom Mann: It's too late and there is no one in waiting. Romney will continue to build his delegate lead and eventually garner a majority, even if it takes him until the convention to do so.
12:41 Comment From Letitia: Is this finally the end? Is Romney the nominee? Or does this drag on?
12:43 Tom Mann: The end is not yet in sight. Santorum, Gingrich and Paul will stay in the race and Romney will continue to have some bad days on the campaign trail. But none of them have even a remote chance of winning the nomination, so it is just a matter of time before Romney becomes the nominee and begins the difficult task of mounting a credible general election campaign.
12:44 Comment From Mark, Greenbelt, MD: Is Romney's Mormon faith a factor with the Republican base?
12:46 Tom Mann: There is some evidence that Romney's special problem with Evangelicals is based partly on their discomfort with his Mormon faith. This will be less of a problem for him in the general election.
12:46 Comment From Saori: Who mainly voted for Santorum yesterday? Did they see his ability to handle the economy, or were they just religious and social conservatives?
12:48 Tom Mann: His appeal is based mostly on his religiosity and his social conservatism. But he also appeals to low-income workers who consider themselves very conservative.
12:48 Comment From Saori: Do women support either Romney or Santorum? Do you see any concentrated voting behavior in women yesterday?
12:50 Tom Mann: There were few gender differences in yesterday's results. Women voted very much like men. Expect to see a striking effect in the general election campaign. I look for Obama increasing the regular Democratic advantage among women.
12:50 Comment From Jennifer S: You've been watching politics for a long time. Have you ever seen a primary like this? Maybe the year Dukakis ran, this time with the GOP disadvantaged?
12:53 Tom Mann: Too long. This has been the weakest field of candidates I have ever seen, with only one plausible president (Romney) among them. The GOP has veered sharply to the right, and all of the candidates have either agreed with or felt obliged to move with them. The two factors together work very much to Obama's advantage in November.
12:53 Comment From Samantha: Do you see Santorum or Gingrich dropping out soon for the sake of the party?
12:55 Tom Mann: In the short term, neither. Gingrich should but won't. And Santorum will likely win enough states in the next few weeks to justify staying in. Both will be helped by their Super PACs, which will compensate for their own fundraising difficulties.
12:55 Comment From Katrina: Now that Ron Paul is having trouble finding traction, do you see him running as a third party candidate?
12:57 Tom Mann: He has kept his options on that open but he surely knows that it would ensure an Obama landslide. I suspect he will not run as a third party candidate, if only to protect the political interests of his son, the senator.
12:57 Comment From Brianna: Why do you think the GOP field is so weak this year? Is it a reflection of party dysfunction, or of a political process that has grown so daunting no one wants to compete?
1:00 Tom Mann: Many factors are involved. The best of them, Jeb Bush, has an unfortunate last name. Mitch Daniels' family was adamantly opposed to his running; Christie was smart enough to know 2012 is too early for him. I think the party's right turn has diminished the values of the nomination and certainly increased the costs for sentient potential candidates.
1:00 Vivyan Tran: Thanks for the questions everyone, see you next week!