Republican voters, not more than 25 percent of whom, according to polls, strongly support any of the GOP presidential candidates, delivered a split decision March 7 in the Super Tuesday primaries.
An unprecedented $12 million in Super Pac money and a torrent of negative ads enabled Mitt Romney to just barely squeeze out a victory in Ohio, the big prize for the night.
The races on Tuesday took place - literally, however, - from one end of the country to the other - from Hawaii in the West to Massachusetts in the East and from Alaska in the north to Georgia in the South.
Everywhere the message from Republican voters was the same: They don't like their candidates. Exit polls in all of the far-flung primary states last night confirm that assessment with only four out of ten voters in Ohio, for example, telling exit pollsters that they were strongly behind the candidate for whom they were voting.
The labor movement and its allies in Ohio attribute the lack of enthusiasm for the Republican brand to more than just the personalities of the candidates themselves but to voter rejection of Republican ideas. Among those ideas rejected by the public: tax cuts for the rich, turning Medicare into a voucher program, opposition to immigration reform, the attack on student loans, the attack on contraception, plans to test welfare recipients for drugs and cuts in pay for federal workers.
In Ohio, the majority of registered Republicans are blue collar workers earning between $30,000 and $100,000 a year.
The top two GOP candidates last night have both been hurt in this demographic by their sharp shifts to the right.
TNR's Jonathan Cohn described today what happened in Youngstown, Ohio Monday, when a college student asked Romney what he would do about rising tuition costs.
"It would be popular for me to stand up and say I'm going to give you government money to pay for your college, but I'm not going to promise that," Romney said, "Don't expect the government to forgive the debt that you take on."
Many say that Romney's statement was as shortsighted as it was cold-hearted. Polls show that most Americans back the types of programs that help young people pay for college.
Only two weeks ago Santorum was leading Romney by 20 points in Ohio. That lead evaporated too, pro-labor analysts say, because the former Pennsylvania senator shifted too far to the right on a host of issues, including, most notoriously, his opposition to contraception.
In just one example, Santorum received hundreds of thousands of dollars from far-right special interests, like the Susan B. Anthony List, that round up the 'Catholic' vote for right-wingers. The conservative PAC CatholicVote.org, worked to push for the same goal.
"The results from Tuesday demonstrate what we've known for a long time: Catholic voters care more about economic issues that affect their families than they do about socially divisive wedge issues like contraception," said James Salt, executive director of Catholics United. "Mainstream Catholics want leaders who can address the moral challenges of our day like income inequality, underwater mortgages and poverty, not leaders who perpetuate a never-ending culture war that divides our community."
CNN's exit polls showed that non-Catholic Romney decisively carried the Catholic vote in Ohio by more than 13 percent. "Catholics Republicans are more willing to vote for a Mormon," said Salt, than a right-wing ideologue.
Some supporters of President Obama say they hope that none of this will matter in November in a state like Ohio anyhow, since polls now show the President decisively trouncing both Romney and Santorum there. National polls too place the president in the lead against both potential GOP challengers.
PolticoGWU/Battleground States poll taken3 days ago shows Obama beating Romney 53 to 43 in Ohio and beating Santorum 53-42.
Photo: Super Tuesday, March 6, 2012. Bob Andres/AP