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Mitt Romney took the win on Super Tuesday. Or did he?
Yes, he placed first in six of the ten state races. Yes, he came out on top in Ohio, the most watched contest of the night. But it's hard for anyone who's objective about the primaries and caucuses to say Romney got the slam dunk he wanted, and needed, to move forward as Mr. Inevitability.
While reports of the candidates' ad spending in Ohio vary, one thing is true -- Romney shelled out much more than his main challenger, Rick Santorum, by a huge margin. Various sources say Romney and the Super PACs supporting him spent between $4 million and $12 million, while Santorum and his supporting PACs pulled somewhere between $1 to $1.4 million from their coffers.
Ohio has long been a predictor of how things play in presidential general elections. And the clear message that Ohioans sent in their primary was, "We'll give Romney the win, but you can't buy our votes."
With all that money, Romney should have beaten Santorum by more than the one measly percentage point that separated them. But it wasn't just the former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania that was the bane of Romney's political existence -- Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich managed to take away about 25 percent of the Ohio votes for themselves -- a clear message that even though they may not win the GOP nomination, voters continue to struggle with the choices before them.
Most of the other contests went as pundits had predicted -- Romney got Virginia, Santorum took Tennessee and Oklahoma. Newt Gingrich won handily as the hometown boy. Ron Paul didn't win any states, not even Alaska where he was the only candidate to make a campaign stop.
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The larger message that comes out of Super Tuesday is that voters are tired and want something different -- a fresh candidate, a new message. As a result, Republicans are seriously split -- evangelical voters love Santorum, 20-somethings are rooting for Paul, and the GOP establishment continues the "Romney is our best bet" mantra, as more high-profile Republicans, like House Minority Leader Eric Cantor, bestow their blessings on Romney.
So the three Super Tuesday lessons the candidates have to focus on are:
1. As long as Romney keeps eking out victories, he'll win the nomination, but not supporters' passion,
2. If Santorum wants to change that, he's got to start throwing some punches at Gingrich and Paul.
3. Gingrich and Paul have to figure out their real agendas. Neither can win the nomination. without a miracle.
As for all that Romney money? He'll keep spending, but I doubt that he'll add "Can't Buy Me Love" to his campaign playlist anytime soon.
You can read more from iVillage iVote Editor and Correspondent Joanne Bamberger at her blog, PunditMom. Joanne is also the author of the Amazon bestseller Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America.