We've said it many times before, but this time, it might actually be true. If Romney cannot win Ohio or any Southern evangelical state, he's really in trouble. Heilemann focuses on Romney's next test:
[T]he same sets of eyes that were focused intently on Michigan will shift their gaze just slightly southward to Ohio — a state with a vast number of delegates on offer that also happens to be a pivotal battleground in the general election to come. If Romney can replicate his Michigan victory there and hold his own elsewhere, he may, just may, be in a position to start to make the argument that the nomination is (slowly, grindingly, but inexorably) coming within his grasp. If, however, Santorum bounces back, wins Ohio, and carries the other four or five states where he should run strong, it will all but guarantee that the nomination battle will carry on, in brutish fashion, all the way to June.
Santorum has a lead in the RCP poll average of about eight points, but that may change with the loss in Michigan among the same kind of voters. Santorum cannot afford another loss in the Rust Belt, especially since Romney is likely to do well in most of the other Super Tuesday contests. Since all of the binding contests on Super Tuesday are proportional-allocation primaries, Santorum will get a significant number of delegates from second-place finishes again, but without a couple of big wins, Romney will keep adding to his delegate lead and making the case for donors to get on the bandwagon now.
Alex Burns calculates the state's already-hefty price tag:
[T]he battle for the Buckeye State has already cost well over $4 million in paid media – closer to $5 million, actually, for a state where the candidates haven’t spent much time, where primary day is still a week away. (Early voting is already in progress.) According to one tally, the Romney campaign and Restore Our Future have put a total of $3.39 million into Ohio, versus a total of $527,000 for the Santorum camp and the Red White & Blue Fund. The pro-Gingrich super PAC Winning Our Future has put in $430,000. Add to that the $360,000 TV campaign that AFSCME is running against Romney and that’s above $4.7 million in television and radio ads. … It’s entirely possible to imagine, one Republican points out, that the total spending in Ohio will outstrip spending in Michigan.
I can see another Michigan result though: a small Romney victory in Ohio, with bigger ones for Gingrich in Georgia or Santorum in Oklahoma. Gets even uglier, doesn't it?
(Photo: Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney walks out of a door after he toured a manufacturing facility following a campaign rally at American Posts on February 29, 2012 in Toledo, Ohio. A day after winning the Michigan and Arizona primaries, Mitt Romney is campaigning in Ohio ahead of Super Tuesday. By Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.)