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11.11 pm. I'm clicking over to Comedy Central at this point. My take-away?

Santorum won three states and basically tied in Ohio. That keeps him afloat with some forward direction, especially given the upcoming primary states where Santorum has a demographic edge. The fact that he did this well despite being buried by Romney ads and money in Ohio is a real achievement. Romney, for his part, still cannot win blue-collar votes and still cannot nail down evangelical support. He comes away with many more delegates, but few bragging rights. In Ohio, he won everywhere Obama will win in the fall.

If Newt bowed out, we might have a real cotest. But he won't. So we have, perhaps, the worst of all possible worlds for the GOP: a front-runner who cannot be stopped, but who is losing altitude against Obama with every vote, and being slimed by Republican rivals for at least another month. Even his stump speech has deteriorated. And his unfavorables continue a relentless rise.

Ugh.

11.06 pm. Given the current data, Rove and Trippi are calling it for Romney. And he has just taken the lead for the first time.

11.04 pm. Little things:

Margin for automatic recount in Ohio: .25 percent or less.

Oh God.

11 pm. Really, Newt should get out now:

[O]utside of Georgia, Mr. Gingrich is running in third place or worse in all states that have reported results so far. He is behind Mitt Romney in Oklahoma and Tennessee, and has only about 15 percent of the vote in Ohio — not enough to receive proportional delegates there, which would require a 20 percent margin. Nor has he shown any sign of life in the caucus states.

10.59 pm. A reader writes:

You mention Licking and Pickaway counties, but old favorites are Wood and neighboring Hancock counties. Oddly enough, both for Santorum.

But they changed his brown color on Fox News. For shame.

10.57 pm. A great night for Ron Paul:

Ron Paul quintupled his 2008 Virginia vote count, and because of the smaller turnout overall he octupled his percentage of the vote there. Paul tripled his 2008 result in Vermont, and he did the same in Oklahoma and Massachusetts. He is running ahead of his 2008 numbers in North Dakota, and he has a chance of scoring an upset in Idaho or Alaska.

10.48 pm. John Fund understates:

Given his crushing financial advantage, Romney should have done better tonight.

Ya think?

10.47 pm. Sounds about right:

To summarize: Romney has won his home state (MA), a liberal state that borders his home state (VT), and a state where his only opponent was Ron Paul (VA). He's lost everywhere else.

10.46 pm. Major hathos alert: Santorum's super-fans sing their own Super Tuesday song:

10.42 pm. Let's call Ohio. It's a tie, with Romney getting more delegates. That's not enough for Romney to claim a real victory and sustain any real momentum, even if he wins. So we're back where we started.

10.40 pm. If Romney couldn't win anywhere in the South or West, what's gonna happen next Tuesday, when Mississippi, Alabama, Missouri, and Kansas vote?

10.39 pm. Frum is letting Schadenfreude get the better of him. But it's entertaining:

People are comparing this to 1964. But let's remember that Barry Goldwater WON his Senate seat in 1958.

10.36 pm. Nerd zone:

In terms of delegate count, whether Santorum crosses 20% in Georgia is more important – and more suspenseful at moment – than who wins Ohio.

He's currently dead on at 20 percent, with 87 percent counted.

10.35 pm. Heh:

Remember the Simpsons where Homer is only employee who hasn't won Worker of the Week, and then they give it to a carbon rod? Romney=Homer.

10.29 pm. Could Democrats put Santorum ahead in Ohio?

According to exit polls, Democrats constituted 5 percent of the Ohio primary electorate, and 45 percent of them voted for Mr. Santorum. Just 25 percent voted for Mitt Romney. That translates roughly into a 1 or 2 percentage point bump for Mr. Santorum.

10.23 pm. Mitt's Southern weakness could be fatal in November:

Sure, Romney will win these states in the general election, but this is the heart of the Republican national governing coalition. This is where enthusiasm for the party's eventual nominee should be at its strongest. In 2008, Huckabee gave Sen. John McCain a run for his money in the South, but McCain won in South Carolina, Texas, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Missouri. George W. Bush dominated the South. Former Sen. Bob Dole dominated the South. President George H.W. Bush dominated the South. President Ronald Reagan dominated the South.

Of course, none of them was a Mormon who enacted universal healthcare in his home state,  Massachusetts.

10.21 pm. How could Ohio counties called Licking and Pickaway not vote for Santorum?

10.20 pm. My basic position:

As much as I hate everything Santorum stands for, no one fills me with as much inner revulsion as Romney does.

10.19 pm. A depressed base:

Turnout estimates in GA, MA, OK and VA all lower than in 2008. Only in VT is turnout expected to be up from '08.

10.15 pm. Ohio still looks awfully close, and we're up to over 60 percent reporting. Even Rove is beginning to backtrack on confidence that Romney has it in the bag. And if you look at Wyoming, it's neck and neck between Romney and Santorum, even with a tiny amount of votes now in.

Yes, Wyoming and North Dakota are not delegate-rich. But if Santorum comes out of tonight having won more or as many states as Romney, the momentum could easily shift to him, as Gallup suggests may have happened already. For Romney to fade one more time is going to make him look like a candidacy that simply cannot take.

10.08 pm. Santorum is comfortably ahead in North Dakota, with 51 percent of the votes counted. Romney is currently third. That gives Santorum bragging rights for three states.

10.02 pm. Seriously, that Romney speech was so riddled with empty cliches, exhausted tropes, and almost comically bad rhetoric, that one wonders if he cannot afford actual, you know, speech-writers. Or that he simply doesn't have a message. All he has is personal animosity toward the president, who, as a person, is widely liked.

9.58 pm. What will the spin be? I suspect it will be Romney's lackluster showing and Santorum's resilience – with a late uptick yesterday and today. Jon Tobin agrees:

Romney will rightly claim that any result that leaves him much closer to the delegate count he needs to be the nominee is a big win. And if he can combine that with taking Ohio — an outcome that is still very much in doubt at the moment — it will be reasonable for him to spin Super Tuesday as a triumph for his candidacy. However, Santorum’s victories in Tennessee and Oklahoma not only will pump new life into the Pennsylvanian’s campaign, the results also reinforce Romney’s problems with conservatives. Rather than spending tomorrow talking about Romney’s inevitability, the discussion may be more about his continued difficult in closing the deal with his own party’s base.

Now if only Newt could put his ego in the overhead.

9.54 pm. Another terrible, awful speech from Romney. His wife is better. Meanwhile, Silver sticks his neck out and thinks Santorum could win Ohio:

Pretty sure Santorum is a slight favorite in Ohio. He's maybe ~60%-70% likely to win.

He's ahead with around 50 percent of the vote in; but the votes from Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus – where Romney is ahead – are behind in the counting. Still, I trust Nate's data-crunching.

9.48 pm. Mitt very Teleprompty. And lame, of course. He makes me wince. There's the occasional smug self-congratulatory faux-humble nod and smile when he gets an applause line. And now we're having a recital of various ordinary Americans – in order, presumably, to overcome the yawning gap in the polls on his worrying about the same things you do.

9.41 pm. The zombie is about to speak. Nate Silver reads some not-so-great tea-leaves:

So far, Mitt Romney is under-performing his polls in most states that have reported results so far, while Rick Santorum is over-performing his — possibly by a wide enough margin to swing Ohio …

Although the polling data generally showed improving numbers for Mr. Romney over the course of the last week, there was one exception. The Gallup national tracking poll released on Tuesday afternoon showed Mr. Romney's numbers declining by 4 points, and Mr. Santorum gaining 2.

9.39 pm. Interesting stat:

Part of the reason Romney's doing just "okay" in Vermont? White evangelical up to 27%. Well above 2008 %.

9.34 pm. Tweet of the night from Rich Lowry:

If santorum cld win the catholic vote he might be running away w/ this thing

Heh. But count me unshocked. In the words of Garry Wills: “Santorum is not a Catholic, but a papist.” I'd put it a little less bluntly: he's more of a Papist than a Catholic and more a radical reactionary than a conservative. He's the ideal Christianist candidate for the far right.

9.30 pm. In Ohio, the bell-wether has some fascinating nuggets in the exit poll. Only 57 percent of the voters say they would be satisifed if Romney were the nominee, compared with 37 percent who wouldn't. Santorum does better: 61 – 34. In other words, Santorum has won over more of those who voted for the other guys than Romney has.

9.25 pm. Romney outspent Santorum in Ohio by around 5 – 1. The vote is still too close to call. Santorum focuses on Obamacare as the "end of freedom in America." Better than Newt's drill, drill, drill and me, me, me. The mandate is a powerful message for the GOP – and Romney cannot use it without looking demonstrably fatuous and insincere.

9.20 pm. Santorum has won far more states than Newt – and across the country. If Newt weren't the massive, gelatinous blob of self-loving he is, he'd get out of the way and force Romney to compete alone against his main competitor, Santorum. Santorum's wins are more impressive because he was so massively outspent by Romney in every contest. That's what he's bragging about now. And given his ability to win the evangelical base, and to rally the white working class, I think he's as electable as Mitt Romney up against Obama. His strengths match Obama's weaknesses. Romney's strengths are outmatched by Obama's.

9.19 pm. Frum is on the same page I am:

This is shaping up as a scary night for those who think that Mitt Romney is the only conceivable Republican nominee in 2012. The Republican Party does not agree. Not winning Georgia, Tennessee, Oklahoma … that's troubling. There's still no path for anybody else to the Republican nomination. But ouch, ouch, ouch, what a bumpy path for the guy it's going to have to be.

When you factor in his losing the "moral character" vote and the "true conservative vote" and the evangelical vote and the votes of those who earn under $50k.

9.14 pm. Don't get too excited:

The percentage of voters who said they "have reservations" about the candidates they voted for was at least a third in each of these states: Ohio (41 percent), Oklahoma (33 percent), Georgia (37 percent), Tennessee (41 percent), Virginia (40 percent) and Vermont (36 percent).

The WSJ interviewed some of the depressed GOPers:

Voters offered words such as "disillusioned" and "frustrated" to describe how they felt about the nominating process. Many worried the prolonged primary fight is helping President Barack Obama's re-election effort.

9.11 pm. What a miserable, narcissistic, piss-poor speech from Newt. Scott Lemieux:

What should be his concession speech but wasn’t because he’s Newt does situate him right at the heart of the Republican universe in one respect: the man is 100% pure resentment. It’s like Michael Jordan … if Michael Jordan had only been a minor league baseball player.

I'd differ in one respect: 99 percent resentment, 1 percent dishonesty.

9.10 pm. The Virginia turnout – where Newt and Rick were absent – had a pathetic turn-out of 5.5 percent, the lowest ever.

9.08 pm. Oh, snap, David:

"Eviscerating" Newt Gingrich would be a substantial project

9.01 pm. Romney's win tonight will dispell no doubts. Nor should it:

In terms of candidate traits, while Romney won the electability argument, Santorum won strongly among those who voted for a “true conservative” – he got 50 percent, compared with 21 percent for Paul, 16 percent for Gingrich and just 13 percent for Romney. Santorum also had a huge lead among voters who based their choice on a candidate’s “strong moral character”: 59 percent of those voters picked Santorum, compared with 18 percent for Romney.

The grimness of the transaction deepens.

8.58 pm. The evangelical problem is deep, as tonight demonstrates. Ryan Lizza notes:

Romney has lost evangelicals in every contest—and by an average of fifteen points. His best showing came in New Hampshire, where he lost the evangelical vote by nine points, and his worst came in Iowa, where he lost it by twenty-four points. Romney has been running for President for six years, and yet his share of the evangelical vote has declined in most states, compared with his showing in 2008.

It dropped by ten points in Iowa, eight points in South Carolina, seventeen points in Florida, ten points in Arizona, and five points in Michigan. In New Hampshire, there was modest improvement (one point), and in the low-attendance contest in Nevada, some significant improvement (eight points).

There was little improvement tonight. If Romney wins Ohio, it will be because Catholics refused to vote for the two Catholics in the race.

8.56 pm. I'm with Erickson:

So our front runner continues his losing streak of evangelicals, the South, and most most conservatives.

8.54 pm. Silver:

Mitt Romney leads Rick Santorum by about 6 percent in Ohio based on the precincts that have reported so far. However, this vote is in some of his strongest areas, and the margin should tighten as more rural areas report.

8.48 pm. Even in Virginia, Romney loses the under $50k vote to Ron Paul. In Georgia, he lost everyone under $200k to Gingrich. In Tennessee, he lost everyone under $100k. In Ohio, he lost everyone earning under $100k to Santorum. In Vermont, he lost the under $30k vote to Ron Paul. 

I suspect that Romney's plutocratic image is fatal in this climate. If he cannot win this demographic even in a primary anywhere, he's got a very steep climb to rehabilitate himself with working class Americans by the fall. He may be the only GOP candidate who seems more "elite" to these voters than Barack Obama. Given that resentment is the core primary emotion among today's Republicans, that's an issue.

8.44 pm. An intensely self-important speech by Gingrich. If he mentions elites one more time, I'll run out of Jager. So self-regarding, so vain, so pompous. And another Republican mentioning "Wall Street money" and "the forces of Wall Street." He's portraying the race as Wall Street vs Newt, and "Wall Street" is a stand-in for Mitt Romney.

8.43 pm. Ohio's population is 12 percent African-American. In this primary, 1 percent were African-American. As America gets more and more mocha, the GOP gets whiter and whiter.

8.39 pm. Santorum wins Tennessee, along with Oklahoma. He won convincingly among those earning under $200K. Over $200K? Romney wins again. He has the very rich white Republican vote in the bag. Everyone else? Not so much.

8.37 pm. In no state did Romney win the least wealthiest segment of the vote. Even in Vermont, he lost the under $30K vote to Paul.

8.32 pm. The delegate count is what matters and it's gonna make a difference in the three states we'll not be focusing on tonight: Virginia, Idaho and Massachusetts. Romney will rack up huge victories in those states.

8.27 pm. So Stupor Tuesday it is. My preliinary take: this changes nothing but adds to Romney's mounting delegate lead and zombie-like progress. Newt's strong showing in Georgia means he'll prevent Santorum from becoming the candidate of the South; Romney still isn't winning the base, either among evangelicals or those earning under $50,000; Santorum's appeal is real, but without an Ohio victory (even though it looks close), he'll strain to maintain momentum.

For me, the fact that Romney cannot win 60 percent in a two-man race against Ron Paul in Virginia is about as damning a result for an alleged front-runner as you can get. But he'll get a big delegate haul. That's the story line from tonight. In Walter Kirn's words:

Again tonight the 'narrative' will be: Romney wins. But not by enough. And with the wrong people. It's not over yet!

8.26 pm. Pareene:

It is sort of funny that the guy who just won Vermont is going to be the Republican nominee instead of the guy who won Georgia.

8.22 pm. Newt's victory in Georgia means he'll hang in, helping Romney. An Yglesias Award nomination for Allahpundit:

[S]ince we’re rapidly approaching the moment when criticizing Romney will be treated as high treason on the right, go ahead and read this excellent Dan McLaughlin piece at Red State analyzing Mitt as a salesman for conservative policies while you still can. The bottom line: He’s not going to win any converts. If the GOP takes back the White House, it’ll be because Obama somehow blew it, not because Romney talked centrists into embracing moving right.

In Ohio, Romney lost independents and Democrats to Santorum. Partisan loyalty is all that Romney seems to have going for him.

8.19 pm. In Ohio, the race was close among all women: 37 – 40 for Santorum. But among unmarried women? Santorum lost big: 30 – 44 percent.

8.13 pm. In Virginia, where it was a Romney-Paul face-off, Paul narrowly won the vote of those earning under $50,000 a year, another bad sign for Romney's ability to relate to most Americans. Paul also thumped Romney among Independents: 64 – 36 percent. And they formed a third of the vote. But Virginia is the first state where Romney has won evangelicals: with 63 percent. The bottom line, though, is that it's a big delegate winner for Romney:

That 46-delegate haul amounts to roughly one-quarter of the 187 delegates that Romney had won coming into Super Tuesday. It’s nearly 70 percent of the 65 delegates former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum had accumulated in the first two months of the race. It’s 16 delegates more than former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has won in the race to date.

8.10 pm. Again, among evangelicals, Santorum crushes Romney in Oklahoma, 41 – 24 percent. In Tennessee, Santorum wins in this demographic by a very similar 40 – 24 percent.

8.06 pm. In Ohio, Romney has lost born again evangelicals again – with 31 percent to Santorum's 47 percent.  Santorum wins among voters for whom religious faith matters by 52 – 21 percent.

8.03 pm. Santorum has won both Independents and Democrats in Ohio. He had almost twice as many Democrats as Romney: not a good sign for Mitt in this critical state.

8.00 pm. Santorum gets Oklahoma, and is leading Romney in Tennessee – in a squeaker.

7.56 pm. More good news for Romneymentum in Ohio via Mark Murray:

Most striking exits in OH: Romney leads Santo BIG, 50%-28%, among those who decided to vote "in the last few days."

7.55 pm. Romney must be relieved to see clear margins in Ohio among conservatives and "somewhat comservatives". He's only losing by 15 points among "very conservative" voters.

7.47 pm. In Vermont, Romney's lead is rather sad so far, with Santorum and Paul winning a quarter of the vote each and Mitt struggling to get to 40 percent; in Virginia, Ron Paul currently has 41 percent of the vote to Romney's 59 percent: a shocker to my mind. Fox is dismissing it as a "protest vote". Some protest. And why are they protesting?

7.44 pm. The networks take note:

In 2008: big 3 networks had a combined 6 hours of prime time Super Tuesday coverage. Tonight: just 1 hour + brief updates.

7.43 pm. More depressing news for the GOP about their candidates:

In Ohio, just 43 percent of voters said they strongly favored their candidate. Another 41 percent said they liked their candidate but with reservations, while 13 percent said they voted for him solely because they disliked the other candidates.

The 43 percent "strongly favor" figure is the lowest in any state so far, although exit polls have not posed this question to voters in all states. The figure was 63 percent in Iowa, 51 percent in Arizona, and 45 percent in Michigan.

7.40 pm. Not a good sign for Romney in the South:

More than six in 10 primary voters in Ohio, Tennessee and Georgia say it’s important to share a candidate’s religious beliefs, according to preliminary exit polling. Sharing religious values peaks in Tennessee, where nearly three-quarters say so.

7.38 pm. The enthusiasm problem for the GOP in 2012:

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7.34 pm. In every state, exit polls are showing, Romney isn't winning on the empathy issue – just electability against Obama.

7.30 pm. The votes are now in in Ohio; and no one is predicting a victor. Meanwhile, Gingrich has handily won Georgia, with Romney in third place right now; and Romney has won Virginia – but right now by a much smaller margin over Ron Paul than expected. Fox tells me that Catholics in Ohio have not backed Gingrich or Santorum, which surprises me not.

(Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty.)