The GOP race continues, and Republicans continue to grouse about their choices

What they see is what they get
March 4, 2012 12:00 am

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So it continues.

Mitt Romney's daily-double followed Rick Santorum's trifecta, and now the contest moves here to Massachusetts and to nine other states that together, in a Super Tuesday rush for delegates, probably won't resolve the Republican presidential race any more than the last two rounds did.

But just because the race isn't resolved doesn't mean it isn't clarified. In the muddle, some things are clearer than ever.

One is that there will be a lengthy Republican race. Another is that the Republicans have class divisions that mirror the ones the Democrats have been contending with for two generations. A third is that the party best positioned in a quarter-century to recapture the White House is so divided that a weak president grows in strength day by day.

This will be a Super Tuesday like few others. The term arose after Southern Democrats, impatient with the leftward drift of a party that seemed congenitally unable to win a national election, clustered the primaries of the Old Confederacy so as to create a regional battle that would work to the advantage of a moderate, business-oriented candidate.

But this is a contest of an entirely different character, mixing the old industrial heartland (and agricultural bounty) of Ohio with the high-tech suburbs of Massachusetts, the granola reaches of Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, the energy environs of North Dakota and Oklahoma and the country-music balladlands of Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia. Each of the contenders has a stronghold to defend and dangerous territory to explore.

As they do so -- as they speed from Idaho to the South, and then gird for the ground war in Ohio -- these questions grow in importance:

• What value do Republicans place on party unity?

On the surface, that question focuses on the fissures that two months of hard campaigning have laid bare: between conservatives and moderates, between those who oppose big government and those who aim more at big business, between candidates who play down religion and those who emphasize it.

The Michigan exit polls by Edison Research make these divisions clear. Mr. Romney prevailed among those who said they considered themselves somewhat conservative or moderate to liberal and Mr. Santorum was the clear winner among those who said they were conservative. Mr. Romney showed strength among those with incomes over $100,000, Mr. Santorum with those far less well off. Voters who considered abortion the top issue went with Mr. Santorum; those who emphasized the budget and the economy with Mr. Romney.

First Published 2012-03-03 23:27:45

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