The rule this primary season has been Mitt Romney wins among wealthy, educated, urban, and more moderate Republicans, while the non-Romney candidate wins the poorer, less educated, rural, and more conservative base of the party.
Tonight Mitt Romney has put a stop to that pattern, and taken a big step toward unifying his party.
He showed a broad coalition of support in Maryland and Wisconsin, according to exit polling, winning over conservatives, evangelicals, and even Tea Party supporters, as his party begins to unite behind him as the presumptive nominee.
In Wisconsin, Romney beat Santorum 44% to 41% among very conservatives, narrowly lost among Evangelicals (38% to 41%), but led 49% to 36% among Tea Party backers. In Maryland, Romney beat Santorum 41% to 38% among Evangelicals, tied him 40% to 40% among very conservatives, and won 49% to 30% among Tea Party backers.
The results provide the strongest argument yet that Republican voters of all stripes are ready for this race to be over — and that they're falling in behind Romney. They also undermine Rick Santorum's rationale for staying in the race — that he speaks for the party's base, when in fact, as time goes on the base is coming to grips with nominating Romney.