By Amy Walter, ABC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR
(WASHINGTON) — It is done. The GOP primary is over.
Yes, Rick Santorum can keep bowling for votes. He can call Tuesday night “halftime” as he did in a speech in Mars, Pa., and vow to plow on ahead. Heck, he can even win the Pennsylvania primary on April 24. But, it won’t matter.
Mitt Romney didn’t simply get more votes than Santorum did in the “must-win” state of Wisconsin, he won over the kinds of voters who have been skeptical of his candidacy for much of this primary season: very conservative Republicans, middle income earners, strong Tea Party supporters and non-college graduates.
To be sure, Romney didn’t exactly carry these groups by a wide margin — he won those making less than $100,00 per year by just one point and very conservatives by just three points.
But, it’s a dramatic turn-around from where Romney stood with these voters back on Super Tuesday on March 6.
On that March day in Ohio, a state with a similar demographic make-up to Wisconsin, Romney lost very conservative voters by a whopping 18 points. He lost those who made less than $100,000 per year by 8 points.
Romney carried those who defined themselves as “strong” supporters of the Tea Party by 15 points in Wisconsin. He lost them by 9 points in Ohio.
Romney still didn’t win among Evangelical voters in Wisconsin on Tuesday. But, he lost this group by 3 points in Wisconsin — a big improvement from Ohio where he lost them by 17 points.
This isn’t to say that the entire GOP electorate is completely sold on Romney. Those who value a candidate who is “true conservative” or “has a strong moral character” continue to support Santorum.
But, when 83 percent of the Wisconsin electorate says they expect Romney to be the nominee, it’s clear that voters not only see the light at the end of the long tunnel that has been the GOP primary, but they want the party to get there — now.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio