(Get it? "Cheese?" Because they make cheese in Wisconsin? Eh? Eh?)
7:08 PM: Romney wins everything! Romney is president of everything! This concludes your regularly scheduled live-Slog of the Wisconsin primary. Nobody's airing Newt Gingrich's speech, in which he will probably vow revenge on that boy who stole a kiss from Janey Schumway back at the Paradise Under the Sea dance in the spring of 1960. Ron Paul is wandering confusedly around the Paul family compound back in Texas (but just you wait until Ron Paul wins in Texas and California, Ron Paul says, thereby whipping his army of internet-savvy morons into a money-bombing frenzy for six more weeks). Now we're entering a bit of a break—the next primaries aren't until April 24th. It's almost, but not quite, enough time for you to forget how sick you are of all these schmucks. Pennsylvania, here we come!
6:45 PM: Apparently, Paul Ryan is playing the role of Mitt Romney's wife tonight. He's introducing Romney and running through the big list of thanks. Ryan is hitting at Barack Obama for being a "campaigner-in-chief." He says "the presidency is bigger than this. [Obama] is supposed to be better than this." Because no president has ever run for a second term before this president who is—I might remind you—black. Ryan says the party is finally coalescing behind Romney. Romney says Ryan is a "great leader" and a great speaker, but "he's not going to take Ann's place." Did the crowd just "awww" when he said that? Was that like, "aww, how cute," or "awww, I want to see Romney and Ryan make out?"
Romney's face is weirdly orange today. It looks like a big pumpkin. Romney says he's been all over Wisconsin and he sees how badly Americans are doing. Gas prices are high, you guys! "Four more years of that?" The president, Romney says "thinks he's doing a good job...and no, he didn't say that on Saturday Night Live." He says that "years of flying around on Air Force One" and being surrounded by fans has made President Obama out of touch. Obama has created a "government-led society," and Romney will create an "opportunity-led society." He says they have different "experiences." Obama was a community organizer who "saw free enterprise as a villain and government as a solution," and he doesn't understand that a plant goes out of business when a company loses money. Romney should know! "When you attack business and vilify success," you get less business and success, he says. "In Barack Obama's government-centered society, government spending always increases, because, well, why not?" "We know where that kind of trans...er, that transformation leads...it leads to chronic high unemployment, crushing debt, and stagnant wages. It's beginning to sound familiar, isn't it?" Romney says he doesn't want to transform America. He wants to "restore it." Opportunity, he says, "has always defined us" as Americans.
"I'm not naive enough" to say that free enterprise is "the solution to all our problems," he says, but it has done more to solve all our problems than every government program, combined. Taxes, Romney says, have to be low enough to compete with nations around the world. "We of course understand that in a free market, regulations are necessary." Regulators, Romney says, should see themselves as supporters of the American economy. And unions "should not be forced on workers." "Out of touch liberals like Barack Obama...don't like business that much," Romney says, adding, "It's a bit like saying you like omelettes, but you don't like eggs." In Romney's America, "dreamers dream" and one dream inspires another dream. "We've always been a nation of big steppers," he says. What the fuck? Like, the Minister of Silly Walks? Romney again says he wants to "restore the promise of America." He calls on the next few states to help him so that "help wanted signs can get dusted off" and Americans "will never again apologize for America abroad." This is a slightly rejiggered version of the campaign speech, moving from Santorum and Gingrich directly to Barack Obama. Romney says "there was a time when we could stand a little taller" simply because we are Americans. We can do that again, he says. "Thanks for the victory in Wisconsin, and Maryland, and the District of Columbia!" And that's it.
Huh. I read parts of this speech online earlier this evening, and it read as much more scathing. I think, maybe in another candidate's voice, it would have been. But in Romney's voice, it smacked of the same vague plasticky optimism as everything else he says. It just didn't sound any different than anything else he's said.
Live-Slogging Rick Santorum's Dick-filled, Hessian-hating Speech
6:14 PM: RIck Santorum says we're in "halftime," but that his campaign will "charge out of Pennsylvania for a strong second half." "This area...forged steel to build this country," he says, and "forged people to make this country great." The audience steps on his applause line, and Santorum encourages them. He says they can interrupt him with applause anytime they want. He also says liberty was forged in Pennsylvania, as well as the Declaration of Independence. Forgery seems to be the theme of this speech.
Santorum says George Washington railed against "the elites." Um, wasn't George Washington one of our richest presidents? Anyway, "Pennsylvania and half the other people in this country have yet to be heard," and Santorum is going to be speaking for them. The crowd half-heartedly chants, "Go, Rick, go!" "Great deeds have occurred here" in Pennsylvania, Santorum says. I wonder if he'll mention Wisconsin at all in this speech? "This is called the Keystone state for a reason. We are in fact the keystone." That settles that!
As George Washington battled "the Hessians"—I swear, Santorum called them "Hessians"—Santorum will battle Obamacare, which "dictated"—"DICK-tated," Santorum shouts again, for emphasis—how you'll live your life. He also hates how cap & trade "DICK-tates" to business how it should be run. I guess he's implying that President Obama is a DICK-tator? Santorum says Republicans will win by "getting people in the middle to move to us," not by moving to the middle from the right. Santorum says his campaign's greatest resource, like Soylent Green, is people. His campaign's convictions are "forged in steel and not written on an Etch-a-Sketch." Now he's running through his biography—his grandpappy was a miner immigrant, he fights for what he believes in—and he repeats a few times to Pennsylvania, "you know me."
"The clock starts tonight," he says. "We've got three weeks" before the Pennsylvania primary. He's tying his campaign to that of Ronald Reagan's 1976 presidential campaign. Remember that race, when Ronald Reagan, um, lost? And then Gerald Ford lost? Santorum calls Ford a "moderate," and says he lost to Carter because he didn't have the conservative credentials of, um, Richard Nixon, I guess. Wow. This is a terrible analogy. And it's over. What a garbage speech. I think Santorum's getting weary, frankly. His speeches are getting more and more tired, and he sounded defensive and dumb tonight. If he can't bring it in Pennsylvania, his fight is over. And, frankly, he sounds like he wouldn't even care that much if that happened.
The Polls Just Closed in Wisconsin
6 PM: The polls just closed in Wisconsin, and it looks like both Santorum and Romney are preparing to speak. I'll bring live-Slogs of those speeches, as well as results, as they come. In the meantime, enjoy the glory that is Wisconsin, where things are just...better:
We're Barely Halfway Done
5:40 PM: Micah Cohen notes that with his Maryland win, Mitt Romney now has about 600 delegates, which is a little over half of the delegates he needs to win the nomination. In other news, 48% of all Republican voters in Maryland said they made over $100,000 annually, which explains why Romney did so well there.
Santorum's Hopes Are Leaking
5:12 PM: Certain political folks on Twitter are saying Rick Santorum would have to win 76% of the remaining delegates in order to win the nomination before the Republican National Convention. Santorum has acknowledged that a convention battle is probably the only way he could win the nomination, but even he has to admit that that scenario, too, is looking more and more like an unrealistic goal.
Romney Wins Maryland
5:01 PM: Yeah, this was pretty obvious. The AP and everyone else has called Maryland and Washington D.C. for Romney. This is because Maryland Republicans are incredibly wealthy, and Maryland is kind of the north of the south, and northern Republicans are actually physically unable to acknowledge Rick Santorum's existence, out of sheer embarrassment.
Everything's Coming Up Whatever
5 PM: After a day of lackluster turnout, the Maryland polls have closed. Slogging may be light for this first hour or so—all the action is in Wisconsin tonight (which explains Wisconsin's motto: Where Action Lives!) and so things probably won't speed up until the polls in Wisconsin close, at 6 pm Seattle time. I'll be posting news and live-Slogs of victory/defeat speeches as they come right here at the top of this post. In the meantime, please enjoy this nifty New Column from this week's paper: