Much about the Republican primary schedule changed from 2012 to 2016, but the final round of contests ??? on June 5 last time around and June 7 this year ??? were the same: California, New Jersey, Montana, New Mexico and South Dakota. And after campaigns won by front-runners who could not be more different ??? Donald Trump and Mitt Romney ??? and after a current campaign that ended with 10 days of white-hot controversy and top Republicans accusing Trump of racism, the two candidates’ final wins look basically similar.
Romney won California with 79.7 percent of the vote. There are still some votes uncounted, but Trump’s winning total at the moment is 75.4 percent.
Romney won New Jersey with 81.3 percent of the vote. Trump won with 80.6 percent.
Romney won Montana with 68.4 percent of the vote. Trump won with 73.7 percent.
Romney won New Mexico with 73.3 percent. Trump won with 70.7 percent.
Romney won South Dakota with 66.1 percent. Trump won with 67.1 percent.*
In the final primaries, Romney had some opponents who had withdrawn from the race but were still on the ballot: Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich mostly, but also a few others. (Who remembers that Buddy Roemer got 11,008 votes, or 0.7 percent, in the 2012 California Republican primary?)
This time, a variety of Trump opponents, including Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, and even Jim Gilmore, were still on some ballots in the final states. (Gilmore got 10,595 votes, or 0.7 percent, in California.)
More voters went to the polls in several of the final states this year than in 2012. Romney won New Jersey with about 185,000 votes. Trump won with 350,000. Romney won Montana with 95,000 votes; Trump won with 113,000. Romney won New Mexico with 67,000 votes; Trump won with 73,000. Romney won South Dakota with 34,000 votes; Trump won with 44,000.
The exception could be California. Romney won the state with 1.328 million votes. With 94 percent of the votes counted Wednesday morning, Trump had 1.146 million votes.
In the final results for all the Republican primaries, Trump had a significantly bigger popular vote, 13,266,277 to to Romney’s 9,809,662.
Tuesday’s primaries come after amid intense controversy over Donald Trump’s accusations of bias against Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over the Trump University lawsuit. The last 10 days have seen Republican Party leaders criticizing Trump, calling his remarks racist, distancing themselves from him, and in at least one case, Sen. Mark Kirk, withdrawing their endorsement of him.
Did that have any effect at the polls? It’s not really possible to say. But the bottom line is, after all the noise, after all the drama, and after all the controversy, in terms of the vote, the 2016 Republican presidential primaries ended pretty much like the 2012 Republican presidential primaries. Now, the question is whether, despite all the rhetorical differences, the 2016 general election race will bear a structural similarity to 2012 ??? and end with a similar result.
*There was one final primary in 2012, Utah, on June 26. Romney, the first Mormon nominee for president, won with 93.1 percent of the vote.