Super Tuesday to answer many questions
Will Romney strengthen his on-again, off-again status as front-runner? Will conservatives push Santorum to the front of the pack? Will Gingrich's candidacy survive? Stay tuned.
The Washington Post
Michigan adjusts delegate totalsMichigan GOP officials have raised a ruckus by awarding native son Mitt Romney 16 delegates rather than the 15 it appeared he won Tuesday. Michigan GOP rules said two delegates should be awarded proportionally based on the statewide vote, with two going to the winner of each of the state's 14 congressional districts, according to a Feb. 7 party memo shared with the campaigns. Party officials, however, said the memo was incorrect and that a new rule adopted Feb. 4 was intended to award both at-large delegates to the statewide winner. The Santorum campaign said it would appeal the ruling and, in an email, referred to the turn of events as an "election scandal."
The Associated Press
More delegates will be awarded on Super Tuesday than in the first two months of the Republican presidential race combined.
With 10 states awarding 437 delegates, political junkies have had March 6 circled on the calendar for months. It's the closest thing to a national primary day before the nominee ultimately is chosen. The slate includes states from Vermont and Massachusetts in the Northeast to Oklahoma in the Plains, Idaho in the Mountain West and even Alaska outside the Lower 48.
As in any national election, some of those 10 states are more important than others. Ohio is the centerpiece because, while its 66 delegates are second to Georgia's 76 on Super Tuesday, the Buckeye State will be a central battleground in the general election. By winning Ohio, Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum will be able to make the case that he is the most electable candidate.
Romney already has spent $1.2 million on ads in Ohio, while Restore Our Future, a super PAC that supports his candidacy, has dropped upward of $1.8 million. That sort of spending, which dwarfs all other candidates, is a testament to how important the state is to Romney.
Still, the RealClearPolitics polling average in Ohio shows Santorum ahead of Romney by 34 percent to 26 percent, with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at 18 percent and Texas Rep. Ron Paul at 11 percent.
For Romney and Santorum, an Ohio victory could make up for losing in a lot of other places. As a result, they will spend the bulk of their time and money there before Tuesday.
Below is our initial handicapping of where the presidential race stands in each of the 10 Super Tuesday states:
In the world of low turnouts, the Alaska caucuses may take the cake. Fewer than 14,000 Republicans cast votes in the 2008 contest. Former Gov. Sarah Palin has kind of, sort of endorsed Gingrich, but that's not necessarily a positive as it relates to the former House speaker's chances in the Last Frontier.
This is a must-win for Gingrich. It's his home state and by far his best chance for a victory on Super Tuesday. Polling suggests he has a steady, though not insurmountable, lead in the Peach State's primary, though it remains to be seen whether his nonexistent performance in Michigan and Arizona will hurt his chances. If Gingrich loses Georgia, it's hard to see how he can justify staying in the race.
This may be the biggest battleground of the three caucus states holding contests on Super Tuesday. Romney should do well because the state is about one-quarter Mormon, but Paul has targeted the state as one that he potentially could win. (Idaho was his best state in 2008; he took 24 percent in what then was a primary.) Santorum and Gingrich also have visited the state in recent weeks. So there's plenty of competition here.
Romney will win this primary. While he may have called Michigan his home state, this is the state where he was governor and where his more moderate politics make him a heavy favorite. But keep this in mind: He beat Arizona Sen. John McCain only 51 percent to 41 percent in Massachusetts on Super Tuesday 2008, so this isn't a guaranteed blowout. (Then again, McCain was seen as the more moderate candidate in that race.)
This is a caucus state and, as such, may give Paul a fighting chance. But Romney isn't ceding the state to Paul; the former Massachusetts governor made a stop in snowy Fargo on Thursday, a demonstration of his campaign's belief that he can compete here. Romney, who won the North Dakota caucuses in 2008, also has the backing of Sen. John Hoeven, the most popular Republican elected official in the Peace Garden State.
Ohio seems to have all the demographic challenges of Michigan for Romney, but without the hometown ties. Two polls this week showed Santorum ahead by 7 percent and 11 percent, so Romney has work to do.
This could be another competitive primary up and down the ballot. It combines Santorum's strength in the Midwest with Gingrich's strength in the South, meaning both candidates may go for the victory. This isn't a strong state for Romney, but he may be able to shoot the gap if Santorum and Gingrich split the conservative vote. Early polling showed Santorum with a double-digit lead, but that was in the aftermath of his big victories Feb. 7. This could be one of the more interesting contests of Super Tuesday.
The Volunteer State often is overlooked when analyzing key Super Tuesday states. It shouldn't be. Tennessee's primary will dole out 58 delegates on Tuesday — though the complicated allocation rules make it tough for any candidate to amass a large majority. Tennessee also may be the purest test of Southern strength on Super Tuesday, particularly since Gingrich has a home-state edge in Georgia. Polling in Tennessee suggests the state is Santorum's to lose.
None of the other candidates will try to challenge Romney's dominance in the Green Mountain State. A poll conducted by the Castleton Polling Institute, which was in the field for a decidedly too-long 10 days, showed Romney leading Santorum 34 percent to 27 percent, but that seems a too-narrow margin for the former Massachusetts governor. Vermont will be a bright spot for Romney. The question: Will he have enough other bright spots for it to matter?
This is the oddest contest of the day, because it pits Romney against Paul, one-on-one. Santorum and Gingrich (and every other candidate who was in the race) didn't qualify for the ballot, leaving Romney and Paul to duke it out. Assuming Paul doesn't shock the world by attempting to compete with Romney here, the former governor should lock up all of the state's 49 delegates by winning the statewide vote and each congressional district.