New Republic: Super Tuesday Primer
The New Republic staff composed this article.
Delegates at stake: 66
The Buckeye State is considered by many to be Super Tuesday's most important prize. Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Polling Institute, said that Ohio matters so much "because it is so representative of the rest of the country." A Feb. 27 Quinnipiac poll had Santorum up over Romney 36-29 in the state, but the former Pennsylvania senator failed to qualify for the ballot in three of Ohio's 16 Congressional districts, which will automatically deny him the nine delegates to be won from those districts. In terms of endorsements, there's no clear direction yet from the state's Republican elites: While Senator Rob Portman has campaigned for Romney, Attorney General (and former Senator) Mike DeWine recently switched his endorsement from Romney to Santorum, and Governor John Kasich and House Speaker John Boehner haven't endorsed anyone. And while Santorum is up in the latest polls, there's more than enough time for his lead to vanish as Election Day approaches, just as it did in Michigan. The outcome may depend on those anti-Romney Republicans. "There is a bloc of Republican voters who seem pretty intent on not voting for Mitt Romney," Brown said. "The question is, is that a large enough bloc to give the anti-Romney forces victory?"
Delegates at stake: 49
This one is going to be a yawner. Due to a combination of poor campaign planning and the state's tough qualification requirements, a number of Republican candidates — including Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum — failed to even get on the ballot in Virginia. (The state requires, among other things, 10,000 approved signatures. Gingrich's didn't meet the requirements, and Santorum didn't even submit them by the deadline.) The result is a two-man race between Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, so expect the vast majority of Virginia's delegates to go to Romney. (Write-in candidates, as Yale law professor Akhil Reed Amar noted, aren't allowed in Virginia's primary.) Since it's basically over before it began, the event is widely being derided as a messy failure. As The Washington Post's editorial board scolded in January: "If the aim of Virginia was to host a presidential primary that no one cared about, it seems to have succeeded."
Delegates at stake: 76
Georgia represents what is probably Gingrich's last, best chance to reignite his campaign. But while polls generally show the former representative from Georgia about ten points ahead of Romney and Santorum, there is plenty of room for movement. Charles Bullock, a political science professor from the University of Georgia, said that there have been few signs of Gingrich activity in the state, and the Republicans who've endorsed him — including Governor Nathan Deal — are not exactly going out of their way to stump for him. Romney, on the other hand, has money on his side: Georgia was recently part of his eight-state, $1.5 million ad buy, and he and his wife are already planning at least two visits to the state in advance of Tuesday. He's also drawing endorsements from legislators who see him as the GOP's best shot at the general — though those lawmakers have received pushback from evangelicals that may temper their enthusiasm. (Santorum, to the extent that he gets any traction in the state, will draw some share of its large evangelical population.) And though the state is likely to be Gingrich's best Super Tuesday showing, even a win won't award him all 76 of the state's delegates — 31 of which will be handed out proportionally, 42 by congressional district. "I would be surprised if Gingrich lost," Bullock said, "but now it's a question of how much space he can keep open between himself and the people who are chasing him."
Delegates at stake: 32
Mormons are the largest single religious group in Idaho, and they have been primed for turnout by Romney's well-organized in-state operatives. But there's a twist: This is the first year that Idaho Republicans are holding a caucus to divvy up delegates, and the state's GOP leaders have closed the contest to anyone not registered Republican. Caucus-goers can register on Super Tuesday, but with only 3 to 5 percent of the state's voters registered with any party, there is serious potential for delays and disaster. Delegates will be distributed by county, but Romney could capture all 32 of Idaho's delegates if he wins more than 50% of statewide county caucus delegates. Caucus voting rules also give great weight to voters' second choice, and in this strongly libertarian state, that is likely to be Ron Paul — meaning he could emerge from the Gem State with a handful of delegates, too.
Delegates at stake: 58
Tennessee is Santorum's to lose — a poll conducted by Vanderbilt last week gave him an 18-point lead over Romney, and Nate Silver put his chance of winning at 93 percent. But Santorum shouldn't start planning a victory party just yet. The race may be closer than the polls imply: John Geer, a professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt who worked on the polling data, says that Romney's numbers were improving in the later days of the poll and Santorum's support is "paper thin." The fragility of Santorum's lead is largely the product of low recognition, so there's a possibility that the kind of media carpet-bombing strategy that Romney has successfully employed in the past might work again. And despite some deeply conservative pockets in the state, Geer pointed out that "the state leadership is very moderate ... not the kind of firebrands that you might see out of South Carolina." Still, there is a very good chance that Santorum will carry the state (Tennessee distributes 27 delegates proportionally and awards 28 to the overall winner, plus three from party leaders), though enthusiasm for all candidates remains low. According to the Vanderbilt poll, almost one-quarter of voters are undecided or didn't want to vote for any of the candidates, and early voting is down.
Delegates at stake: 41
Not surprisingly, Romney looks to have his home state pretty well locked up, thanks to an overwhelming organizational advantage. A Suffolk/7News poll from mid-February gives the former governor a 48-point lead over Santorum, with Paul and Gingrich left with single digit crumbs. That's not to say that Romney is wildly popular — his support, according to Jim Spencer, a veteran political consultant in Boston, is solid but lukewarm. But the other three candidates haven't been putting up much of a fight. Massachusetts is an expensive media market, and though it awards its delegates proportionally, Romney's establishment support makes the state a poor target for the resource-strapped campaigns of Santorum, Gingrich and Paul. "Ron Paul signs are the only signs I've seen," Spencer said, noting that Romney barely needed to play in the state. "He's a known commodity, the hometown boy. And he has some serious patronage."