Political Animal


March 05, 2012 8:30 AM Super Tuesday Benchmarks

By Ed Kilgore

The so-called Super Tuesday events are actually seven primaries and three caucuses in states with 437 delegates to the GOP National Convention. The results are likely to point in one of two directions: a near-sweep by Mitt Romney that could once again (as was the case after his Florida and Nevada wins over a month ago) bring him to the brink of nailing down the nomination, or a more mixed outcome whose significance will depend on how GOP opinion-leaders interpret it.

The biggest variable is Ohio, whch has probably received more national media attention that the other nine Super Tuesday states combined, and where Rick Santorum still has a decent chance of winning the popular vote despite a late Romney surge in the polls and some delegate-filing mistakes by Team Rick that make it unlikely his share of the delegates will match his share of the vote.

PPP released a late battery of polls last night showing Romney gaining strength not only in OH (where he now leads by one point and also seems to have built an advantage in early voting) but in TN, another state where Santorum led comfortably in earlier surveys. In GA, however, PPP showed Newt Gingrich consolidating his lead and threatening to win an actual majority, which means that Mitt won’t win a sweep.

Nate Silver posted an excellent comprehensive preview of Super Tuesday last night, showing how Romney might secure a majority of the total delegates selected on March 6. In terms of individual states, Nate figures Romney will win MA (of course), VA, VT and ID (a big LDS state), and has a decent chance in the unpolled caucus states of ND and AK (two states, along with VA, where Ron Paul is making a major effort and could pick up a significant number of delegates). He figures Santorum will win OK, and has a small advantage in TN (where, as PPP points out, Santorum is actually well ahead in early voters). He, too, assumes Newt will win GA, and is slightly less bullish than many observers about Mitt’s “surge” in OH, if only because early voting has been surprisingly light and overall turnout could be low, which presumably favors the more ideologically motivated Santorum vote.

If, to cite one plausible scenario, Santorum wins OH, TN, OK and maybe one of the caucus states (Paul could also pick off one or two of those), and Gingrich (as expected) romps in GA, we are back to that twilight situation where opinion-leader reaction becomes very important. Primaries and caucuses start stretching out for real, and even if Romney is generally conceded “inevitability” once again, he will have a slow, painful slog to a majority of delegates and the opportunity for weird stuff happening will return.

A Romney win in OH, but not in TN or OK, would change the dynamics considerably, though lingering doubts about his weakness in the South would probably prevent his complete coronation.

So the details—and perhaps last-minute developments—could matter. Stay tuned to continuing demolition derby coverage.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • jpeckjr on March 05, 2012 8:44 AM:

    You mention low turnout in Ohio, as indicated by early voting.

    Low turnout has been a factor throughout this nomination process. I've read in a couple of places that Republican turnout has been down 25 - 40%. To me, that's an indicator of deep lack of enthusiasm for these candidates, or a concession that Pres. Obama will be very difficult to beat no matter who is nominated, so what difference does it make?

  • Danp on March 05, 2012 8:53 AM:

    If we're looking for a pattern in the polls, it might be that people who tell pollsters they favor Santorum, don't actually intend to vote. I predict the Hyundai Element beats the Pinto in this demolition derby, but fails to enhance sales.

  • DAY on March 05, 2012 8:54 AM:

    What a sorry lot, this cycle!
    Santorum fails to get some delegate filings in Ohio, and Newt isn't even on the ballot in VA! Mitt tries to please everybody, all the time, and thus inspires none. I won't even discuss Ron Paul.

    At the Battle of New Orleans, the British planned to attack Jackson's ramparts, but forgot to bring the scaling ladders. I assume their quartermaster was a Republican. . .

  • martin on March 05, 2012 8:55 AM:

    if Romney is generally conceded “inevitability” once again, he will have a slow, painful slog to a majority of delegates and the opportunity for weird stuff happening will return.

    Make that a slow, painful, EXPENSIVE slog that will drain the pockets of his supporters and opponents, leaving little to fight with against Obama.

    The wanted to spend their money and now they are going to get their wish.

  • TomByrd on March 05, 2012 10:35 AM:

    Throughout the discussions of caucus and primary voting, there has been little mentioned about allocation of votes/delegates. Do all the states vote winner-take-all? Are some or all portioned by vote total in districts? Is there somewhere to find this info?

  • schtick on March 05, 2012 11:23 AM:

    The thing that makes me giggle is that Michael Steele is taking the credit for coming up with this primary idea and he thinks it's working out great. I imagine giving everyone their 24 hour moment of fame will help them find work in the 1% field so in that it is a success. Just out of curiosity, I'd like to know who come up with the brainstorm of attacking women. He should be wearing a dunce cap.
    I still can't figure out why MSNBC hired him, he's a talking mouth with no brains or common sense, but then again, look how long they had Pat Buchanan.
    And no, I don't want all dems or libs, but I want people with opposing ideas to discuss them and not the color of someone's skin, their religion, birth control, or parroting conspiracies about where someone was born.

    crapcha....exalted monsule....ah, ok.