We are now days away from Super Tuesday folks and it looks like each candidate, minus Paul, has a decent shot of winning at least one state in the race. For Gingrich he must win his home state to stay viable. Romney is sure to win Massachusetts, Vermont, Virginia and Idaho. He also has a real shot to win North Dakota and Alaska. Santorum and Romney will be battling over the prize of Ohio, which looks to be close. Santorum will likely do well in Tennessee and Oklahoma, depriving Gingrich of desperately needed Southern victories. Paul will likely accumulate delegates due the way each state allocates delegates but he is unlikely to win a single state and remain winless for the 2012 cycle. What follows below is a short analysis of the states up on Super Tuesday.
Ohio: In terms of momentum and bragging rights no state has more impact than Ohio on Super Tuesday. While the state only has 66 delegates to allocate its position as a key swing state in the general and its mix of rural, urban, moderate and conservative regions make it a perfect testing ground to determine who is the best GOP candidate. Since February 7th Santorum has held steady leads in the state but that was before February 28th. Romney notched wins in MI and AZ and has been cruising the state since. Recent polls from Rasmussen, Quinnipiac and CNN all have Santorum ahead but within the polls margins of error. Romney has momentum in the state and his campaign has moved its ground game from MI into the neighboring state. Santorum on the other hand is hoping to hold on for a narrow win. While Romney notches up victories in the state’s moderate suburban and urban areas Santorum will hope to rack up similar margins in the numerous conservative counties of the state. Gingrich and Paul look to have a negligible impact on the race here. Santorum’s campaign may yet win the night here but lose the delegate fight. The reason is because Santorum’s campaign failed to fill out 18 of the 63 delegate slots in the state before the filing deadline. Worse for Santorum is that many of the slots he failed to fill are in conservative districts he will likely do well in. That means if Santorum wins those districts he may not get their delegates if Romney finishes strong enough in those Congressional Districts. It is more likely the state GOP will allocate the delegates from the Districts Santorum won on his strength in those districts. Regardless, Ohio looks to be close and that is where the state’s open primary comes in. If enough Democrats vote and decide to back Santorum then they could swing the race his way. But that is unlikely. Exit polls reported that 9% of the MI electorate was Democratic yet somehow Romney won the more moderate districts while Santorum won the more conservative districts of MI. This as 50% of MI Democrats backed Santorum. This race will come down to the wire and will be the real prize of Tuesday night.
North Dakota: Romney is expected to do well here, especially around Fargo. He has been to the state three times since February and seems to really want to notch a win here. The only other candidate who has made a series play here is Paul. North Dakota holds a non-binding Caucus which means no delegates will be allocated on Super Tuesday. But Romney has momentum coming off his first Caucus win in WA State on Saturday and the closed nature of the caucus may deprive Santorum of Democratic cross-over voters looking to prolong the GOP primary.
Idaho: Idaho is fertile Ron Paul and Romney country. Close to a quarter of the state’s population is Mormon and in NV and AZ Romney won 90% of those states Mormon voters. It is not a stretch to say Romney will do just as well among Mormons in Idaho. Ron Paul will likely do well in the Caucuses in the North as well as central rural counties. Santorum could play well here but his support seems more scattered. Gingrich looks to be a non-factor here.
Massachusetts: Romney’s tenure here as Governor all but ensures he wins the state.
Vermont: Romney’s regional ties to the state should ensure he wins the state handily.
Virginia: This race is only between Paul and Romney. Long story short both Romney and Paul were the only presidential candidates who were able to file enough signatures from the state’s 11 Congressional Districts. Even with an open hybrid primary this ensures Romney will find ample support in both the state’s urban and rural areas. However, the state will provide Paul an opportunity to add to his delegate count even as he is losing handily. The latest survey from NBC/Marist found Romney leading Paul 69%-20%.
Tennessee: Newt Gingrich’s Southern Strategy has led him to win three states, Georgia (his home state), Tennessee and Oklahoma on Super Tuesday. One problem. Polls only show him leading in Georgia while Santorum is cruising in Tennessee and Oklahoma. In one survey Romney even led Gingrich in Tennessee, behind Santorum. Tennessee allocates its delegates by the state popular vote (proportional) so it is likely Gingrich will come out with something regardless of the outcome. But Gingrich has been inconsequential in the race since South Carolina and he really needs to notch some wins to keep going. The latest polls out of the state show Romney and Santorum each with narrow leads while Gingrich is in third.
Georgia: The Peach State is likely to go Gingrich’s way on Super Tuesday. He got his political start in the state and has deep cultural roots here. Santorum and Romney have made a play in the state just to notch some delegates since the state is a proportional primary but polls show Gingrich ahead. In the latest polls Romney has moved into second place with Santorum. Gingrich will get a win here on Tuesday but it may not be enough to keep him in the race much longer.
Oklahoma: Oklahoma Republicans are a fickle lot. In the three surveys taken in this state since the beginning of the year three Republicans have led, Romney, Gingrich, Santorum, in that order. It is unlikely Romney can win the state but he sure can compete here. And if Gingrich takes votes that otherwise go Santorum’s way then Romney benefits.
Alaska: There has been scant polling of this race but off-hand the race looks like Romney’s to lose. Alaskan Republicans tend to be of the moderate variety and Romney’s emphasis on fiscal issues may play well in the state. Keep in mind Lisa Murkowski, a pro-choice Republican, barely lost the GOP primary in 2010 but then won over 60% of Republicans in the general election to retain her seat as a write-in. Alaska will be just a side story to the night’s results but its 27 delegates certainly will not.
Update: A flurry of new polls out today shows Romney gaining the edge in Ohio. In a new Quinnipiac survey Romney leads 34%-31% over Santorum with 8% undecided. Notably in the survey Romney leads among women and is statistically tied among conservatives and men. PPP also finds Romney ahead but by a statistically insignificant 37%-36%. What is more important for Romney here is the trend. Romney leads 40%-28% among those who have made up their minds in the last few days and has a 41%-34% cushion among those who have already voted. Momentum seems to be in Romney’s favor. Finally, Rasmussen finds Santorum ahead 32%-31%. Rasmussen does not release its sample without pay so I cannot comment on the trends. Other polls show Santorum ahead in Tennessee and Gingrich in Georgia. Romney is cruising nationally with a 38%-22% lead over Santorum according to Gallup’s daily tracking poll. Lastly, Romney picked up two notable conservative endorsements. He now has the backing of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn.