Today’s the biggest single day in the Republican presidential primary contest, in terms of number of states voting and delegates available. But even though there are 10 states heading out to vote today – Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia – all eyes are on just a couple of races.
As First Read notes: “The marquee race in Ohio is particularly significant for both Romney and Rick Santorum. A Romney win there would keep him on his path (no matter how rocky it's been) toward capturing the GOP nomination. But a Santorum victory there would signal that his close second-place finish in Michigan wasn't a fluke, and would likely ensure that this primary season remains competitive, perhaps through April and possibly June.”
Georgia is the big race in terms of delegates, but hometown boy Newt Gingrich is way ahead there and the other campaigns have effectively ceded that race. Instead, Tennessee will be another interesting litmus test of whether Romney can appeal to southern conservative voters. The latest Rasmussen poll showed a tight race in the state, with Santorum edging Romney 34 percent to 30 percent – within the margin of error.
But it’s feeling increasingly likely that even if Santorum can pull off a double blow of wins in Ohio and Tennessee, it won’t be enough for him to catch Romney.
As senior Romney advisor Robert O’Brien noted to me this morning: “The under reported but most important story of Super Tuesday will be the delegate race. Gov. Romney will amass over 200 and, possibly, over half the delegates awarded today. While the other candidates are hoping to win a state here or there to keep their hopes alive, Romney is running a national campaign and is competing everywhere. After today, simple math will take over and it will be clear that only Mitt Romney will have a path to the GOP nomination. Soon, it will be a two-man race for the American presidency between Mitt Romney and Barrack Obama.”
That’s not simply campaign spin. Over at Frontloading HQ, Davidson College Prof. Josh Putnam crunches the numbers and finds bleak reading for the Santorum and Gingrich campaigns.
“The bottom line here is that Romney has enough of a delegate advantage right now and especially coming out of today's contests that it is very unlikely that anyone will catch him, much less catch him and get to 1144 (the number necessary to win the Republican nomination.)”
“And that is a problem in this race. Well, a problem for Gingrich and Santorum anyway. If all either of them can take to voters is an argument that all they can do is prevent Romney from getting to 1144, then neither has a winning strategy.”
I’ll be posting this evening as the results come in.