BY KYLE SCHAFER, Staff Writer
Super Tuesday is shaping up to be a big moment in the 2012 primary campaign for all four remaining major candidates in the Republican field.
The biggest event of the primary campaign season is “Super Tuesday”. The four GOP candidates are all hoping for big showings. Some have staked their “final stand” in some of the primary races, while others are looking for a strong national presence to define who is the real frontrunner. This is a rundown of the candidates, the states, and the stakes.
There are ten races up for grabs on this Super Tuesday: primaries in Georgia, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia; and caucuses in Alaska, Idaho, and North Dakota.
For former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former Senator Rick Santorum, it is a two-man national race to determine who is the frontrunner. Mr. Romney is attempting to come away with the biggest night of the four remaining candidates by winning the most races and delegates across the board. He is playing a national strategy to prove his electability to the Republican base for the general election in November.
Mr. Santorum is not on the ballot in Virginia, and is playing a semi-regional strategy. He does not have the funding to go toe-to-toe with Mr. Romney in every state, so it is a matter of using strategy to capitalize on opportunities and maximize strengths.
With Mr. Romney polling well in the New England states, Mr. Santorum is not focusing too much on winning in that region. He is playing to win the Ohio, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. His best-case scenario would be winning those three states, plus second-place showings in Georgia, Massachusetts, Vermont, and good performances in the three caucuses.
Congressman Ron Paul is expected to have a big night in the three caucuses, claiming a lot of support in the sparsely populated Alaska, Idaho, and North Dakota. His best-case scenario would be a sweep in those three races, while finishing solidly in most of the other primaries. A night like that could elevate him into serious discussion with Mr. Romney and Mr. Santorum as a frontrunner.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich may have his last stand on Tuesday, with primary races in his home state of Georgia, as well as in Oklahoma and Tennessee. Since challenging Mr. Romney for the top spot in the GOP field, in January, his campaign has been in a bit of a tailspin, and a big Super Tuesday would fix its trajectory.
His best-case scenario would be wins in Georgia and Tennessee, second place in Oklahoma and one other primary, and a strong result in the other states. For Mr. Gingrich, it is a real uphill battle.
Looking at the individual states, Georgia is likely to go for Mr. Gingrich, holding a 38%-24% lead over Mr. Romney in the latest Mason-Dixon poll, while Massachusetts is likely to go to Mr. Romney, who has a 64%-16% lead over Mr. Santorum, in the latest Suffolk University poll. But, those are home states to the poll leaders, so that is to be expected.
According to the latest NBC/Marist poll, Virginia is expected to fall for Mr. Romney, who has a 69%-26% lead over Mr. Paul–the only two candidates on the ballot.
Vermont is an interesting case, where Mr. Romney holds a 7-point lead over Mr. Santorum in the latest Castleton poll (34%-27%), while Mr. Paul generates a lot of support in that state, as well.
Oklahoma is trending toward Mr. Santorum, who holds an 11-point lead over Mr. Romney, as the latest ARG poll has him winning the state 37%-26%-22%, with Mr. Gingrich in a close third.
Tennessee could turn out to be Mr. Santorum’s nightmare, as he is in a three-way race, holding a slim 34%-29%-27% lead over Mr. Romney and Mr. Gingrich, respectively, in the latest Public Policy Poll. He could win the state, or just as easily come in third, which would be a huge blow to his campaign.
Ohio appears to be the crown jewel of Super Tuesday. It is a big swing state in the general election, and is one of the litmus test states for overall electability. The first step to carrying the Buckeye State in November is carrying it in the primary. Latest polling from Quinnipiac gives Mr. Romney a 34%-31% lead over Mr. Santorum, which is within the margin of error.
There is only one thing for sure, and that is that this GOP primary race will be more defined on Wednesday morning, when all the dust settles, and 437 delegates are awarded in the race to 1,144 to clinch the nomination.