Super Tuesday: What to Look For
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.