We asked some political experts what Super Tuesday means for the Republican primary field. Here are their answers.
We may end Tuesday night without a definite call on who won the state of Ohio, but Rick Santorum has very effectively reinforced the growing view of his campaign as a serious one with the potential to prevail over Mitt Romney. If Santorum manages to win both Tennessee and Ohio on Super Tuesday in addition to North Dakota and Oklahoma, then it will be fair to start thinking of him as the co-front-runner in this campaign. Even if he doesn’t get Ohio, he spent much of the night as the leader there and has made a big impression.
While Santorum was unable to pull off the big upset in Michigan and appeared to have lost some of his momentum after a semi-disastrous debate in Arizona, his wins on Super Tuesday prove that he is a much more durable conservative version of 2004’s “people powered” phenomenon, Howard Dean. Romney has spent an alarming amount of money on his vote-generating machine. Meanwhile, Santorum has rocketed along on well-established networks of social conservatives.
Mitt Romney will be able to comfort himself with a nice stack of delegates at the conclusion of Super Tuesday, but there is little question that he is a long way from finishing off the scrappy senator. Romney is hanging tough and has a lot of advantages, but he’s stuck playing Apollo Creed to Santorum’s Rocky. Don’t forget, though, that underdog Rocky lost the fight. We should also not go too far in discounting various Romney wins because of his apparent “favorite son” status. If he has so many states in the bag because of his roots, his religion, or his residence, that would seem to be a strength.
Newt Gingrich did what he had to do to stay alive. He needed the win in Georgia. He needed a big win, which he got. Some will call for Gingrich to drop out, but it’s hard to see why he should. This race has made him relevant again. It’s not quite Nixon returning to the forefront in 1968 after apparently being finished, but Gingrich is part of the conversation again and is clearly pleased to be back.
— Hunter Baker is an associate professor of political science at Union University and the author of The End of Secularism and the forthcoming Political Thought: A Student’s Guide.
Moving forward: How does anybody stop Mitt Romney? Where do they go to get the delegates or the votes?
I think Romney will win Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island in the Northeast; D.C., Delaware, and Maryland in the South Atlantic; Illinois in the Midwest; and California, Hawaii, New Mexico, Oregon, and Utah in the West. All in all, I think Romney is a favorite in primaries and caucuses worth about 600 delegates.
Of course, he is probably an underdog in states totaling about the same number of delegates (with another 200 or so being too hard to estimate). But California’s and New York’s delegates are allocated on a winner-take-all basis (the latter if the victor scores a majority), while Texas is proportional. So that is another huge advantage for Romney, who on top of all this already has a 200-delegate lead (or thereabouts) over his nearest rival.
Romney has certainly not become the consensus choice of the GOP, but it is very difficult to see how Gingrich or Santorum stops him, at least without cutting significantly into groups Romney has already proven capable of winning. And I do not see how a dark-horse candidate steals the nomination without entering and sweeping the four big late primaries — California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico.
It looks increasingly likely that Romney will have won at least a comfortable plurality in both delegates and votes by the time we get to Tampa, giving him a very strong moral claim on the nomination.
— Jay Cost is author of the forthcoming Spoiled Rotten: The Story of How the Democratic Party Embraced Special Interests, Abandoned the Public Good, and Came to Stand for Everything It Once Opposed.
Writing this as a now thoroughly committed Santorum partisan, I still must say: Santorum proved tonight that he can take punch after punch.
As of right now, Santorum has performed almost exactly as well this election cycle as Ronald Reagan had done at this point in the razor-thin 1976 race versus Gerald Ford. Reagan won just eight of the first 23 contests against that Michigander; Santorum has won seven against another establishment Michigander — and Reagan didn’t need to deal with another candidate, Gingrich, taking Georgia and South Carolina.
Gingrich seriously underperformed tonight, failing to garner even a single second-place finish out of ten contests (as of this writing) to go along with his predictable Georgia win. He now is nothing but a spoiler.
Mitt Romney, in turn, is a survivor. But he’s one of the weakest survivors I’ve ever seen. If he can’t win more convincingly, even with such huge spending advantages, he is extremely vulnerable going forward. At some point, “underdog chic” might kick in for Santorum, while Romney completely loses his image as a winner.
Yes, Romney is a clear favorite. But he’s hardly inevitable. Indeed, he is no more inevitable than Ford was in 1976 — and he doesn’t have the power of the presidency to trade pork and perks for delegate votes.
— Quin Hillyer is a senior fellow at the Center for Individual Freedom and a senior editor of The American Spectator.