It’s quite possible that Super Tuesday, designed to give one presidential candidate a boost toward the eventual party nomination, may not be particularly definitive in 2012.
Initial polling has been published, or trends are clear, in nine of the 13 states hosting caucuses or primaries on or before Super Tuesday; the preliminary information suggests that the race will move toward the next group of states in close fashion.
Currently, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum holds definitive leads over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in Ohio (66 delegates – 42-24 percent, Rasmussen Reports, Feb. 15), Oklahoma (40 delegates – 39-23 percent, The Sooner Poll, Feb. 8-16) and Washington (53 delegates – 38-27 percent, Public Policy Polling, Feb. 16-19). He also has a close lead in Michigan (30 delegates – 38-34 percent, Rasmussen, Feb. 20). The grand total of delegates apportioned in the aforementioned Santorum states is 189.
Romney has no published polling data for the states where he commands a definitive advantage with the exception of Virginia, but the outcomes are unquestioned. He will win his home state of Massachusetts (41 delegates), along with Vermont (17 delegates) and Virginia (49 delegates). He has a close lead in Arizona (29 delegates – 36-33 percent, PPP, Feb. 17-19).
The Old Dominion is becoming more important than originally projected. Christopher Newport University conducted a poll of Virginia Republican primary voters (Feb. 4-13) and found Romney leading Rep. Ron Paul 53-23 percent. Remember, only Romney and Paul qualified for the Virginia ballot, meaning one of the candidates will win a majority of the vote – almost assuredly Romney. Breaking 50 percent is important because under Virginia delegate apportionment rules, any candidate receiving a majority of the vote receives unanimous support from all 49 delegates. Therefore, the inability of Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to recruit enough petition signatures to participate in the Virginia primary will cost them dearly.
Adding the delegate contingents from the aforementioned Romney states produces an aggregate count of 136.
Georgia is now becoming extremely interesting. With the delegate penalty sanction assessed to Florida for its defiance of Republican National Committee rules, the Peach State now becomes the fourth-largest contingent with 76 delegates. According to a survey from the Atlanta-based Insider Advantage (Feb. 20), Gingrich leads his GOP opponents with 26 percent, but he is followed closely by Romney and Santorum with 24 and 23 percent, respectively. Therefore, it is clear that Georgia is anyone’s game. But, if the vote stays this evenly divided, the candidates will likely split the pool of delegates almost evenly, thereby giving no one a clear upper hand.
There is no available polling for Tennessee (47 delegates), or the caucus states of Alaska (27 delegates), Idaho (32 delegates) and North Dakota (28 delegates). Combined, states total 134 delegates – so far unaccounted for. The aggregate number of delegates contained in the universe of Super Tuesday and Super Tuesday cusp states is 535, or 23.4 percent of the entire Republican National Convention delegate universe.
It is reasonable to expect momentum to shift toward one candidate should either Santorum or Romney sweep the pre-Super Tuesday states of Michigan, Arizona, and Washington. If this happens, then Super Tuesday itself could become definitive after all.