Friday, February 3, 2012

The GOP's Road to Super Tuesday

Note: each contributor at 3BP has their own favorite in the GOP race. One opinion for or against a certain candidate is not necessarily shared by other contributors.

With Mitt Romney's win in Florida, a lot of the speculation about the race going forward has revolved around the March 6th Super Tuesday contests.  While the 10 states (Ohio among them) voting in 5 weeks will be a pivotal moment in the nomination battle, there are actually 8 state contests between now and then.  While none of them will receive the level of media attention of the previous 4 contests, these results will impact the momentum of candidates going into that day.

Personally, I am a Mitt Romney supporter, so feel free to take what I write with that in mind.  But looking ahead to the contests in February, there are a number of reasons for the Romney campaign to feel confident that they will build on their Florida victory's momentum.  Most of the 8 states voting seem to be favorable to Mitt, though there are contests along the way where the other 3 could find success as well.

Nevada (2/4) - Tomorrow, the Nevada caucuses take place with 28 delegates at stake.  The state's delegates are proportioned to the overall state results.  Four years ago, Romney won Nevada by a wide margin with 51% of the vote (though this was partly from other candidates' focus on the South Carolina primary held the same day), and only Romney and Paul have put together any kind of long-standing campaign organization in the state.  With two polls this week showing Romney ahead by at least 20 percent, he seems likely to convincingly win the state again and claim many of the delegates at stake.

Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri (2/7) - Three more states have contests this Tuesday.  Colorado and Minnesota host non-binding caucuses that kick off their multi-step process to select their 36 and 40 delegates respectively.  Both states were part of 2008's Super Tuesday contests, and both CO and MN were won by Romney.  The only recent poll of either state was a PPP poll of Minnesota taken right after South Carolina that showed Newt Gingrich out in front.  How much that has changed in the wake of Florida's results remains to be seen, and there's little indication of how strong each campaign's ground game is in these states.

Missouri hosts their non-binding primary on Tuesday.  While the state's delegates will be officially chosen in caucuses next month, Tuesday's vote may been Rick Santorum's best opportunity to claim a win in the build toward Super Tuesday.  This is largely due to the fact that Gingrich's campaign did not file to be on the primary ballot here.  The only poll of this 3-man contest was taken last weekend (again from PPP), and showed Santorum up 45-34 on Romney with Ron Paul far behind at 13 percent.

Maine (ongoing-2/11) - Maine's caucuses are a multi-week event, with different parts of the state holding them on different days.  No polling has been done in the state recently, but this is another state that Romney won big in 2008.  The state will release results from most of the caucus locations next Saturday.  Ron Paul has spent time campaigning in the state recently, and his campaign's caucus-based strategy could result in a very strong showing from him in this state.

Arizona, Michigan (2/28) - Arizona and Michigan will hold their primaries at the end of this month.  Although both states have had their delegate totals cut in half for holding their contests earlier than RNC rules allow, the 59 combined delegates are still more than were won in Florida on Tuesday.

Romney's Michigan ties are numerous.  His father was the state's Governor and the head of American Motors, much of Mitt's family remains in the state and is prominent in the state, and it was Romney's firewall victory in 2008 that kept him in the race after defeats in Iowa and New Hampshire.  Michigan's also a state where a campaign needs significant amounts of money to hit airwaves across the state, another area where Romney's campaign is currently strongest.  The first post-Florida poll of the state by Rasmussen has Romney up 15 points on Gingrich, with Santorum and Paul also in double digits.

Arizona polling by Rasmussen has Romney ahead by an even wider margin, a 2-1 advantage over Gingrich. Even up against home state front-runner John McCain in 2008, Romney was able to win 34% due in part to the sizable Mormon population in the northern part of the state.  With the support of Jeff Flake, McCain and others in the state, Romney's team has access to a wide campaign network in the state that he can use to further his advantage.

Washington state (3/3) - Washington is another state holding a caucus prior to Super Tuesday as the start of its delegate selection process.  Like Colorado, Minnesota, and Maine, the results from this vote will be technically non-binding on the final allocation of delegates.  It's very difficult to say what will happen in a state destined to be an afterthought in the shadow of the many contests taking place just 3 days later, but Washington's lightly attended caucuses are another likely target in Paul's quest to build delegates.  Romney's campaign also has the resources to aim for a win here even as many high profile states are just days away.

While none of these contests seem likely to knock any of the four remaining candidates out of the race, the next few weeks will greatly impact the state of the race.  The calendar has to look favorable to the Romney campaign, and it's not inconceivable that they could run the table in all of these states.  The other campaigns face the reality of being the underdogs in the contest.  While each can see some potential in this combination of states, they'll likely to be very selective about where they aggressively compete to try and save resources for the larger contests in March.

Whatever the next few weeks hold, the eyes of the nation will once again be turning to Ohio on March 6th for what will be an extremely important result in the battle for the nomination.  Monday's the last day to register to vote in the primary if you need to, and there's also still time to vote in 3BP's Ohio primary poll if you haven't done so.

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