Initial projections, raw delegate counts, and sheer momentum all indicate that Super Tuesday will enshrine Mitt Romney as the inevitable nominee.
After beating back Santorum’s surge with wins in Michigan, Arizona, and Washington, Romney finds himself with double Santorum’s delegates with momentum on his side.
The most important competitive races today are for Ohio and Tennessee, if Romney wins both he and the GOP establishment will be able to make a strong case that Gingrich and Santorum should drop out and get behind him as presumptive nominee. Santorum is slightly favored in Tennessee, and he’s been emphasizing his blue-collar affinity with Ohio voters in recent trips to the state, but according to an Associated Press story today, he has very little of the organizational muscle there that will be key to winning, and Romney holds a slight lead in polling. Gingrich’s recent visits to Tennessee won’t help Santorum either, though he’s slightly favored to win.
Massachusetts, Vermont, and Virginia will all go to Romney. Politico’s Maggie Haberman cited a 50-point spread in Virginia between Romney and Ron Paul, which seems a bit extreme given the low turnout that will likely benefit Paul (a volunteer at a polling place in Arlington this morning said only a handful of voters had cast their ballots after two hours). On the other hand, Eric Cantor endorsed Romney this weekend, and Bob McDonnell is widely thought to be on the short list for Romney’s VP pick. More concretely, Virginia benefits more from the military-industrial complex than any other state, why would they vote against a candidate that would ensure a perpetual gravy train of government contracts thanks to a policy of endless war?
Gingrich will win Georgia, Santorum will win Oklahoma. Ron Paul has been campaigning hard in the Northwestern primaries, spending Sunday in Fairbanks and Anchorage, Idaho Monday and this morning, and will be heading to Fargo, ND to watch the results come in this evening. All three will likely go to Romney if Paul loses. Idaho has the most delegates of the three, and while the state’s Mormon population gives Romney an advantage, the Paul campaign continues to have strong activist support, including from Romney’s relatives:
In a cheeky move aimed at tweaking the nose of the Romney campaign, the Paul team in Idaho has recruited members of Romney’s family; the campaign is touting five distant relatives who all bear the surname Romney but at the caucuses will be urging Idaho residents to vote for Paul.
“I support Ron Paul because he defends the constitution, loves America and understands what it means to be an American,” said Travis Romney, who is a second cousin once removed to the former Massachusetts governor.
Brent Budowsky at The Hill writes that a solid Romney victory today means the GOP will close ranks around him tomorrow. His three takeaways:
1. In the GOP, the insider, banking, Wall Street and K Street establishment is the boss. Period.
2. True conservatives have been humiliated in this primary season because they began without a credible conservative presidential candidate and will likely end being force-fed Mitt Romney, whom most of them privately consider a phony (which he is) who will betray them if elected (which he will).
3. This process of an insincere Romney pretending he is farther to the right than he is, to humor the right that he will ultimately betray, has given Obama a huge advantage.
Even if Santorum carries Ohio today and Gingrich wins Alabama and Mississippi next week, Romney would still hold a commanding lead in delegates, Gingrich would be relegated to a regional candidate, and Santorum would have to wait a month before a possible victory, something his cash-poor campaign can’t afford. He could be competitive in Illinois, but he has little campaign infrastructure there. At that point, Louisiana will be a toss-up between Gingrich and Romney, and Santorum will have to wait until April 3rd before contests in Maryland and Wisconsin. I suspect he’ll drop out before then.