With 10 states at stake on Super Tuesday, the race for the Republican nomination will have taken a decided turn by the end of the evening. Romney has so far failed to close the deal due to serial insurgencies (Newt Gingrich in December and in the South Carolina primary, Rick Santorum in Iowa and with recent victories), but he should recapture his status as the inevitable nominee.
Coming off successes in Wyoming and Washington States caucuses this past weekend, where the process of delegate selection favoured the former governor of Massachusetts, Romney has regained momentum in Ohio and Tennessee in the closing hours. The threat to Romney in these two states is Santorum. But money and the ground game should nonetheless favour Romney; it also won’t hurt that establishment Republicans like Eric Cantor and Tom Coburn have come out in favour of Mitt. If Romney wins Ohio, he offsets his close call in Michigan and wins a battleground state. This will marginalize Santorum further.
Santorum may have a lead in Tennessee according to recent polls, but if it’s close at all and Santorum loses Ohio as well, his candidacy is all but over. Newt Gingrich should be a shoo-in in his home state of Georgia, but not even a big win there will change much in his candidacy. His candidacy has been on life support since South Carolina. Ron Paul is not expected to cause any upsets.
Super Tuesday has represented very often the beginning of the end of the primary contest. This year Republicans have changed their rules making it difficult to produce a clear winner this early. However, after Super Tuesday, over 800 delegates will have been selected, and Romney will have a clear lead. Both Santorum and Gingrich will have little chance to catch up and force a brokered convention next summer.
Wanting to beat Obama at all costs, Republicans will start to close ranks should Romney do well in delegate gains this Tuesday. But Super Tuesday will not automatically end the hostilities. There are more races to come, and Romney’s three opponents are not expected to withdraw suddenly. Super PACs and the billionaires who fund them will continue propping up campaigns short on financial and “on the ground” resources. This is how Santorum and Gingrich have kept heir doomed candidacies alive. So unless Romney sweeps Ohio, Tennessee and Georgia, which is unlikely, the race will continue. Up to now, Romney has shown some cracks in his candidacy. However, a Super Tuesday advantage in the delegate gains for Romney could go a long way toward restoring the air of inevitability around his campaign and give him time to once again become the serious challenger to President Obama he was last September.