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Metropolitik: What’s so super about Super Tuesday?

It's Super Tuesday -- the four remaining Republican presidential candidates will vie for their slice of the proportional delegate pie.

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Today is Super Tuesday — in which the four remaining Republican presidential candidates will vie for their slice of the proportional delegate pie — and you know what that means: Endless speculation on the outcome of today's votes. We’d hate to disappoint.

Super Tuesday, historically the day on which the largest amount of delegates is awarded to primary candidates, is a bit stunted this year: In 2008, 24 states held contests on the heroically designated day, with 41 percent of total party delegates at stake; this year, only 10 states are participating, representing 419 delegates, or 36 percent of the total needed to win the nomination, 1,144. The following states already held votes: Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia.

Of the above-listed states, the one that will likely get the most media coverage is Ohio — and not just because, like this great nation herself, it’s both round (on the ends) and high (in the middle). As pundits will repeat ad nauseum, Ohio is a bellwether state: No Republican nominee has ever become president without winning it. It also represents the second-largest delegate haul of the day, with 63 to Georgia’s 76. Moreover, the diverse state is seemingly up for grabs, as opposed to the Southern state where Gingrich thinks he dominates: According to a recent ReutersIpsos poll, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are in “a dead heat” in the Rust Belt swing state, tied with 32 percent support from likely voters.

Regardless of who wins which states, however, Super Tuesday won’t dramatically change the campaign narrative. Even if Romney wins all 419 delegates, for instance, a virtual impossibility given proportional allocation, he’ll have shored up only 612 delegates, around half the total necessary. And Rick Santorum, whose campaign gathered impressive momentum after triple wins in Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri last month, is at a disadvantage given a pair of missteps — failing to secure a spot on the ballot in Virginia, meaning he cedes those 46 delegates to Romney and Ron Paul, and also not qualifying in some Ohio congressional districts. Gingrich, for his part, has been waiting for this day, though exactly why is not perfectly clear: Even if he dominates in Georgia he’ll still only have 93 delegates, about equal to Santorum’s total as of today.

All of which is to say that Super Tuesday isn’t shaping up to be particularly spectacular for any of the candidates — except, perhaps, for Romney; who, with his already commanding lead and (bruised though it may be) mantle of inevitability, may be able to scoop up enough votes to ensure his slow-but-steady eventual nomination.

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