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With 437 delegates at stake, Super Tuesday will determine whether one candidate pulls ahead as the favorite to secure the Republican nomination or the GOP frenzy ends the biggest election night of the primary season in a split decision.
No matter the results, all four GOP candidates could remain in the race after the 10-state whirlwind.
Nearly one-third of the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the nomination are at stake on Super Tuesday, with primaries in Ohio, Georgia, Massachusetts, Vermont, Virginia, Oklahoma and Tennessee and caucuses in Idaho, North Dakota and Alaska.
Mitt Romney now has 203 delegates, while Rick Santorum has 92, Newt Gingrich has 33 and Ron Paul has 25. One of the GOP candidates must win 1,144 delegates to secure the nomination at the August convention in Tampa, Fla.
Romney has surged ahead in national polls with his fresh Michigan, Arizona and Washington State victories. He has recently won the support of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and former First Lady Barbara Bush. The New York Times reports that Romney could secure the delegate majority, even if he wins as few as four or five states.
Gingrich’s campaign funds are suffering as he comes off the heels of poor showings in primary states in which he declined to compete. A March 5 Rasmussen Reports poll shows Gingrich trailing Santorum and Romney and tied with Paul. Strategists say Super Tuesday’s Southern states represent Gingrich’s final opportunity for a comeback. He is battling to keep his presidential candidacy alive in Georgia, Tennessee and Oklahoma. Wins in those states could give him the biggest number of delegates on Super Tuesday.
Santorum may lose more than one-quarter of Ohio delegates because he didn’t file delegate slates in three of 16 congressional districts. Romney’s Monday itinerary in Ohio included stops in Canton and Youngstown, in and near areas where Santorum isn’t eligible for all the delegates.
“[Ohio] may not be ‘make or break,” Santorum told a crowd in Columbus, Ohio, “but it’s going to be a huge, huge deal.”
Some recent polls in the Buckeye State have Romney with a slight lead against Santorum while others show Santorum with a slim advantage.
Meanwhile, strategists say Paul is focused on states such as Alaska, Idaho and North Dakota.
All of the Super Tuesday states allocate delegates proportionally or hybrid proportionally. For an in-depth description of how delegates are allocated for each state, see the Washington Post’s detailed analysis on the subject.
Ohio (hybrid proportional, 66 delegates) – Ohio appears to be a face-off between Romney and Santorum – where both candidates are fighting for every vote. While Romney has bombarded airwaves with campaign ads, Santorum’s message is favored by the state’s evangelicals and blue-collar workers, and he is familiar in the eastern part of the state from his time as a representative and senator in nearby Pennsylvania. Santorum’s campaign failed to file delegate slates in three of Ohio’s districts. Santorum has visited the state 13 times since June 2011, compared with Romney’s eight stops and Gingrich’s seven trips. In 2008, John McCain won nearly 60 percent of the vote.
Georgia (proportional, 76 delegates) – Gingrich has staked the future of his presidential campaign on his performance in Georgia, the state he represented in Congress for 20 years, saying, “I have to win Georgia, I think, to be credible in the race.” In 2008, Mike Huckabee won the state by capturing the votes of evangelical Christians, and John McCain pulled ahead of Romney in Georgia by a slim margin. Romney may surge in the state’s fiscally conservative, socially moderate counties. His super PAC has spent about $1.5 million there in an attempt to prevent Gingrich from obtaining 50 percent of the vote.
Massachusetts (proportional, 41 delegates) – Strategists say Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, has almost no competition in his home state. He easily won the state in 2008 against McCain and is fully expected to win it again on Super Tuesday. Gingrich has visited the state three times, and Santorum has stopped there twice since June 2011.
Vermont, (hybrid proportional, 17 delegates) – According to the Washington Post, only 20 percent of 2008 GOP primary voters in Vermont identified as Christian evangelical, when John McCain won the state’s Republican vote. No one in the GOP primary race has visited Vermont since June 2011. Romney is expected to do very well in Vermont.
Virginia (hybrid proportional, 49 delegates) – Because Santorum and Gingrich failed to qualify for the Virginia primary ballot, Romney is likely to win the state’s 46 delegates. John McCain won the state’s Republican vote in 2008.
Oklahoma (proportional, 43 delegates) – According to the Washington Post, seven in 10 GOP primary voters in 2008 called themselves conservative and evangelical. In that year, McCain appealed to moderate voters and edged Huckabee in Oklahoma. Gingrich and Santorum have each visited the state three times since June 2011, while Romney and Paul each stopped there only once.
Tennessee (proportional, 58 delegates) – In 2008, approximately three-quarters of Tennessee’s GOP primary voters called themselves conservative. In that year, Huckabee won 33.6 percent of the vote, McCain, 31 percent, and Romney, 23 percent. Gingrich and Santorum have each visited Tennessee four times since June 2011. Romney traveled there once.
Idaho caucus (Non-binding, 32 delegates) – Romney has traveled to Idaho four times since June 2011. Paul has visited three times, Santorum twice and Gingrich only once. McCain won the state in 2008.
North Dakota caucus (proportional, 28 delegates) – Romney won North Dakota in 2008. Since June 2011, Romney has traveled to the state once. Santorum has visited three times, and Paul stopped there four times.
Alaska caucus (proportional, 27 delegates) – Only Paul has visited the state since June 2011. Romney won the state in 2008.