Mitt Romney Poised To Do Very Well On Super Tuesday
Mitt Romney is likely to put considerable distance between himself and his opponents tomorrow.
With less than 24 hours to go before voting starts, it’s becoming clear that the most important battles of the night will be in Ohio and Tennessee, and depending on how things go it could be the beginning of the end of the race for the Republican nomination. Mitt Romney is likely to pick up rather easy victories tomorrow in Massachusetts, Vermont, and Virginia, and will likely have to only worry about Ron Paul in the caucus states of Alaska, Idaho, and North Dakota. Newt Gingrich is going to get his first victory since South Carolina in his home state of Georgia. Rick Santorum will most likely pick up Oklahoma. In the Buckeye State and the Volunteer State, though, Santorum’s previous large leads have disappeared thanks to huge surges by Mitt Romney, most surprisingly in Tennessee where Santorum’s lead seemed secure until just a few days ago. At the rate things are going, Mitt Romney stands a chance to win, even narrowly, both Ohio and Tennessee and, if he does that, the logic in favor of a Santorum or Gingrich campaign would seem to dwindle away pretty quickly.
In Ohio, we’ve had five polls released since yesterday — Quinnipiac, Merriman, Rasmussen, Suffolk, and Public Policy Polling, which show no more than a three point difference between Romney and Santorum. A sixth poll from American Research Group has Romney up seven points but ARG’s polling in the primaries so far hasn’t been all that great, they’ve been way off the mark in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Michigan for example, so this may be an outlier. What’s clear, though, is that all of the polls show that Mitt Romney has surged in the Buckeye State to the point where the RealClearPolitics average now shows just a 0.2 point differences between him and Rick Santorum. That’s what you call “too close to call,” but given the fact that all of the momentum has been with Romney for the past week now it would seem that the odds favor a Romney win there tomorrow. In fact, Nate Silver now gives Romney a 65% chance of winning the Buckeye State based on his forecasting model. I can’t say I disagree.
As I said, though, the real surprise tomorrow may come in Tennessee. Up until very recently, it seemed like Rick Santorum had this state sown up. It’s a southern state with a strong population of religious conservatives, so it’s not exactly the kind of territory you’d expect to see Mitt Romney do well in. In fact, when Vanderbilt University polled the race back in mid-February, Rick Santorum had an 11 point lead. Then, for reasons that probably has much to do with economics as anything else, nobody polled the state for three weeks. In between that time there was a debate, and a Romney victory in Michigan. When pollsters started paying attention to it again, things looked very different. Rasmussen showed that it was a four point race. Public Policy Polling has it at four points. And, a firm called We Ask America released a poll today showing that there was now just a one point gap between Romney and Santorum. Whether Romney manages to win or lose Tennessee, it’s going to be a much closer night there than people had thought just a months ago.
Of course, it’s not just about who wins or loses a particular state, it’s about the delegate hunt. In that regard, Nate Silver believes that Romney is situated to do very well tomorrow:
Adding up the projections from the ten states, I show Mr. Romney getting 217 delegates, or almost exactly half of the total available. Mr. Santorum would get 107 delegates by these projections — about a quarter of the total — with Mr. Gingrich getting 61 and Mr. Paul 25.
There is, obviously, a lot of uncertainty in these numbers — especially since the delegate math is somewhat non-linear as when candidates fall just above or below a qualifying or majority threshold. But Mr. Romney has the makings of a strong evening, and one that could put some further distance between himself and his rivals.
It’s worth remembering, as I’ve noted before, that Rick Santorum is at a disadvantage when it comes to delegate allocation tomorrow night. Not only is he totally out of the running for Virginia’s 49 delegates, but he failed to file full slates of delegates in six Ohio Congressional Districts. Most of those Ohio Districts happen to be in areas where Santorum can be expected to do well tomorrow, which means that will not be getting the full benefit of the votes he receives in the Buckeye State. Romney, on the other hand, is well situated to grab up large numbers of delegates even in states he doesn’t win. Georgia’s delegate allocation rules mean that he’ll get at least some delegates from the Congressional Districts around Metro Atlanta. Even if he doesn’t win Tennessee outright, Romney will also pick up delegates here although there will be a far bigger psychological advantage if he actually wins the state, obviously. Silver’s projection that Romney could wake up on Wednesday morning having won more than half the delegates at stake tomorrow sounds pretty spot-on to me. If that’s what happens, then the gap between him and his opponents will grow ever larger and the odds that either one of them would ever be able to catch up with him become ever slimmer.
Photo via The Huffington Post