Wednesday, March 7, 2012

No White Puffs Of Smoke Yet

The puffs of smoke from Super Tuesday's primaries and caucuses are becoming
lighter and lighter. The moment when those puffs become white, as they do
when a papal conclave selects a new pope, is perhaps not far ahead.

Super Tuesday kept its reputation as a critical date in the presidential
nominating calendar. Final totals showed that Mitt Romney won 6 states, Rick
Santorum won 3 states and Newt Gingrich won 1 state. Each of these candidates
could thus claim some kind of victory from the results, but the bottom line is
that Mr. Romney won the lion's share of delegates to the national convention in
Tampa, and remains considerably out in front in this all-important aspect of
the nominating campaign.

It was not the dispositive night for Romney that he and his supporters might
have preferred, but he did dominate the Virginia, Vermont, Massachusetts
primaries, and the Idaho and Alaska caucuses. His win in Ohio came after
several hours of counting in which rural Ohio votes came in early and gave
Santorum an early lead. But Romney had large margins in Cleveland,
Cincinnati and Columbus, the state's largest cities (and suburbs), and
overtook the initial deficit to finally win by more than 12,000 votes. It was
not a bad night for the former Massachusetts governor, although much
media/pundit narrative now will probably focus on what he did not
accomplish on Super Tuesday.

Newt Gingrich won Georgia impressively, but his vote totals were not
especially impressive elsewhere. He will not now automatically be "the
last man standing" between Mr. Romney and the nomination, and must
now do very well in the coming week in Alabama, Mississippi and
Kansas to reestablish some momentum.

Rick Santorum survives to run in more primaries and caucuses, but
geography and the calendar are not favorable to him, with many
southern, western and northeastern states remaining. Although he
did win Tennessee and Oklahoma, and came very close in Ohio, his
poll numbers in each of those states had been much larger only days
before Super Tuesday, and his "bubble" was clearly collapsing.

Ron Paul goes on, coming in fourth most of the time, and having
only small opportunities to win in the few remaining caucus states.

Large blocs of delegates remain in New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois,
Texas and California, states which will likely require significant
organization and cash. Mr. Paul has both, but so far they have not
brought him a single victory. Mr. Santorum has limited amounts of
both, and is currently likely only to do well in his home state of

Super Tuesday was important, but it did not mount to a de facto end
of the nomination campaign season. Some will continue to talk about
a "brokered convention" in Tampa in late August, but that remains
very unlikely unless Mr. Romney unexpectedly falters in the weeks

The next few days might well see much wringing of political hands
and words about Mr. Romney's apparent inability so far to "close the
deal" with Republican voters, but as Super Tuesday demonstrated
one more time, he clearly remains the man to beat.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman
All rights reserved.

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