Super Tuesday Caucuses Virtually Ignored by Candidates

The latest Gallup tracking poll (below) shows that Mitt Romney has been the steadiest of the four remaining candidates for the GOP nomination, and he’s leading again nationally.  Rick Santorum got a huge boost on February 7 when he won in Minnesota, Colorado, and Missouri, but he has ridden the crest of that wave as far as it can take him.  If he doesn’t demonstrate strength on Super Tuesday, he faces serious problems.

Newt Gingrich catapulted to a lead after the South Carolina primary on January 21, but it’s been downhill for him ever since.  Ron Paul has no chance of winning the GOP nomination.  He’s in the race to make a statement and to build a base of like-minded libertarians for the future.  The best that he can hope for is good outings in the Idaho, North Dakota, and Alaska caucuses, and even that won’t help him win the nomination.

Romney has a sizable delegate advantage going into Super Tuesday, but with so many contests remaining, it is not an overwhelming lead.  There are 2,286 total GOP delegates and 1,144 are needed to win the nomination.  According to the Wall Street Journal, Romney has 203 delegates thus far compared with Santorum’s 92, Gingrich’s 33, and Paul’s 25.  On Super Tuesday, 419 delegates are at stake.  If Romney doesn’t capture the lion’s share of them, his front-runner status will be subject to question.  If he wins a majority of the delegates and/or a majority of the states, he can claim that it’s time for the other candidates, including Santorum, to rally behind him as the eventual GOP nominee.

Idaho, Alaska, and North Dakota are the only caucus states on Super Tuesday.  With just 32, 27, and 28 delegates, respectively, they don’t attract much of the candidates’ time and attention, but they shouldn’t be written off -- in this kind of a race, every delegate counts. Terry Nelson, a Republican strategist, explains why:

"One measurement, and given the nature of the race the one that matters the most, is who wins the largest number of delegates," he said. The race "seems to be more in the category of a long-term delegate fight, so the person who comes out on top of that is going to be the person best positioned to win the nomination. But it’s politics, and it’s about expectations in individual states. The candidates’ performance in those states will have an impact in judging perceptions as to the winner."

Alaska and North Dakota are important for another reason as well: they are key energy states and energy will be a dominant issue in November.  At a campaign stop in North Dakota last week, Romney made the case that President Obama’s record on energy is terrible:

Romney, who has been endorsed by many of the state's most prominent Republicans, did not mention his Republican opponents in North Dakota. ...

He argued that Obama has tried to stifle the development of oil and gas resources in the U.S. and said the president was wrong to try to strengthen federal oversight of fracking. ...

Obama, Romney told an enthusiastic crowd at an early morning event in Fargo, has "tried to slow the growth of oil and gas production in this country, and coal production in this country. So far from taking credit, he should be hanging his head and taking a little bit of the blame for what's going on today." ...

"When someone says do you want to bring in a pipeline that's going to create tens of thousands of jobs to bring oil in from Canada, how in the world could you say no? But he did," Romney said. "This is a president who does not understand energy. He is the problem. He is not the solution. It's time to get him out of office and get someone in who will get us energy-secure."

According to the Bismarck Tribune, Ron Paul will make a last-ditch effort to garner support in North Dakota by visiting the state on Super Tuesday.  It won’t help him win the GOP nomination, but if he wins or has a strong showing in the Peace Garden State, it may enable him to prolong the agony for the other candidates.  Paul visited Alaska on Sunday and drew enthusiastic crowds, but that won’t help him, either.  Paul won the Idaho GOP straw poll on January 7, but that was light-years ago in political terms.  According to the Idaho Statesman, Romney is expected to win the Idaho caucus on Super Tuesday.

The writing is on the wall as far as Paul is concerned.  It’s just a matter of time before GOP voters realize that he doesn’t stand a chance of winning the GOP nomination.  In the last few days, Romney has picked up two important conservative endorsements -- one from Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn and the other from Virginia Congressman and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.  Coburn said,

What Romney has done in his 25 years in the private sector is precisely what we need a president to do in Washington.  Romney has done hard things. He has turned businesses around, told people hard truths about what needed to be done, inspired confidence and overcome excuses. Romney is not a career politician or a career legislator. As a former governor and business leader, he is an executive who knows how to use executive power.

Cantor said,

What I have seen is a very hard-fought primary. And we have seen now that the central issue about the campaign now is the economy. I just think there's one candidate in the case who can do that, and it's Mitt Romney.

A lot has been said over the last few weeks about enthusiasm or the lack of it.  Republican stalwarts fear that the protracted and bruising race for the GOP nomination is putting a damper on voters’ passion.  That may be true, but Democrats are in worse shape than Republicans at this stage of the game as the chart below shows:

President Obama is crisscrossing the country and doing everything he can to gin up support for his re-election bid, but to little or no avail.  As Election Day in November approaches, the cadre of leftist radicals and uninformed young people who helped elect him in 2008 may engage so nothing should be taken for granted, but most Americans disapprove of the president’s performance.  That’s not likely to change unless the economy picks up steam in a hurry.  Mitt Romney explained why succinctly:

“This president has made some promises that he couldn’t keep.  He’s out of ideas, he’s out of excuses, and in 2012 we are going to make sure he’s out of office.”

It’s time for Ron Paul to drop out of the race. Romney is the logical person to receive his endorsement since he’s beginning to fire up support among prominent conservatives. Gingrich should drop out, too, if he doesn’t win the Georgia primary by a landslide.