The PJ Tatler

After Super Tuesday, Where Is the GOP Nomination Headed?

Mitt Romney outspent his rivals about five to one and won at least half of the ten Super Tuesday states. He won mostly in urban areas and in states Republicans are unlikely to win in November, including his home state of Massachusetts and nearby Vermont. He won in Ohio where turnout was up over 2008; he lost in Georgia, a GOP stronghold. He won a default contest in Virginia, but nearly half of the voters there went for Ron Paul. Had Santorum’s organization gotten him on the ballot there, he would have been competitive. But the same is true of Gingrich. Organization does matter. Romney could have even narrowly lost the popular vote in Ohio while winning the majority of the state’s delegates, because Santorum’s lack of organization cost him several delegates out of the starting gate.

Rick Santorum won Oklahoma as expected, was strong in Ohio, and won Tennessee and North Dakota. But Romney won out west too, taking Idaho and all of its 32 delegates.

Of the ten Super Tuesday states, Newt Gingrich won just one — his home state of Georgia — and Ron Paul won none.

There is no path to victory for Ron Paul. He has yet to win a single state. He is in fourth place in the delegate count. But he is not dropping out any time soon.

Newt Gingrich believes he has a path to victory, but that path is a dead end in a four-man race. He may win next week’s contests in the South, which will give him hope that he can win Texas at the end of May or June. But Texas will award its 155 delegates proportionally. No candidate will take them all. And Santorum leads in the Lone Star State at the moment anyway. Romney’s organization could pull Texas into his column, particularly if he runs strong in the state’s big cities and media markets. Dallas and Houston are likely Romney strongholds.

Newt Gingrich remaining in the race probably helps keep Santorum from overtaking Romney. But Santorum staying in the race is probably keeping Gingrich out of contention as well. Neither one seems to have a path to getting enough delegates to win the nomination outright. But Romney’s path gets trickier with every state he loses.

So not much has really changed. Romney did what he had to do but has not delivered the knockout blow.

Mitt Romney still leads in the delegate math, as he has for quite a while. He is the only candidate whose organization makes him competitive everywhere. He is the only candidate with the money to go the distance. But he’s still having trouble closing the deal, which is why Santorum gave him such a scare in Ohio. Romney’s fundamental miscalculation to run a couple of notches to the left of his 2008 run continues to weaken him with Republican voters.

The smart money is on Mitt Romney being the GOP nominee, but not any time soon. The other candidates are still winning just enough to keep him from running away with the nomination. But if either Gingrich or Santorum were to drop out, Romney would be in real danger of losing. He needs them both to stay, or both to go. But not one to go and one to stay.

By the way, there’s a debate scheduled for March 19 in Oregon. Lazarus Gingrich could make yet another try at resurrection there.

Donald Rumsfeld once infamously described the war in Iraq as a “long, hard slog.” The GOP nomination is going in the “long, hard slog” direction. Super Tuesday didn’t end it. Next week is unlikely to end it. It’s not likely to end until summer.

We could be headed to a Romney/Santorum ticket to unify the fractured field. Romney’s supporters won’t like that, and Santorum’s supporters won’t like it either. But it’s possible.

Also read Tom Blumer: “Romney ‘Wins’ Ohio, and a Shocker in OH-02