Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Super Tuesday, Part 1: Gingrich Wins GA; Romney Wins ID, MA, VT, VA; Santorum Wins ND, OK, TN

The winners of most of the Super Tuesday states have been determined as of this writing. Most states voted as expected: Newt Gingrich won his home state of Georgia by a large margin (48% of the vote); Mitt Romney won Massachusetts and Idaho by gigantic margins (with +70% of the vote each); Romney also won Vermont and Virginia (with 40% and 59%); Rick Santorum won Oklahoma and Tennessee with a bit more than a third of the vote. Santorum won by around 10 points in Tennessee, which was not nearly as narrow as the polls suggested. Moreover, Santorum won the "wildcard" state of North Dakota with about 40% of the vote. Alaska's polls have not yet closed, and Ohio is too close to call--Santorum and Romney are almost tied.

There were no "surprise" victories reported. One significant result was that outside of Georgia, Santorum beat Gingrich convincingly in the Southern states. Even worse for Gingrich is the fact that Romney's share of the vote butted into the margin, pushing Gingrich down to third. Going forward, Southerners will be deciding whether to support Gingrich or Santorum as the chief Anti-Romney, so this matters. However, the next three Southern states to vote in March will be the remainder of the Deep South (Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana). The other two Deep South states (GA and South Carolina) went heavily for Gingrich.

Naturally, all eyes are on Ohio. Regardless of who wins the popular vote, the delegates will be split between Romney and Santorum, because it's not a winner-take-all state. "Winning" the state affects the perception of the media and the voters, however.

What does the virtual tie in Ohio say about the race? Unlike Michigan, Ohio was much more favorable territory for Santorum than Romney. Santorum's loss or near loss in the state is a sign of weakness on his home turf. While Santorum could point to Romney's small 3-point win in Romney's "home state" of Michigan, Romney also won another "home state," Massachusetts, by 60 points. Other favorable states in Romney's regions have given him impressive wins. By contrast, Santorum is under terrible pressure in his own region, the Midwest.

If Santorum cannot compete in the West or Northeast, he must sweep the South and Midwest in order to win the nomination. With results like Ohio's, it becomes increasingly unlikely that he can accumulate enough delegates to get a majority. Unless something changes the race in dramatic fashion, the only remaining question is whether Santorum and Gingrich can prevent Romney from getting a majority, as he'll certainly get a plurality.