First, I want to remind you that I totally predicted the current situation with Santorum vis-a-vis Romney. Just so you know.
And, that situation is that Santorum has become a factor in the primary, and has had a steady position in the race, while Gingrich and Romney have sea sawed. Ron Paul is irrelevant.
But whatever has happened so far, this Tuesday is an important day in this primary process because Michigan is considered one of Romney’s home states, and that is one of the two loci of activity on that day. The other primary is in Arizona, which is almost the same size state (which I find shocking, by the way, but that’s the reality).
Following closely on the heels of this Tuesday’s two-state contest will be a quicky in Washington (small, non binding) and then Super Tuesday, with ten states running all at once. So, the nature and tenor of the candidacies and the overall process going into Super Tuesday will be important, making Michigan and Arizona important.
By way of orientation, let’s note the following:
- Santorum is a factor and is expected to do well in some of the upcoming contests, and Romney is still a sort of gestalt front-runner.
- Gingrich has only one one state and seems to be fading into the background, though in this strange year I would not discount him yet.
- Ron Paul is not significant and never has been. I only mention him at all because I like to mention that he is insignificant.
Having said all that, the delegate count to date shows a different story. Romney has 91 delegates, Gingrich 32, ron Paul 9 and Santorum behind the rest with 4. Looking at it that way, it is hard to see how Santorum is not less significant than Paul. Looking at the number of states won so far, Romney and Santorum have both won 4 states, Gingrich has won only one state, and Ron Paul has won none. (How does Paul have 9 delegates with no states? One can get delegates form a state without coming in first if the state splits delegates, and there are “super delegates” who can do whatever they want, more or less. It has been projected that Ron Paul will have one super delegate, and he picked up a few from various states he did not get zero votes in. In fact, the numbers I give here are different from other projections, so don’t put too much weight on the actual numbers.)
So far, then, using three different methods of assessing the current state of the race (overall impressions from the press, delegates, and states) we have a very unclear situation.
Will the situation clarify after Michigan and Arizona?
Right now, overall tracking polls comparing the Republican candidates nationwide put Santorum and Romney in a neck and neck race, but with Santorum showing a consistent lead in most polls, with the average spread being about 4 points, which is probably within the statistical dead-heat range. Gingrich and Paul consistently sit in third and fourth place, respectively.
In Michigan, Romney’s “Home State,” Romney is consistently ahead of Santorum (well, in three out of vour pols conducted over the last five days) but he is not ahead by much. We can expect Romney to win in Michigan but by such a small margin that it would be an effective victory for whoever comes in second, which would be Santorum. If, on the other and, Santorum finishes down much farther than a few points, Romney’s presumptive (but not necessarily real) lead will become stronger. If Santorum beats Romney in Michigan, which is possible, than Romney is in very serious trouble.
In some ways Arizona is almost as important as Michigan, because if Romney wins in Michigan, and Santorum wins in Arizona, then the count of states remains even. If, on the other hand, Romney takes both then Santorum will visibly and viscerally fall behind Romney.
At the moment, Romney is so far ahead in polls in Arizona that it is hard to imagine Santorum winning there
So, the situation heading towards Super Tuesday is likely to be this: Romney will have edged out Santorum in number of states won, but Santorum will have remained significant because he will do much better than a second placer should do in a leading candidates “home state.”
Here is what we seem to know regarding Super Tuesday states, based mostly on polling reported on RCP:
Georgia: Gingrich followed by Santorum?
Massachusetts (Romney Home State): Romney followed by Santorum
North Dakota: Santorum
Ohio (a big state): Santorum trounces Romney
Oklahoma: Santorum trounces Romney
Tennessee: (based on Huffpo poll): Santorum followed by Romney
Vermont: Most likely Romney
Virginia: Old polls suggest a Romney victory, but more recent data suggest dead heat
So on March 7th, if all goes as polls currently indicate, Romney will have a clear lead ahead of Santorum but Santorum will still be in the race. Santoru will have won Ohio, which is the second largest number of delegates being given out by any one state on Super Tuesday, and Georgia may be out of play. In fact, Georgia is a state to look at. If voters decide to bypass consideration of Gingrich (that is his home state) and someone else wins, it could well be Santorum. At the end of the Day, Romney could end up with a majority of states while Santorum ends up with a majority of delegates.