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Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum Prepare for Ohio Primary Battle, but Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich Are Still in the Game

Posted on the 05 March 2012 by Periscope
Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum prepare for Ohio primary battle, but Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich are still in the game

Newt Gingrich: Time for another surge? Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

The Republican Party presidential hopefuls are gearing up for a showdown as ten-state Super Tuesday draws near. With so many states – and all-important delegates – on the table, establishment favorite Mitt Romney hopes to edge closer to the GOP nomination prize, while once-surging social conservative Rick Santorum looks to prove he is a viable alternative to the former Massachusetts governor. The Ohio primary is set to be a key battleground: polls put Romney and the former Pennsylvania governor almost neck-and-neck in the swing state.

But this isn’t – officially, at least – a two-man race. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is plotting another comeback, focusing on the Southern states, and some commentators suggest fourth-place Ron Paul could get back in the race.

Who’s winning? Who knows. “Super Tuesday on March 6 will really stretch our definition of winning… When the votes are totaled, it’s possible that each candidate will have done well enough that after they boast about their victories,” wrote John Dickerson at Slate. Dickerson pointed out that the number of delegates is ultimately the “rock solid number that will determine the nominee”: “The promised land for Romney is when he wins enough delegates that it becomes impossible for an opponent to accumulate enough delegates even if they win the popular vote in future states.” But at this stage of the GOP nomination race, argued Dickerson, other factors are also important, such as where the candidates win and what kind of demographic they attract.

Mitt Romney goes into Super Tuesday after a win in the Washington caucus, reported the BBC. However, “the results are technically not binding as the state’s 43 delegates will not be allocated until a later date”.

What about Ron Paul? Paul is the only candidate in the GOP race who hasn’t won a single state, said John Avlon at The Daily Beast. But the 76-year-old libertarian has been upping his game, broadening his base and appealing to young and independent voters, said Avlon. Super Tuesday could prove a turning point for Paul, particularly if Romney is ultimately unable to get the requisite 1,144 delegates he needs to secure the nomination: “Bottom line: this nomination fight isn’t ending any time soon. Pay attention to the delegate math more than simple percentage of the popular-vote wins. And unless Romney can clinch 1,144 delegates outright—do not ignore Paul.”

Gingrich resurgence? “Ohio may be the most critical state on Super Tuesday, but Georgia carries the largest prize,” wrote Alex Altman at Time’s Swampland - and that’s the state former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has earmarked for his comeback, following his defeat in the Florida primary in January. “Polls suggest Gingrich has a real shot, at least in Georgia,” said Altman. On the other hand, religion plays an important role in the state, and Santorum has so far proved most successful with Evangelical voters; given that Georgia awards delegates proportionately rather than winner-takes-all, the social conservative could still upset Gingrich’s planned resurgence even if he doesn’t win outright.

Romney likely to benefit from Super Tuesday. “Mitt Romney won’t sweep the 10 states that vote on Super Tuesday, but the collective results are likely to reaffirm his inevitability as the GOP’s presidential standard-bearer,” wrote Jonathan Martin at Politico. According to Martin, this is partly because Romney is on course to win a larger proportion of delegates than his rivals. What’s more, a Gingrich resurgence in Georgia would deny Santorum the chance to go one-on-one with Romney and “cut into the conservative votes the former Pennsylvania senator needs to deny the establishment favorite the nomination”.

“The combative and heavily scrutinized primary season so far has damaged the party and its candidates,” according to a national NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, which found that four in ten respondents have a “less favourable impression” of the Republican Party thanks to the GOP nomination process.

Republicans better off losing? Whatever the result of the nomination race, some GOP insiders believe the party needs to suffer a serious general election defeat in 2012 in order to rebuild for the future, reported Chris Cillizza for The Washington Post. Cillizza said that the Republican Party’s stance on immigration encapsulates the problems facing the GOP: all of the presidential hopefuls bar Gingrich are largely against giving citizenship to the 11 million illegal immigrants in the US, and this has alienated the Hispanic community. “Given that more than half of the total growth in U.S. population over the past decade came in the Hispanic community, Republicans simply can’t afford to keep losing this largest minority group 65 percent to 35 percent and have a fighting chance of winning national elections in four or eight years’ time,” wrote Cillizza.


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