Super Tuesday once was super. Progressives of a certain age will never forget the fun of the first edition in 1988. Conservative Democrats had dreamt up a March day of nine Southern primaries that would guarantee no “unelectable” liberal could win the party’s nomination. The geniuses forgot, though, that most Southern Democrats were not actually white moderates or conservatives. The scheme backfired spectacularly, with the Reverend Jesse Jackson emerging as a viable contender and Michael Dukakis also faring well. Since then, the role of Super Tuesday has been considerably more banal: It almost always clinches the nomination for at least one party’s frontrunner. Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, George W.
Broad categorizations are an American specialty—after all, we are the nation of the Cosmo quiz, the seven highly effective habits, the red and blue state. In keeping with this tradition, it seems fitting that we break down the biggest primary day of the GOP race into an easily digestible taxonomy. Super Tuesday 2012: one day, four candidates, ten states, 434 delegates. Here's what you need to know.
Ohio, the Battleground
Who’s the favorite? Flip a coin. According to Five Thirty Eight, both Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney both have a 50 percent chance of winning.
The implications of Mitt Romney's Michigan win are still being parsed, but the calendar leaves little time for the campaigns to rest. Super Tuesday is in less than a week, and a total of 437 delegates in 10 states is at stake. The media have coalesced around the idea that Ohio is the only race that matters. The candidates have followed their lead—this morning Romney was campaigning in Toledo, and Rick Santorum called in to a Dayton radio station.
Mother Jones’ Andy Kroll reports that top Republican continue to “whisper” about a campaign to draft a new candidate into the presidential race, should Mitt Romney falter in Michigan:
On CNN Tuesday morning, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chair of the House homeland security committee, hinted at a whisper campaign among “top Republicans” who want a GOP favorite such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) to enter the race if Romney loses the Michigan or Arizona primaries or struggles on Super Tuesday, when ten states controlling 437 delegates hold GOP primaries on March 6.
Rick Santorum's improbable moment atop the GOP field seems likely to fade away just as quickly as his anti-Romney predecessors. A pair of new numbers from Public Policy Polling point toward tomorrow being a triumphant day for Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor leads by an insurmountably wide margin in Arizona. He's up 43-26 percent over Santorum, and carried early voters—which will constitute nearly half of Arizona's total vote count—by 48-25. And after trailing Santorum by as much as 15 percent three weeks ago, Romney has reopened a slight Michigan lead of 2 percent.
There comes a point in every presidential election battle where political pundits and fanatical West Wing-watchers alike hold their breaths, click their heels, and wish upon an earmark that this will be the year of the brokered convention.
As the surety of Mitt Romney’s arranged marriage to the Republican Party steadily diminishes while other suitors pull ahead, the plausibility of a tussle in Tampa come convention-time in August has grown. Herewith, a look at the peculiar institution of the nomination convention, why all the talking heads are in a tizzy about a brokered instead of a fixed one, and what the odds are of a televised royal rumble this summer.
What is a brokered convention?
In their current form, conventions are exercises in collective vanity, an excuse for the party’s settled nominee—who has already garnered enough delegates to make his competitors drop out—to get media exposure and some prime face-time with party big-wigs. But conventions were once substantive affairs, where candidates’ delegations came to wheel and deal for votes, hoping either to clinch the top slot on the ticket or at least ensure that their ideas make it onto the official party platform. A convention is "brokered" when none of the candidates has the requisite number of delegates to secure the nomination and competitors remain in the race. To settle on a nominee, the party goes through a series of re-votes and political horse trading until a candidate is chosen.
Mitt Romney’s ambitions for the 2012 primary have never been mysterious. He’s in it to win it, and with a weak field, the primaries should have been a mere prelude to his coronation. Things haven't worked out that way.
If you spend your time amongst politically-involved liberals these days, you've probably participated in a lot of head-shaking conversations, along the lines of, "Wow, is this Republican race awesome, or what?" It is, without doubt. And one of the things it has showed us is that, what political scientists call "candidate quality" is a more complicated factor than we usually think. And Mitt Romney turns out to be the most complicated candidate of all.
The class of commentators who celebrate politicians outside the two-party system might finally realize their dreams of a third-party candidacy in 2012. These agitators of a middle path—typically white, upper-middle-class elites terrified of the nation's debt but ill at ease with social conservatism—have tried their hand in past years at disrupting the normal political process. In 2008, a group called Unity '08 planned to run a bipartisan presidential ticket but fell apart before the election.
Rick Santorum might be the media darling of the day after his clean sweep in last night's three elections. But that likely won't mean much for his future electoral prospects. Those three elections did not actually award any delegates—two (Minnesota and Colorado) were nonbinding caucuses, and the Missouri primary has been termed a beauty contest, with the states' delegates actually selected by another vote later this spring.
This was supposed to be the year of Ron Paul. Sure, no one outside his band of misfit supporters expected Paul to come anywhere close to winning the Republican nomination, but he was on a path to be the spoiler of the race. His baseline support had apparently ticked up since 2008—the rise of the Tea Party brought new love for his career-long opposition to the Federal Reserve—and the Texas congressman had used those intervening four years to develop the most ruthlessly efficient organization combined with an enviable budget of any of the candidates—except for maybe Mitt Romney.
The most important rule in Nevada is don’t bet against the house. The guys who got it wired tend to win, and Mitt Romney, candidate of the Mormon majority, didn’t disappoint in Saturday’s caucuses. Equally unsurprising was the low turnout, which probably fell short of the number of people dropping their paychecks in the MGM Grand Casino on Saturday night. The best efforts of the media to drum up a story notwithstanding, the Nevada caucuses yielded no surprises and barely anything of interest.
It’s silly to pretend that those of us writing about the GOP nomination race don’t have a vested interest in a drama without end. This is to say that we have no interest in the resolution that the whole of the Republican Party wants badly even as its individual parts resist it.
If you’ve been listening to the pundits, you might think that the only open question in Florida tonight is whether Mitt Romney will croon America the Beautiful in his victory speech. After that, it’ll be a rose-pedal path to the nomination for the man who establishment-bombed and super PAC-ed Newt Gingrich to death in the Sunshine State.