Super Tuesday Could Reshape Republican Race

Mitt Romney seeks to consolidate his frontrunner status while Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum battle for right-wing votes.

Republican voters across ten states participate in their party’s presidential nominating contest on Tuesday. With more than four hundred delegates at stake, it was the largest primary to date.

A resounding victory for one of the four candidates is unlikely because the states that vote on “Super Tuesday” are spread across different regions of the United States, each with different conservative demographics. This also means that each of them has something at stake though. As The Washington Post outlined last week,

Romney needs to emerge as the overall winner if he hopes to prove he is the genuine frontrunner. Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, wants to show that the GOP race is a two person contest and that he has the political appeal to win. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich needs a victory in Georgia to justify continuing his candidacy. Paul needs a breakthrough that has eluded him all year.

Despite recent primary victories in Arizona, Michigan and Washington state, Mitt Romney still struggles to connect with right-wing voters. He is perceived by them as a moderate because he once favored abortion rights and implemented a health insurance scheme in Massachusetts when he was governor there that resembles President Barack Obama’s unpopular health reform legislation.

Although it may cost him the sympathy of centrist voters, who will decide the outcome of November’s election, Romney has to appeal to the right of his party to clinch the nomination.

Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are vying for the same voting bloc. Both claim to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney and hope to consolidate that position on Tuesday.

Ohio, with 66 delegates, is considered the main battleground state. Georgia wields more delegates but a Newt Gingrich victory is all but certain there because it is his home state.

If Romney wins in Ohio, he would prove his ability to appeal to both working-class voters and a critical swing-state constituency. Ohio will have eighteen electoral votes in November.

The grandson of a coal miner, Santorum, who was a senator for neighboring Pennsylvania, another traditional swing state with twenty electoral votes up for grabs in the fall, has performed well across the “Rust Belt” of America, once industrial states that have seen wages decline and jobs moved overseas.

In February, he won preelection contests in the Midwestern states of Minnesota and Missouri and he nearly beat Romney to victory in his home state of Michigan.

Santorum’s strong social conservatism however — he opposes abortion, contraception and gay marriage and advocates a greater role for religion in public life — does not endear him to women and moderates which renders a Romney win in Idaho, Massachusetts and Vermont all but certain.

The former businessman also polls fairly well in Alaska and North Dakota although Ron Paul could have an advantage in these states’ caucuses. Gingrich and Santorum battle for evangelicals and Tea Party adherents in Tennessee and Oklahoma.

In Virginia, the other two candidates are not on the ballot and Romney has only to beat the Texas congressman who is highly unlikely to be the nominee. The state offers 49 delegates, all of which could be Romney’s if he wins in each of the state’s eleven congressional districts.