I had trouble figuring out the proper nomenclature for this write-up. Super Tuesday 2012? 2012 Super Tuesday? Should I specify that it was only for the Republican Party that I was writing this? This is what I settled on, and "settling" is the exact right verb or gerund to describe the events of that night.
"Super Tuesday" as a term is somewhat an artifact, by which I mean it is essentially meaningless. As described elsewhere, the American nomination process is a patchwork of traditions and procedures that has accumulated, often without rhyme or reason. Super Tuesday is just a name for whatever day happens to have the most states with primaries during the election season, and how many and what states can vary from year to year. This Super Tuesday had a much smaller assortment of states than in past years, but they were still fairly diverse and geographically widespread. From east to west, the states that voted on this Super Tuesday were:
Of these, Mitt Romney won six, Rick Santorum won three, Newt Gingrich won one, and Ron Paul, despite some good showings, was shut out. Because of the Republican delegate selection rules, Mitt Romney's victories are a bit less impressive than they seem: winning Vermont is not, amongst Republicans, quite as important as winning Tennessee. The delegate math is confusing, to say the least, but Romney's win, while solid, was not overwhelming.
Back in January, at the time of Iowa, I said that I wished I had Hunter S. Thompson's ability to bring life to this process, and that the shape of the race has not yet formed. I still wish I had Thompson's verve, especially when I staring at my keyboard and thinking of something interesting to say about the North Dakota caucus. But on the other point, the race has now formed. The race is, as many experts predicted, a contest where Mitt Romney is the front runner, and a more conservative candidate is the challenger. I think, at this point, that Mitt Romney is going to win, but I also don't think it is a foregone conclusion. Mitt Romney's inability to win in Republican base states is a dangerous flaw, both in terms of narrative and delegate math. There are a number of delegate base states still to vote, Texas amongst them. It is still very possible that Santorum might get good numbers in those states, and do better than expected in, say, Illinois or New York. As for Newt Gingrich, his support seems constrained to the Deep South, with even Oklahoma and Tennessee not giving him the support he needs. And Ron Paul is doing a good job at building awareness of his libertarian-leaning brand of politics, but after Super Tuesday, it seems improbable that he can win any states.
Nevertheless, no one wants to drop out now. The race has seen many twists and turns, and what candidate wants to be the one that drops out the day before Mitt Romney says:
"I wish America could be more like France."
"Maybe this country needs to regulate caffeinated beverages."
In other words, even though the form of this race has firmed up, the result of this race has not. The race is still at a point where a gaffe
, the most minor of scandals or a surprise upset victory could change the narrative, at least enough. I try not to speculate too much, but I can say with some confidence that after a Super Tuesday where Mitt Romney won the majority of delegates, he seems to be in the lead, but unable to land a knockout punch
Up next: Kansas!