Su­per Tues­day? More like Stu­por Tues­day

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY JOSEPH CURL

For those of us who have never been held hostage, now we know what it feels like: Day af­ter day, look­ing at the same faces, end­lessly dis­cussing the same top­ics, be­ing fed the same gruel over and over.

That is the 2012 Re­pub­li­can nom­i­na­tion con­test. Will it ever end? Not on Su­per Tues­day, it won’t. And that means we’re go­ing into May . . . and June . . . and July — maybe right up to the Re­pub­li­can con­ven­tion.

Ten states will hold cau­cuses and pri­maries Tues­day. Some 437 del­e­gates are up for grabs (for com­par­i­son, so far, 338 del­e­gates have been awarded). But this time around, Su­per Tues­day, so de­ci­sive in years past, looks like a big fat dud.

Here’s why: Mitt Rom­ney ap­pears on track to win his real home state of Mas­sachusetts, tak­ing 41 del­e­gates. Polls show the for­mer gov­er­nor ahead in Virginia, with 49 del­e­gates, and Ver­mont, with 17. That would give him 107 del­e­gates for the day.

Mean­while, for­mer House Speaker Newt Gin­grich has a 20-plus point lead in his home state of Ge­or­gia, which for some rea­son boasts the high­est prize of the day, 76 del­e­gates. And for­mer Sen. Rick San­to­rum leads in the polls in Ten­nessee (58 del­e­gates) and Ok­la­homa (43, for a to­tal of 101).

So, with just those states, the tally would be Mr. Rom­ney 107, Mr. San­to­rum 101, Mr. Gin­grich 76.

From the few polls taken in Alaska, the state’s 27 del­e­gates look like they will be divvied up in four-way split be­tween those three men and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. Same with North Dakota’s 28 del­e­gates and Idaho’s 32 del­e­gates.

That leaves only Ohio, what all main­stream me­dia pun­dits have deemed the next “must-win” state. There, Mr. San­to­rum was well ahead in the polls un­til re­cent weeks, but Mr. Rom­ney is quickly clos­ing the gap. Still, no mat­ter who wins, the two will likely split most of the 66 del­e­gates. Po­lit­i­cal prog­nos­ti­ca­tor Larry Sa­bato projects Mitt win­ning 32, Rick 31. Not ex­actly a walk-off homer for ei­ther can­di­date.

On Wed­nes­day morn­ing, the tal­lies would look like this, Mr. Sa­bato pre­dicts: Mr. Rom­ney 212, Mr. San­to­rum 163, Mr. Gin­grich 47, Mr. Paul 31. The full del­e­gate count would then be 394, 242, 86, 69, re­spec­tively.

That, of course, would make Newt and Ron the big losers. Mr. Gin­grich could well drop out of the game at that point, but Mr. San­to­rum cer­tainly won’t, and Mr. Paul has nowhere else to go, so he’ll stay in, too.

And ap­par­ently, that’s just what the ar­chi­tects of the 2012 nom­i­na­tion process wanted.

On Su­per Tues­day this time around, just 20 per­cent of the avail­able del­e­gates will be in play. In 2008, more than 50 per­cent were al­lot­ted on that sin­gle day. Plus, with more states now hav­ing pro­por­tional di­vi­sion of del­e­gates rather than win­ner-take-all, no can­di­date will be re­motely close to the 1,144 needed to clinch the nom­i­na­tion. Not even close enough to scare any­one out of the race.

The process is marred by the fact that only Mr. Rom­ney and Mr. Paul will be on the Virginia bal­lot — the other two can­di­dates missed the fil­ing dead­line. Said Mr. Sa­bato: “Our guessti­mate of Rom­ney’s del­e­gate edge — 49 over San­to­rum — comes al­most en­tirely from Virginia. Sub­tract out Virginia, and Su­per Tues­day be­comes es­sen­tially a draw.”

Since its in­au­gu­ral in 1984, Su­per Tues­day has of­ten been de­ci­sive. In 1998, Michael Dukakis won the day’s largest share of del­e­gates and went on to take the nom­i­na­tion. In 1992, Bill Clin­ton locked down the South and even­tu­ally the party’s nod. In 1996, Bob Dole swept the day’s seven states, and in 2000, both Al Gore and Ge­orge W. Bush seized the day and their party’s nom­i­na­tions.

But in 2008, 24 states fled the tra­di­tional March Su­per Tues­day, mov­ing their elec­tions to early Fe­bru­ary. Still, Sen. John Mccain cruised to vic­tory then and Mr. Rom­ney dropped out a few days later.

Nor­mally, just three weeks sep­a­rates the big day from the New Hamp­shire pri­mary; this time, there’s an eightweek gap (and about 300 de­bates that changed the land­scape al­most daily).

So, no free­dom just yet. In­stead, there’ll be months more of a gru­el­ing cam­paign — and months more of the same old gruel.

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