The Michigan primary may have presented former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with the one of the most powerful three point victories in the last few political cycles.
The well-timed victory in the Great Lakes State seems to be much more than a small (and disputed) delegate win — it seems to have swung Romney firmly back into frontrunner status. On Saturday he won the non-binding Washington state caucuses, and he’s sprinted to a lead in Super Tuesday’s biggest prize, Ohio, while putting himself in a position to possibly pick off some southern primaries that looked like firm victories for Rick Santorum just a week ago.
Here’s a rundown of where the Republican candidates stand in the eleven states up for grabs on Super Tuesday.
The Ohio Republican primary is the consensus choice as the biggest prize on Tuesday, not because it has the most delegates with 66 (Georgia has 76, but former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is sailing to victory there) but because it’s the biggest state up for grabs. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum’s dual pitch to blue collar Republicans — leaning heavily on his manufacturing plan and social issues — seemed to be working in the state, as he enjoyed a double digit lead there before the February 28th Michigan and Arizona votes. But since then, Romney has come roaring back as his campaign and allied super PACs targeted the state with massive ad spending.
It seems to have worked. Romney holds a small lead in the Ohio GOP primary.
As mentioned above, there’s not much drama in Georgia. The GOP presidential candidate that used to represent the state in Congress, Newt Gingrich, has maintained a healthy lead there and the latest polls show nothing different.
Here’s the trend over the last month in the state.
While Ohio is the most apparent as a battle, the more surprising result might be in Tennessee. The southern state was trending hard for Santorum, but as things settled after last week’s results, it’s produced a situation where he, Romney and Gingrich are all converging on each other.
Gingrich has moved a particularly long distance in a short time, competing strongly in the last three polls and seems to be trending upward at exactly the right time.
The conservative bedrock seems like the safest state for Santorum, as light polling over the last three weeks has shown him to be ahead by between 11 and 25 points. But the last American Research Group poll, conducted Thursday and Friday of last week, showed a similar situation to Tennessee — Romney and Gingrich catching up to Santorum. Still, the former Pennsylvania senator still had a double digit lead.
Virginia will almost certainly go to Romney, as he and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) are the only candidates on the ballot after other candidates failed to collect enough signatures to qualify. The TPM Poll Average shows Romney looking to take about two-thirds of the vote in Virginia.
- Massachusetts, Vermont
The two eastern states voting on Super Tuesday are solidly in the Romney category as well — Massachusetts, the state he used to govern, looks to give him a solid majority, according to the few polls conducted in the state.
The last Vermont poll was from Castleton State College, which polled state Republicans over the two week period when Santorum was flying high after his victories in the Minnesota and Colorado caucuses and the non-binding Missouri primary, all held February 7th. Still, Romney held a seven point lead, and the smart money would be on the Green Mountain State as a Romney stronghold.
- Idaho, Alaska, North Dakota
There has been no public polling of any of these states, so all we have to go on are generalizations about the various voting populations. Idaho has a large Mormon population, which is expected to favor Romney, and that adage certainly held true in Nevada and Arizona. These are also states that Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) has concentrated resources, as caucus populations trend toward activists and could present an opportunity for Paul to pick up a state. But thus far in the campaign, every time that theory is tested, Paul has failed to do so, save for his dispute over the Maine caucus results that were announced for Romney.
In general, the movement for Romney is rooted in the group that has been the most fickle in the Republican primary process all along — the conservative bloc. While a majority of conservatives in most state polling are not totally sold on Romney, he’s doing better with them then he was just a week ago. Santorum as gone from having outsized support among the group to a small lead, which isn’t good enough with Romney’s lock on the smaller moderate population of Republican voters.
Kyle is the Editor of TPM Media’s PollTracker. He graduated from Beloit College (WI) and began working in politics before getting an M.A. in magazine journalism from New York University, where he interned at TPM and the website of The New Yorker.