Buckle up, because the biggest day of the 2012 primary season is almost upon us. Ten states will decide on Tuesday, March 6 who their favorite Republican candidate is. Usually at least by Super Tuesday, we know which way the political winds are blowing. But as with the Democratic party in 2008, things are still up in the air for the GOP.
Are you a Super Tuesday voter? Here are some things you need to know about where things stand and who the front-runners are in each Super Tuesday contest:
Alaska Caucus — Twenty-seven delegates are at stake in the state Mitt Romney won in 2008. It’s open to registered Republicans only and all four remaining GOP candidates are on the ballot. But Ron Paul is the candidate counting on a win here. Paul’s strategy has been to focus on caucus states like Alaska, and it’s paid off for him in straw poll victories and delegates he’s garnered in Maine and Nevada where he came in second. Oil and gas issues are usually a priority for the almost half million voters in this state, so whoever is strongest on natural resources could rule the day. But Paul has been the only candidate to make the trek that far north, so don’t be surprised if he claims his first non-straw poll win here.
Georgia Primary – If Newt Gingrich doesn’t win the Peach State, the race is pretty much over for him. Georgia voters sent Gingrich to Congress for 20 years and he still considers this his home state, even though he and Callista are firmly ensconced in Virginia. Early voting in Georgia is underway, so it’s no surprise that Gingrich has spent a lot of time here, ignoring other states that he most likely would not have won anyway. Polling has Gingrich leading Rick Santorum here by 15 percentage points, with Mitt Romney in third place. With 76 convention delegates up for grabs, it’s safe to say Georgia is a prize all of them would love to claim.
Idaho Caucus — Ron Paul is pending lots of money here, using some of it for an attack ad entitled, “Three of a Kind.” Idaho isn’t a strike it rich state when it comes to delegates — 32 are up for grabs here. But Paul is chugging along and if he wins here, he’d use them bargaining chips on issues he wants to see in the party’s official platform (can you say Federal Reserve?). An online straw poll puts Paul ahead of Romney here, even though this is a Mormon heavy state with a strong get-out-the-vote organization for Romney.
Massachusetts Primary — We all know Mitt Romney is keeping his fingers crossed that he doesn’t lose in this, one of his many “home” states. Romney, as the former Massachusetts Governor, would be supremely humiliated if things are as close in Massachusetts as they were in Michigan. The good news for Romney is that one recent poll shows him with a huge lead over Santorum, his closest rival there, by a whopping 48 points! While it’s never good to count any electoral chickens, unless Romney has some sort of Michael Dukakis moment, it looks like even with the state’s proportional approach to allocation, Romney could win most of Massachusetts’ 41 precious delegates.
North Dakota Caucus – This is Ron Paul territory, or at least he hopes it is. 28 delegates are up for grabs here. Paul is ahead in fundraising here and as we know, in politics, money talks. Some observers are saying this state is Paul’s best chance for an outright win. While he didn’t put North Dakota in a victory column in 2008, he did well, getting over 20 percent of the caucus vote. Many voters here like Paul’s support for allowing hemp to be grown, as advocated by the North Dakota legislature, which is grown across the border in Canada to make lotions, paper, clothing and bio-fuels, but which the federal government won’t allow.
Ohio Primary — This is the big “get” state on Super Tuesday, not just in terms of its 66 total convention delegates, but also by what the outcome in this swing state could say about the overall Republican race. One analyst notes that Ohio has a slightly more evangelical population than Michigan, which Romney just won, which explains why Rick Santorum maintains a lead here. Santorum’s best bet for a victory in Ohio is to make sure voters get the ‘if you liked Mike Huckabee (the 2008 Ohio primary winner), you’ll love me’ memo. At the moment, Santorum leads in the polling, but Ohio is called a swing state for a reason — anything goes and anyone could pull out a win on Tuesday. Ohio voters will also be choosing from among six GOP candidates for the U.S. Senate race to decide who will run against Democrat Sherrod Brown in the fall.
Oklahoma Primary — Romney isn’t likely to walk away with the 43 convention delegates up for grabs here in the Sooner State. Santorum has a huge 20 point lead over Romney, though voters here actually preferred Newt Gingrich last fall. While Romney has trailed in the polls here for months, one report shows he’s gaining steam — not because they like him better than the other candidates, but because increasing numbers of Oklahomans thing Romney is the candidate who can beat President Obama in the general election. Oklahoma Democrats will also have a choice to make for a presidential candidate. President Obama has three opponents on the primary ballot here. While it’s virtually impossible that Obama won’t take a win here, at least Oklahoma Democrats have a choice on the ballot.
Tennessee Primary – Santorum is leading here by about 18 points according to one poll, but the difference in support between Romney and Santorum is shrinking and some observers expect this to be a neck and neck race for the 58 delegates at stake. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee won here in 2008, so there are expectations that Santorum, who’s viewed as the more religiously conservative candidate, could prevail here, even though Romney has raised more money in Tennessee than his GOP competitors. Gingrich is still trying to make a run for votes here as part of his strategy to focus on Southern states.
Vermont Primary – Romney is ahead here in the state neighboring Massachusetts, but only by about seven points. He’s got the support of a fellow New-Englander, former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu, who just recently announced to Vermonters that they should vote for Romney. He’ll probably need that endorsement, as some election watchers there say Santorum is starting to surge in a state that Romney probably thought was in the bag.
Virginia Primary — This race will be particularly interesting because Santorum and Gingrich aren’t on the ballot. Neither one of them rounded up enough signatures to get a place on the ballot. They lost their court appeal (initially filed by Rick Perry) to get into the contest that has 49 delegates, so Virginia Republicans have two choices — Romney or Paul. That should make for an interesting outcome for Paul who has consistently ended up at the back of the pack in most of the primaries so far. While Romney currently has an overwhelming 35 point lead over Paul here, Paul is still doing well with the group he seems to connect well with — younger voters.
So there you have it. All the information you need to know about where things stand for the four major Republican presidential contenders in the ten Super Tuesday states. To win their party’s nomination, someone will eventually have to come up with 1144 delegates. What will things look like on Tuesday evening?
A version of this was originally posted at iVillage, where I’m leading the election coverage for 2012!