- The Washington Times - Monday, March 5, 2012

Super? Maybe not this time. But it is a Tuesday, one with the biggest payout of the Republican presidential primaries.

Super Tuesday — slimmed down to half its 2008 size, but still doling out one-third of the delegates needed to win — probably won’t settle much.

Sure, it could nudge former House Speaker Newt Gingrich out of the race, or lend Rep. Ron Paul of Texas more credibility. But it won’t be easy for either former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney or former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania to score a decisive advantage, because delegates are handed out by share. A close second in a state can pay off almost as well as first place.

Win some big states, especially Ohio, and the symbolism is powerful, of course.

Mr. Romney might cement the front-runner status that keeps slipping through his fingers. Mr. Santorum could prove he’s the real thing.

What’s at stake, what’s it mean and what might happen when 10 states stretching from Alaska to Virginia vote on the same day? A Super Tuesday tipsheet:

• Delegates up for grabs Tuesday: 419.

• Delegates already won: 353. Mr. Romney, 203; Mr. Santorum, 92; Mr. Gingrich, 33; Mr. Paul, 25.

• Delegates needed for the nomination: 1,144.

Super Tuesday is super-expensive. When it comes to commercials, Mr. Romney and his campaign’s supporters have outgunned the rest of the field. Restore Our Future, a political action committee that backs Mr. Romney, had spent about $5.5 million in Super Tuesday states by the end of last week.

• Ohio, Ohio, Ohio: It’s the race to watch. Political junkies get all misty-eyed over this Rust Belt swing state, and not just because of the 63 delegates — no Republican nominee has ever become president without winning Ohio in the general election.

Mr. Santorum and Mr. Romney are duking it out in Ohio. Look for the outcome to generate more buzz than any other Super Tuesday contest.

Newt’s last stand or Newt rises again?

Get out the hook for Mr. Gingrich if he loses in Georgia, the state he represented in the U.S. House for two decades. Mr. Gingrich hopes to win decisively here and pick up enough other delegates to relaunch his up-and-down campaign, which has been mostly down-and-out since he lost Florida in January. He’s got endorsements from Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and from Herman Cain, a fellow Georgian and a former candidate himself. He’s got a new pitch, claiming he can bring the cost of gas down to $2.50 per gallon.

• Elsewhere in the South: Two other Bible Belt states, Tennessee and Oklahoma, are central to Mr. Gingrich’s hopes of revival. But Mr. Santorum insists he’ll be the big story in both.

In Tennessee, a confident-sounding Mr. Santorum is trying to walk the footsteps of another outspoken Christian conservative, Mike Huckabee, who won this primary four years ago. Mr. Romney boasts the support of popular Gov. Bill Haslam, while Mr. Gingrich is getting plugs from one of the state’s most colorful political figures: former senator, movie actor and “Law & Order” star Fred Thompson. At stake are 55 delegates.

Dotted with drilling rigs and cattle ranches, Oklahoma straddles the South and the Great Plains and sits squarely among the reddest of the red states. Mr. Santorum tagged it “ground zero of the conservative movement,” and his anti-abortion, pro-family values message attracts enthusiastic crowds here. The other three hopefuls also have dropped in, hoping to prove their conservative bona fides to the Okies. It offers 40 delegates.

• What’s the deal with Virginia?

Mr. Gingrich would love to compete in this Southern state, but he’s not. Only Mr. Romney and Mr. Paul landed spots on the ballot, by having early organizations strong enough to collect the required 10,000 signatures. That leaves Virginia mostly a curiosity. What kind of showing can Mr. Paul muster going toe-to-toe with Mr. Romney? The fight is for 46 delegates.

Mr. Romney territory:

There’s little drama in the Northeastern races. Mr. Romney’s virtually unopposed in his power base of Massachusetts, where he was governor until a little more than five years ago. Delegates: 38. He’s expected to win neighboring Vermont handily, too, although Mr. Santorum seeks to peel away some of its 17 delegates.

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