After Super Tuesday: A Brokered GOP Convention?

The tightness of the March 6 primaries may leave no one in charge

     

Northeast

Massachusetts. (Primary, 41 delegates). Romney’s “Favorite Son” status as the commonwealth’s former governor should provide a firewall he couldn’t count on in Michigan. A Suffolk University poll on Feb. 15 found Romney in command with 64%. Santorum was a distant second with 16%, followed by Paul at 7% and Gingrich at 6%. Edge: Romney

Vermont. (Primary, 17 delegates). A new Castleton Polling Institute survey found Romney leading Santorum 34% to 27% in the state, with Paul at 14% and Gingrich at 10%. Santorum’s support in Vermont also is softer than Romney’s, increasing the likelihood that more of his supporters will change their minds in the next few days. Edge: Romney.

Mid-Atlantic

Virginia. (Primary, 49 delegates). Virginia is an oddity this year because only Romney and Paul will be on the ballot, and state election laws prohibit write-in candidates. Santorum, Gingrich and other candidates who have since dropped out failed to submit enough signatures to qualify. A Feb. 20 Richmond Times-Dispatch poll found Romney leading Paul 53% to 23%. The same poll found 57% of Virginia Republicans were dismayed at the lack of candidate choices. While Gingrich and others are trying to whip up voters to reject Romney by casting a vote for Paul, little is likely to come of the strategy. Edge: Romney

Midwest

Ohio. (Primary, 66 delegates). In this week’s Quinnipiac University poll, Santorum leads Romney in Ohio by 36% to 29%, with 17% for Gingrich and 11% for Paul. But at this point, voter support is very soft, and as many as half of the likely primary voters say they could change their minds in the next week. Still, Santorum’s conservative message resonates in this battleground state. Edge: Santorum

Upper Midwest

North Dakota (Caucus, 28 delegates). In the world of presidential politics, caucuses are odd ducks: Delegates are usually not bound to the winning candidates, and obscure rules abound. No recent polling is available, but Santorum and Paul have both visited the state. Romney beat Arizona Sen. John McCain in the state’s 2008 caucuses 36% to 23%. Edge: Tossup

South

Georgia. (Primary, 76 delegates). Gingrich leads the field in Georgia at 39%, with Santorum and Romney neck-and-neck at 24% and 23% respectively, according to last week’s SurveyUSA tracking poll. Paul is in fourth place with 9%. Gingrich has a clear edge in the state he represented for two decades in the House of Representatives, but he’s still campaigning like he’s the underdog. Edge: Gingrich.

Oklahoma. (Primary, 43 delegates). Santorum leads Gingrich 43% to 22% in the most recent Rasmussen poll, with Romney at 18% and Paul bringing up the rear at 4%. Santorum will be counting on the state’s social conservatives to give him the win next Tuesday. Edge: Santorum.

Tennessee. (Primary, 58 delegates). Tennessee’s delegate selection rules are just odd enough to be a menace. Santorum is leading Romney 38% to 20% in the recent Vanderbilt University poll. Paul and Gingrich are at 15% and 13%, respectively. But 44 of the delegates are allocated proportionally to the top three candidates, the remaining 14 are chosen by state GOP leaders. And none of the delegates on the ballot is committed to Santorum, meaning they could turn on him in Tampa. That’s why a loss for Romney here may not hurt his delegate count that much. Edge: Santorum.

West

Idaho. (Caucus, 32 delegates). Idaho Republicans will vote in a caucus for the first time in 40 years because the state party just changed its procedures. But Republicans reportedly are confused by the new caucus rules. Romney is getting a lot of help in the state, where governor “Butch” Otter and Sen. James Risch are stumping for him. Edge: Romney

Alaska. (Caucus, 27 delegates.) Polling hasn’t yet begun in the state. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski has endorsed Romney, and he won the 2008 contest with nearly 36% of the vote. Still, in the candidates’ debate in Arizona, Romney bashed Santorum’s vote for the “Bridge to Nowhere” that connected a tiny island to the Alaska town of Ketchikan — and brought “pork barrel” bucks to the state. Edge: Tossup

Wyoming. (Caucus, 29 delegates.) Voting for almost half of the delegates begins March 6 and continues through March 10. The remaining delegates are elected at the state’s Republican Convention in mid-April.) Early straw polls in some counties have put Romney in the lead, but it’s too early to call. Edge: Tossup

Bottom Line: Exit polling in Michigan and Arizona Tuesday continued to reveal a disturbing trend: GOP voters were longing for the choice of a candidate not currently on the ballot. If the campaign does come end with a brokered convention, other names could come into play, most notably former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — son of President George H.W. Bush and brother of President George W. Bush. Although the younger Bush said last year that he wasn’t interested in a run for the presidency in 2012, all bets are off if the nomination isn’t locked up before the convention.

–Susan J. Aluise is a former White House correspondent who has covered several presidential campaigns.

The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.

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