As if the Gods of Excitement hadn’t done enough already with this month Chevy Truck Month and the beginning of the March Madness tournament, today is Super Tuesday. Ten states will primary or caucus today, accounting for nearly 20% of the delegates.
Up for grabs are Georgia, Massachusetts, Idaho, North Dakota, Alaska, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont, and Ohio. Nate Silver is projecting a strong night for Romney, one which he will come out with the most delegates in almost any scenario:
This scenario assumes that Mr. Romney will win Massachusetts and Virginia very easily, and Vermont and Idaho fairly easily (winning all 32 delegates in Idaho because of the way the state’s rules are structured). It assumes a narrow Romney win in Ohio and a narrow loss in Tennessee, and that Mr. Romney wins either the Alaska or North Dakota caucuses, but probably not both. Mr. Gingrich wins Georgia only, although by a big margin; Mr. Santorum wins Tennessee and Oklahoma, although by smaller margins than were expected a few days ago.
Silver goes on to note that because of increased media expectations and the intense focus on Ohio, Georgia and Tennessee, Romney might not walk away with a performance that is sufficiently impressive. Additionally, with Kansas, Mississippi, and Alabama holding their contests within the next week, Romney will continue to face scrutiny in regards to his ability to win Southern states.
The “Can Romney win in the South?” line of criticism seems about as reasonable as the “Will woman and Hispanics turn out for Obama?” criticism of the 2008 primary. These core Democratic constituencies broke heavily for Hillary Clinton, but came home and turned out for Obama at historic levels in the general election. Whether Romney wins Mississippi or Alabama in the primary has no real relevance. If he gets the nomination, he will have a near-lock on the Deep South and this is true even if base enthusiasm for him is tepid. Much of this line seems to be aimed at continuing the primary. That isn’t to say that the fact that Romney likely isn’t drawing strong support in the Deep South during the primary is irrelevant, but it’s unlikely to be a factor that prevents him from getting the nomination.