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Expert Comment: Super Tuesday

American flag Wednesday 25 April 2012

Dr. Robert Busby, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Politics, History, Media and Communication at Liverpool Hope University

Mitt Romney’s path to his party’s nomination as its presidential nominee looks more secure following the 6th March Super Tuesday results. Rarely are the words Super and Tuesday used together, but the primary vote of ten states this year on one day is summed up, through political precedent, in this form.  Romney approached this pivotal day in a position of ascendancy and with superior campaign organization and presence, alongside considerable advantages in terms of campaign funding and, by default, media exposure. Santorum and Gingrich, the contenders on the right of the party, faced a make or break day to continue in the race.

The outcome of Super Tuesday gave some comfort to Romney, but fell short of the decisive blow needed to see off Santorum. The key state of Ohio, with its broad demographic mix of voters, went to Romney, but only by a very thin margin. Romney won six of the ten states up for grabs including Massachusetts, the state in which he served as Governor. Santorum won three states, including Tennessee and Oklahoma, states which entertained his strong social conservative message.  Gingrich won his home state of Georgia.

Romney will continue as the front runner, and barring a major upset will be the Republican candidate by the spring. He has now 415 delegates to Santorum’s 176. Yet Santorum and Gingrich, in the wake of Super Tuesday, have refused to concede the race. Santorum can hope for support in upcoming primary races in Alabama and Mississippi on grounds of his moral message and his ability to generate votes on a shoestring campaign. Gingrich hopes for support on account of his Southern roots, yet he now has no real chance of any longer term success.

The perseverance of Santorum, and his periodic successes, is testament to the ongoing divisions within the party on ideological grounds and the lack of charisma and allure on the part of Romney.  A narrow race all the way to the convention is not necessarily damaging to the party as Democratic the race between Obama and Clinton showed in 2008. But a race between a sensible but uninspiring candidate and a social conservative conviction politician paints an altogether different picture to that of the Obama - Clinton duel.  Obama’s biggest threat still remains the economy, and in particular the fluctuating oil price and its effect on fuel prices. The November contest is far from over, but with each week Obama’s position looks stronger and stronger.

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