It's Super Tuesday and the opinions are flying.
Republicans decide today whether they want to keep dragging out their nomination or get in line behind Mitt Romney and turn their attention to defeating President Obama. We said way back before the South Carolina primary that Republicans would be wise to coalesce around Romney quickly because he was best suited to take on Obama. S.C. voters ignored that advice, backing Gingrich and signaling that nothing was going to be easy for Romney.
Eleven states vote today, but all eyes are on Ohio and Tennessee, where Romney and Rick Santorum are locked in tight races. If Romney wins both, plus others he’s almost assured of winning today, he’ll tighten his hold on the nomination. But if Santorum wins both, this race will likely drag on until at least April 24, when New York and Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania vote.
No Republican has ever won the presidency without winning Ohio in the general election, and a Romney loss there would spark concerns that he’s weak in that pivotal state. Pundits are slicing and dicing the numbers of delegates at stake today, but seems to us those matter less at this point than the momentum – and money -- victories provide. Romney will certainly win more delegates than Santorum today, but if Santorum wins Ohio and Tennessee (and Oklahoma), that won’t matter much.
Longtime Republican strategist Ed Rollins says the drawn out nomination process has damaged both Romney and the Republican Party. Indeed, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows large swaths of the American public view all four remaining Republican candidates unfavorably, including, crucially, independent voters.
But Michael Gerson, a Washington Post columnist and former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, says Obama has weaknesses and the general election will be a battle. Gerson’s conservative colleague at the Post, George Will, is not so sure.
Frank Bruni of The New York Times says that as fortune-tellers, the media and political analysts stink. They underestimated how the most conservative branch of the Republican party would refuse to embrace Romney. The Times’ Joe Nocera says he’s rooting for Santorum to win the nomination, so that he’ll get trounced in the fall, so that Republicans will finally accept that they need to move to the center.
An afterthought: Newt Gingrich could linger. He'll almost certainly win Georgia today, and Alabama and Mississippi vote a week from today. Win those and he could ride his Southern strategy into April or May.
-- Taylor Batten