Super Tuesday has just muddied the waters

Or in other words: Super Tuesday was more another case of Romney avoiding a big disaster than having a big triumph.

Matthew Eshbaugh-SohaAssistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of North Texas

Super Tuesday has just muddied the waters!  A lot!  There’s no clear winner; no clear front-runner with Santorum and Romney splitting the contests tonight.  It’s going to be a long race, with nothing decided anytime soon.  Clearly, the Republicans cannot rally around Romney.  I am sure many like his message on the economy, but social conservatives prefer Santorum.

I still think that Romney has the resources to prevail; but the nominee is going to battered and bruised, without much excitement from the party, I think, once the general election begins.

Steven GreeneAssociate Professor of Political Science, North Carolina State University

Super Tuesday was more another case of Romney avoiding a big disaster than having a big triumph.  Yes, he did win 6 of the 10 states up for grabs, but given his massive advantage in money, organization, and support from Republican elites, his inability to convincingly win in more states is widely seen as a source of weakness.  Most notably, he won the state of Ohio by the barest of margins (38-37) when this state was the most important focus of the campaign and we was able to greatly outspend and out-organize Santorum. In short, if he had lost Ohio, this would have raised even more doubts about this campaign.  By winning by such a small margin, though, he is unable to shake the widespread perception among the media and voters that he is a battered, bruised, and weak frontrunner.

From my perspective, Romney is very lucky to be running against such weak competition.  His main opponents, Santorum and Romney, are both very flawed candidates who were never given much chance by anybody for precisely this reason.  The fact that they have succeeded as much as they have against Romney really points to Romney’s own weakness.

Given the number of delegates he’s won, his ongoing huge advantages in money, organization and elite support, and the fact that, to a degree, opposition is still divided between Gingrich and Santorum (though, mostly Santorum at this point), it really is hard to see anybody other than Romney being the Republican nominee.  Nonetheless, given his inability to truly pull away from his rivals– especially in key contests like Ohio–it seems quite likely that Romney will continue to have a bumpy ride throughout the primary process.  Still, I think the ultimate take-away point is that Romney remains very much the likely nominee and he solidified that position.  Back in January I was lamenting at what a boring nomination process this was looking to be, but all the factors I mentioned above have worked together to make this a much more interesting and dramatic primary season than any scholar or journalist would have predicted.

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