Today is Super Tuesday, often referred to as the most important day on the primary calendar. The states that vote today are home to almost 20 million more people than the entire population of the United Kingdom, and the 595 Republican and 1,004 Democratic delegates on offer represent almost half the total needed to win each party’s nomination. In every presidential election since 1988, the winner of the most states on Super Tuesday for either party has gone on to be the nominee.
After several months of preamble, the nominating process to find the next president of the United States officially started this week with Monday’s Iowa caucuses. The theme on both sides of the political divide was of outsiders breaking down barriers. Hillary Clinton became the first woman ever to win in Iowa, while Ted Cruz went one better, becoming the first Latino to win a presidential primary or caucus in any state.
With the New Hampshire primary two days away, it seems this theme will continue, with real estate mogul Donald Trump and democratic socialist Bernie Sanders the unlikely frontrunners in their respective primaries. While the arrival of the outsiders will likely dominate the headlines of Wednesday’s newspapers however, of perhaps more importance to the race is the ‘parallel primary’ taking place within the Republican field: a four-way battle for the support of the establishment.
Though the Republican National Convention has been over for a few days now, the speakers moved on to other commitments, and the Democratic equivalent in full swing, it still has an odd, rather incomplete feel to it. The customary bump in the polls which usually follows a convention has failed to properly materialise for Mitt Romney, no real issues of significant substance seem to have arisen, and the candidate even lost the news cycle the next day to an empty chair.
Gettysburg, the site of the bloodiest battle of the American civil war, claimed yet another casualty on Tuesday in the shape of Rick Santorum’s campaign for the Republican nomination. It was here, in his home state, that he chose to announce his withdrawal from the race. While it is quite remarkable that a man with such extreme views has come so far, he was still the second-placed candidate, and most likely alternative to Mitt Romney, should the frontrunner spectacularly implode. It seemed more likely that Newt Gingrich, who has been essentially out of the contest since February, would drop out first. But it was Santorum who terminated his campaign, citing his daughter’s illness as a reason.
While the health of his daughter surely will have contributed to his withdrawal, really Santorum’s decision to pull out of the race comes down to the consideration of three states: Pennsylvania, Iowa and Texas.
Super Tuesday was a long and bumpy night full of highlights and low lights for each candidate that ended in an underwhelming but basically successful outcome for Mitt Romney. In other words, it was like pretty much everything else in the Republican primaries to date.
It was a night that promised so much, but delivered little. All the talk before was of the exciting scenarios that could arise from the voting. Was Romney to land the knockout blow? Was Newt Gingrich to launch a real comeback in the South? Was Rick Santorum going to take Ohio? Was Ron Paul going to win his first state? Ultimately, the answer to all of the above was no; for the candidates, ‘Super’ Tuesday was anything but.