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Super Tuesday results help Romney campaign

Kristen Durbin | Wednesday, March 7, 2012

In the wake of the Super Tuesday presidential primaries and caucuses, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s close Ohio Republican primary win saved him from potential “disaster,” former political columnist for the South Bend Tribune and journalism professor Jack Colwell said.

“Ohio, of course, was the big prize, and early on it looked as though [former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick] Santorum had a real shot at winning,” Colwell said. “If he had won, it could have been a disaster for Romney … because everyone would talk about how he could go on to be the Republican presidential nominee if he’s supposed to be the frontrunner and can’t wrap up the nomination.”

Romney ultimately won the tight primary with 38 percent of the popular vote to Santorum’s 37 percent, earning Romney 35 of his leading 429 total Republican delegates, according to CNN.com election results.

“[Romney's win] turned the whole thing around. It only matters whether you win or lose, not the margin, so that made it a pretty good night for him,” Colwell said. “He ended up being a big winner, getting more delegates from a big state. A few thousand votes changed things.”

Though Romney’s victory in Ohio earned him a significant number of delegates to cushion his current lead, the win “didn’t clinch anything” due to Santorum’s primary wins in Oklahoma and Tennessee, Colwell said.

Santorum gained additional momentum in leading the North Dakota caucuses with 40 percent of the vote, but Colwell said he faces a challenge in catching up to Romney.

“[Santorum] picked up some delegates in North Dakota, but one of the problems for him now is that delegates are at stake in all these races,” Colwell said. “As of this afternoon, he had 169 delegates to Romney’s 429, but you need 1,144 delegates to win, so it’s not over yet.”

Of the seven Super Tuesday primaries, Romney won in his home state of Massachusetts, Vermont, Ohio and Virginia, according to CNN.com results. Santorum took Oklahoma and Tennessee, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich captured his home state of Georgia.

Colwell said Santorum supporters might interpret Gingrich’s Georgia victory as a lost opportunity.

“Santorum’s people are trying to pressure Gingrich to drop out of the race because they think Santorum might have won if Gingrich had not run in Georgia,” he said. “Romney is not popular in the South, and with Mississippi and Alabama [primaries] coming up, Gingrich could win one of those, taking away delegates Santorum would probably have gotten without Gingrich.”

Despite Gingrich’s win in Georgia, Colwell said his 118 delegates are not enough to consider him a legitimate candidate.

“Gingrich basically has no chance now … He hasn’t had the organization of other candidates,” Colwell said. “He has a big ego, so he might want to stay in and not drop out because of that.”

The fourth candidate in the Republican presidential race, Texas congressman Ron Paul, is likely continuing his campaign to make a statement about his platform, Colwell said.

“He has yet to win any primary and has very few delegates, so nobody thinks he has a chance for the nomination,” he said. “I think he will stay in the race because he wants to have a platform and express his ideas.”

Although the May 8 Indiana presidential primary is nearly two months away, Colwell said its results could have an impact on the race for the Republican nomination.

“[The primary] usually means nothing because it’s so late,” he said. “But four years ago, [Hillary] Clinton and [President Barack] Obama had a real battle in Indiana, so with Santorum on the ballot, he and Romney could still be going at it in a battle for the second time in a row.”