How to untangle the politics of Super Tuesday primaries
Clinton, Obama, McCain and Romney compete for 42 percent of all delegates.
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For McCain's principal rival, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, most of his strongest states are not delegate-rich. With the exception of Mormon-dominated Utah, where he has a lock on the state's 33 delegates, other strong states, including Massachusetts, are not winner take all. Most of Mr. Romney's strong states are holding caucuses, with modest delegate counts and a range of rules on delegate allocation.Skip to next paragraph
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One state where Romney could cherry-pick some delegates is California, which awards delegates on a winner-take-all basis by congressional district. The trick there, analysts say, is to identify low-turnout Republican districts that are overwhelmingly Democratic and flood the few Republicans with mail.
But with so many states at stake on Tuesday, Romney will have a hard time using his well-honed organization to win the delegates he needs. McCain, following his victory in Florida, is winning the lion's share of key GOP endorsements.
At this point, "it's not an organization game, it's a momentum game," says GOP pollster Whit Ayres. "There's no way to be sufficiently organized in all the Super Tuesday states."
Even in Florida, Mr. Ayres notes, Romney had a far more sophisticated operation and spent far more money than McCain, but lost anyway. Still, Romney has gone forward with ad buys in key Feb. 5 states, spending a reported $2 million to $3 million, with $1 million in California alone. McCain has relied more on momentum and free media out of campaign appearances in the days preceding Feb. 5, though he is running some TV ads.
Democrats Obama and Clinton have raised far more than the leading Republicans and are spending more on television leading up to Feb. 5. Obama has spent more than $10 million in ads in most of the Feb. 5 states, as well as states holding primaries in the week after – a sign of confidence that he will remain competitive after Tsunami Tuesday. Obama raised a stunning $32 million in January; Clinton has reportedly spent $8 million on ads in 16 of the Feb. 5 states, but had not revealed her January fundraising.
One potential wrinkle out of Feb. 5, given the delegate-allocation rules, is the possibility of a candidate winning more votes in a primary or caucus than his or her main rival, but not winning as many delegates, as happened in the Nevada Democratic caucuses.
"You could have a bit of a disparity between the popular vote and the delegate count, but I think by and large it should be pretty reflective," says Rhodes Cook, a nonpartisan political analyst. "I would be surprised if you had many more examples like Nevada, but I could be wrong."