While it has 10 fewer delegates than Georgia, this is the true big prize of the night. Not only for its large number of delegates, but also because Ohio is such an important swing state in the general election, and any nominee needs to demonstrate strength here.
Romney has struggled to connect with blue-collar Midwestern conservatives, and in recent weeks he’s been trailing Santorum badly here. His win in neighboring Michigan, though, seems to have helped him.
At this point, Ohio is a tossup, with polls showing Romney and Santorum neck and neck. Romney has the momentum, but Santorum could still conceivably win the state.
In terms of delegates, that doesn’t matter much – Ohio’s delegates are awarded proportionally and Romney and Santorum could emerge with relatively similar numbers of delegates.
But symbolically, a win would be huge for either candidate. For Romney, it would be a second chance – after Michigan – to prove that he can, in fact, win in a key rust belt state. For Santorum, demonstrating that he can win in such a big state – particularly a non-caucus one – would be strong justification for staying in the race and continuing to fight.
This is the state to watch Tuesday night.