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Super Tuesday Preview: The Republicans

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Since his victory in Florida, John McCain has opened up large double-digit leads over Mitt Romney in nearly every national poll for the Republican nomination. With Romney's decisive victory in the Maine caucuses this weekend (his fourth win so far), the two candidates are quite close in the delegate count (McCain 93, Romney 77), but McCain has all of the national momentum and most of the favorable media coverage.

Virtually no pundit is expecting anything but a McCain landslide on Super Tuesday, and yet there are still several states in play of the 21 on the calendar. The question is not whether McCain will remain on top in the delegate count at the end of the night, but whether Romney (and to some extent Mike Huckabee) wins enough states to put a dent into McCain's armour of inevitability.

The conservative backlash to the McCain coronation has been fierce, as evidenced by the harsh commentary directed at the Arizona Senator by influential right-wing commentators like Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Laura Ingraham. If McCain loses, say, 8 or 9 of the 21 states on Tuesday, there may be enough of an opening for Romney to continue his campaign.

Several states are not likely to be competitive on Super Tuesday. McCain is running strong in his home state of Arizona, plus Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York. Huckabee will carry his home state of Arkansas. Romney will carry his home state of Massachusetts, plus Utah and the Colorado caucuses.

Five additional states will hold caucuses on Super Tuesday: Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, and West Virginia. Minimal polling has been conducted in these states, but Romney has proven very strong in caucuses thus far (winning in Wyoming, Nevada, and Maine), while McCain has not won any. Smart Politics projects Romney will win at least 3 of these caucuses, though the independent-friendly state of Minnesota will likely go to the Arizona Senator.

In the remaining 7 states, 5 are in the south (Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Tennessee), 1 is in the West (California), and 1 is in the Northeast (Delaware).

Smart Politics projects a McCain victory in Delaware.

In each of the Southern states, McCain is either leading or in a statistical tie for the lead according to the latest polls. McCain should win the majority of these Southern states. Romney appears to be out of contention in Alabama, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, and is competitive in tight three-way races in Georgia and Missouri. Romney's best chance is Georgia, and Huckabee's best shot is either Tennessee or Missouri.

That leaves the delegate-rich state of California. Polls show a dead heat between McCain and Romney. Obama's surge in California might be working to Romney's benefit, as independent-minded voters move away from McCain. Smart Politics projects Romney ekes out a win in California.

By the end of Tuesday night, Smart Politics expects McCain to carry 12 or 13 states, with Romney winning 6 or 7 and Huckabee winning 2 or 3. If those numbers come to fruition, Romney will remain in the race at least through Saturday's caucuses in Kansas and Washington and primary in Louisiana.

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Next post: Smart Politics Super Tuesday Live Blogging

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Remains of the Data

Plurality-Winning Governors Elected At Century-Long High Water Mark

The rate of gubernatorial candidates elected without the support of a majority of voters is at its highest level since the 1910s.

Political Crumbs

Seeing Red

Congressman Nick Rahall's failed bid for a 20th term in West Virginia this cycle, combined with a narrow loss by Nick Casey to Alex Mooney in Shelley Moore Capito's open seat, means that West Virginia Democrats will be shut out of the state's U.S. House delegation for the first time in over 90 years. The Republican sweep by two-term incumbent David McKinley in the 1st CD, Mooney in the 2nd, and Evan Jenkins over Rahall in the 3rd marks the first time the GOP has held all seats in the chamber from West Virginia since the Election of 1920. During the 67th Congress (1921-1923) all six seats from the state were controlled by the GOP. Since the Election of 1922, Democrats have won 76 percent of all U.S. House elections in the Mountain State - capturing 172 seats compared to 54 for the GOP.


Home Field Advantage?

When the 114th Congress convenes in a few days, Maine will be represented by one home-grown U.S. Representative: Waterville-born Republican Bruce Poliquin. With the departure of Millinocket-born Mike Michaud, who launched a failed gubernatorial bid, the Pine Tree State was poised to send a House delegation to D.C. without any Maine-born members for the first time since 1821. Three-term U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (born in Minnesota) coasted to reelection as expected, however Poliquin edged Kentucky-born Emily Cain by 5.3 points to keep the streak alive. Since 1876, a total of 208 of the 222 candidates elected to the nation's lower legislative chamber from the state have been born in Maine, or 94 percent.


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