Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

What if America's Super Tuesday isn't so super after all?

By Jonathan Mann, CNN
updated 6:40 PM EST, Mon March 5, 2012
Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich (L-R) are all hoping for big wins on Super Tuesday.
Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich (L-R) are all hoping for big wins on Super Tuesday.
  • Ten states hold Republican primaries on per Tuesday
  • Romney and Santorum are stastically tied in some polls; Paul and Gingrich trail
  • Neither Romney nor Santorum expected to win convincingly on Super Tuesday

(CNN) -- Super Tuesday is traditionally a turning point in the campaign for the U.S. presidency, but it may pass without having the impact its name implies because the Republican Party has a pesky problem -- it can't decide whom it wants in the White House.

"What you're seeing is that the Republican Party wants to fall in love," said Republican radio host Michael Medved.

Mostly it's just been flirting. Four major candidates remain in the race after months of campaigning -- former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum are now trading first place in many polls, with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul trailing behind them.

Read more: CNN profiles the presidential candidates

Super Tuesday might have settled things. It's named for the dramatic effect the day has had on past presidential races.

'SNL' looks at Romney's winning streak

Traditionally, the major political parties choose their nominees for the presidential election state by state in a series of primary elections. Based on the results of those elections, candidates are awarded a number of delegates that then vote for them at the Republican national party convention in the summer before the presidential election.

In order to secure the Republican nomination for president, a candidate must win 1,144 delegates. According to CNN's unofficial estimate, the frontrunner Romney has 207 delegates so far; Santorum is next with 86, followed by Paul at 46 and Gingrich trailing with 39.

Read more: Where candidates stand on issues

The process starts slowly until Super Tuesday gives it a sudden burst of speed, often separating the contenders from the pretenders in the process.

Four years ago, when Mitt Romney was making his first run for the presidency, there were 21 simultaneous Republican primaries on Super Tuesday. His weak showing convinced him to drop out of the race just two days later.

There are 10 primaries and 419 delegates up for grabs on this year's Super Tuesday, the biggest single day of the Republican presidential campaign, and there is the prospect that the four candidates could split them.

Neither Romney, who is perceived as a Wall-Street-friendly moderate, nor Santorum, a conservative who aims to appeal more to the working class, is expected to win clearly enough to force the other from the race.

That kind of muddle could just prolong the contest, which has already proven costlier, nastier and more divisive than many party members would have hoped.

The Republicans are hoping for something super this Tuesday, because otherwise they'll be left with a long hard slog.

Part of complete coverage on
Get all the latest news in Campaign 2012 at CNN's Election Center. There's the latest news, a delegate counter and much more.
From Cuba to South Africa to Japan, people on five continents tell CNN what they're looking for in a U.S. president.
updated 11:40 AM EST, Wed November 7, 2012
The dead-even U.S. election race reflects the nation's deep political chasm across the country. CNN brings you the best election day pictures.
As Americans head to the polls Security Clearance takes one last look at some of the most pressing foreign policy issues facing the candidates.
They represent a sliver of the electorate, yet their choices on Election Day could make a difference.
updated 9:59 PM EST, Tue November 6, 2012
The Chinese artist and political dissident says the American system has flaws -- but that China's system is "inhuman."
updated 6:53 AM EDT, Wed October 10, 2012
Afghans fear the silence over the bloody 11-year-old war during the U.S. campaign means it is no longer a foreign policy priority.
updated 5:28 AM EDT, Fri October 26, 2012
Memories of his father may be fading in Kenya -- but from the clubs to the teeming barrios for which Nairobi is notorious, his son is widely admired.
updated 6:05 AM EST, Tue November 6, 2012
A look back at CNN's election night coverage, going all the way back to 1980.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 24, 2012
Hugo Chavez has endorsed Barack Obama, calling him a "good guy." Is there hope for a fresh start between the U.S. and Venezuela?
Predict which candidate will win each state and see who reaches 270 electoral votes first.
updated 8:43 AM EST, Mon November 5, 2012
CNN's Tom Foreman explains how the Electoral College works and what would happen if there were a tie.
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Wed October 24, 2012
Nigerians were thrilled when a "son of Africa" won in 2008. The luster has worn off, but has any of it found its way to Romney?
updated 8:32 AM EST, Mon November 5, 2012
If there's one thing that would have struck a chord with Hong Kongers, it was Barack Obama and Mitt Romney using China as a political punching bag.
updated 1:53 PM EDT, Tue October 23, 2012
China bashing has taken center stage in the U.S. election, where everyone seem bent on casting China as the bad guy.
Christian Amanpour says the chance to transform Afghanistan is slipping away -- and that the election won't make a difference.
updated 5:37 AM EDT, Wed October 17, 2012
Obama's "Yes we can" message has long faded away amid plummeting relations between the two countries, writes Masud Alam.
See where the nation stands on one of the tightest races for the White House in years. Follow the numbers as Americans flock to the polls.
updated 4:20 PM EST, Tue November 6, 2012
With the months-long campaign finished and the presidential election under way, CNN brings you the best pictures from the campaign trail.
updated 6:52 AM EDT, Fri October 12, 2012
For many in Iraq following the U.S. election, the Republican party remains the party of deeply-despised George W. Bush.
updated 12:01 PM EDT, Thu October 11, 2012
After months of talking about each other, Obama and Romney finally go toe-to-toe. But do debates actually affect election outcomes?
Use an interactive map to explore the money game and the strategies of the Obama and Romney campaigns.
updated 5:51 PM EDT, Mon October 8, 2012
Mitt Romney promises to take the U.S. back to a foreign policy based on exerting global influence through military and economic power.
updated 4:47 PM EDT, Tue October 2, 2012
Brooke Baldwin talks to Erin Burnett about foreign policy being a major component of the 2012 presidential election.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Tue October 9, 2012
CNN fact checks Mitt Romney's claim that Barack Obama was 'silent' when anti-regime protests broke out in Iran in 2009.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Tue October 9, 2012
Yanis Varoufakis says some Athenians fear Europe is waiting until after the U.S. election before cutting Greece loose from the euro.
Get the latest political news, campaign stories, and Washington coverage from CNN's team of political experts.
CNN's Security Clearance experts take a country-by-country look at the differences between the candidates' approach to foreign policy.
updated 9:08 AM EDT, Tue October 9, 2012
Whoever wins the upcoming U.S. election will find Cuba in a state of flux, says Nobel Prize nominee Yoani Sanchez.
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Sun July 29, 2012
Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem tell CNN which U.S. presidential candidate is better for their cause.
updated 5:10 AM EDT, Sat July 21, 2012
People in London step up to CNN's Open Mic and deliver their messages to the U.S. and its presidential candidates.
updated 10:16 AM EDT, Tue May 22, 2012
Award-winning novelist Manu Joseph says there must be something about human nature that divides the species into Democrats and Republicans.
updated 2:04 AM EDT, Fri June 1, 2012
Mexicans step up to CNN's Open Mic and offer their messages to the U.S. presidential candidates.
updated 6:38 AM EDT, Tue April 24, 2012
The U.S. election race conjures up images of mud flying through the air for many Japanese.
updated 4:54 PM EST, Mon March 5, 2012
With the amount of campaign spending in the U.S. projected to exceed $6 billion, we look at how this compares to other countries.