- Ed Morrissey says each candidate had goals on Super Tuesday they did not achieve
- He says Mitt Romney gained delegates, but Rick Santorum cut into wins for him and Ron Paul
- He says Newt Gingrich, Paul didn't score enough to matter in delegate count
- Morrissey: Romney closer to crown, but opponents still keeping it out of his reach
Going into the Super Tuesday contests, the goals of each candidate were clear. Mitt Romney needed to beat Rick Santorum in Ohio and Tennessee to knock him out of the race. Santorum needed to win more primaries than Newt Gingrich to knock him out of the race. Gingrich needed to win something, and so did Ron Paul. So did they achieve their goals?
For the most part ... no.
Romney ended up with the biggest number of victories on Super Tuesday, and he will win the most delegates from the 10 contests. He won his home state of Massachusetts by a wide enough margin to claim all of its delegates, won 43 of 46 Virginia delegates, and won primaries in Vermont and Ohio as well as a nonbinding caucus in Idaho.
Projections by the media show Romney will win a majority of delegates that will get bound from Tuesday's contests. That will bolster Romney's claims to control the nomination, but it may not be the knockout blow he hoped to achieve.
Santorum's surprisingly strong win in Tennessee (and an expectedly strong win in Oklahoma) delayed Romney's triumph but didn't necessarily advance his own nomination hopes. He also stunned Ron Paul in North Dakota's nonbinding caucus, where Paul had pinned his hopes for a game-changing triumph.
However, Santorum has now lost a second Rust Belt, blue-collar state to Romney after leading by double digits in pre-primary polls in Ohio, and even Santorum's Tennessee win won't overshadow losing a state that he needed to win to make the claim that he connects better with working-class voters.
Gingrich won his one-time home state of Georgia by double digits and picked up a small haul in delegates, but winning one's base state is a minimal qualifier, not a reason to crow. Gingrich crowed anyway, scoffing at those who thought that Santorum would be "the new non-Romney," even as Santorum won three contests to Gingrich's solo win on the same night. Despite claiming the South as his turf, Gingrich came in a disappointing third in Tennessee, and has only two victories in all of the primaries and caucuses thus far in 2012.
As for Paul, he only became a factor in Virginia, where a surprisingly strong second-place finish netted him three delegates, as it did in Vermont, where his second-place finish was more disappointing. In North Dakota, Paul trailed Santorum by 12 points and only finished ahead of Romney by 4 despite having personally campaigned in the state during the caucuses themselves. Paul may get headlines, but he's not winning enough delegates to matter -- and fumbling the expectations game will cost him even more media credibility.
Romney's narrow victory in Ohio gives him the best claim for the Super Tuesday crown, but a coronation will still be far off. With his two main opponents scoring enough victories to justify remaining in the race, the four-man contest continues -- and we will have to wait for April's winner-take-all contests to get a real knockout.
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