(1144 delegates to win) Romney 123, Santorum 72, Gingrich 32, Ron Paul 19, Huntsman 2 (WSJ)
President Obama Job Approval 48-48% (14 day rolling average)
Ever since the “mini Tuesday” Presidential contests of Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri, the Presidential race has been relatively quiet. The Maine caucuses did conclude shortly thereafter, and while Romney eked out a narrow 39-36% victory over Ron Paul, this was, comparatively speaking, not an impressive victory for Romney. He carried Maine 51-18% over Ron Paul in 2008 (John McCain received 21%). One small consolation for the Republicans: turnout was 20% higher than it was in the 2008 caucuses.
When the Presidential contest resumes next Tuesday, Arizona and Michigan will be holding their primary contests, with 59 delegates (about 3% of the total) at stake. Currently, Romney has a respectable lead in Arizona (the average of the last 14 days’ polls shows Romney ahead of Santorum 38-30%), while in Michigan, the race has tightened: while the last 14 days’ polls showed a 36-31% Santorum lead, the last week’s polls only show a 34-33% Santorum lead.
After those contests, the state of Washington is holding a nonbinding caucus on March 3. Despite its moderate/liberal politics, polling there shows a 38-27% Santorum lead over Romney. But the real battle will be on the “Super Tuesday” contests of March 6, where 10 states will be voting.
Early in the primary season, Newt Gingrich believed he would catch a “second wind” on Super Tuesday from conservative primary electorates in Virginia, Georgia, Texas, Tennessee, and Oklahoma, and he also believed he would win in Ohio. Since then, external events have done much to invalidate this initial assumption. First, neither Gingrich nor Rick Santorum qualified on the ballot in Virginia, and the ongoing litigation in Texas over redistricting has pushed that state’s primary back to at least May 29. That leaves Newt with four possibly favorable states, but in Oklahoma and Ohio, Santorum has healthy poll leads (41-21% in Oklahoma and 42-24% in Ohio). Furthermore, the race is essentially a three way tie in Newt’s home state of Georgia, while the most recent polling available (from February 8-9) showed Santorum ahead in Tennessee 34-27%, with Gingrich running third with 16%.
The reality of Super Tuesday is that while Newt saw the contests from a “glass half full” perspective, the existing political terrain of the 10 contests arguably favors Romney as well. It is true that four of the states (Georgia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Ohio) are not likely to vote for Romney. But in Virginia, Romney only faces Ron Paul on the ballot, and he is the heavy favorite in Massachusetts (64-16% lead over Santorum) and Vermont. That leaves Alaska, Idaho, and North Dakota. These are conservative states, but in the beginning, Romney “owned the west”; since then, these have to be regarded as states up for grabs.
Super Tuesday will be important in another way: as Santorum has become identified as being staunchly conservative on social issues, how will that play with Republican primary/caucus voters? We will have a better feel for this after the balloting has concluded.
The rest of March is a mixed bag for the Republican competitors: Kansas and Wyoming vote on March 10, and on March 13, you have Alabama, Hawaii, and Mississippi. While (except for Hawaii) these are conservative states (Newt is putting his hopes on Alabama and Mississippi), their impact will be eclipsed by the Illinois primary on March 20. (Louisiana holds its primary on March 24, and early voting starts March 10)
Generic Congressional vote: 42-42 Democrat/Republican (14 day rolling average)
Things have been quiet thus far at the statewide level: the first primaries aren’t until the Ohio primay on March 6. Since “mini Tuesday”, only three states (Indiana, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania) have concluded their candidate qualifying. There were no surprises, although there is a Congressional seat in central Pennsylvania that is guaranteed to vote Republican, since no Democrats qualified.
At the present time, nine states have concluded their Congressional qualifying, and we already know the partisan composition of nine House seats: six are guaranteed to vote Republican, while three are guaranteed Democratic wins. From the perspective of candidate retirements, the number of announced retirements has remained stable at 37 House members (22 Democrats and 15 Republicans) and 9 Senators (7 Democrats and 2 Republicans).
Candidate qualifying will pick up soon: 15 more states will conclude their Congressional candidate filing before March 31. North Carolina’s filing deadline will be on February 29, while on March 1, Arkansas and Nebraska will conclude their candidate qualifying.
Congressional primaries don’t really accelerate until May: only four states (Ohio, Alabama, Mississippi, and Illinois) have their primaries in March, while two states (Maryland and Pennsylvania) hold primaries in April.