Pundits say what they will, but Super Tuesday is a Three Man Race... and as such, the GOP race is as well.
John McCain picked up the endorsement of Rudy Giuliani, Fred Supporters have moved into one of the other camps, or undecideds, and the race is marching on.
John McCain surely has all the momentum going into Super Tuesday... but to call the race over is very much a jump of the gun. Not even 10% of all the delegates have been allocated, yet everyone wants to throw in the towels.
To look at who could come out on top, we need to look at the next contest. As the contest is spread out over 21 states for the GOP, it is clear that the campaign with the most money can advertise in the most locations... and that is Mitt. Unfortunately, Mitt's coffers are about as dry as the other campaigns, so each candidate is focussing on states that they need to try and win.
If all three candidates (Huckabee, McCain, Romney) come out with equal states, regardless of delegates, then Super Tuesday is a wash. If one candidate can claim victory by overwhelmingly winning the majority of the states (not just delegates), then the balance of power may shift.
Remember, these three candidates ALL look great going into Super Tuesday... They are all hovering around 20% nationally, and all seem to have a few states locked in Super Tuesday... but the close races will make or break some campaigns!
Let's take a look at the states, the challengers in those states, and the expected outcome.
Alabama (primary)- 48 delegates: Huckabee v McCain
Neither candidate is campaigning hard in this state, but Huckabee has the advantage as a Southern Governor. If Rudy's 9% jump to McCain, McCain wins the state. If Romney supporters see McCain winning the state as a bad thing, they may decide to support Huckabee as a blow to the McCain campaign. Romney holds a distant third in the state with no hope of winning. I give this state to Huckabee.
Alaska (caucus)- 29 delegates: McCain v Romney v Huckabee v Paul
This state has conducted no polling that is on record. It is a tough state to call, as it is a truly independent minded state... so much so that as recently as 1990 it elected a governor from a third party: The Alaskan Independence Party... not Independant, but independence... The party pushing for secession from the Union... like I said, a tough state to call! But I give it to McCain.
Arizona (straw poll)- 53 delegates WTA: McCain (solid)
Enough said. This is McCain country!
Arkansas (primary)- 34 delegates: Huckabee(solid)
Again, enough said. Huck holds a commanding lead on his home court!
California (primary)- 173 delegates: McCain v Romney
McCain holds the advantage going into Super Tuesday, as the Governator and Rudy both endorsed him. Good news for Romeny (projected 2nd place) and Huckabee (projected 3rd) is that California is no longer a WTA state. It is a WTA by district, which means that Romney and Huckabee can both pick up some delegates... Emphasis on "can"... Huckabee does not have the funding to campaign in this state, nor the momentum to make up a 15% deficit.
Colorado (caucus)- 46 delegates: Romney v McCain v Huckabee v Paul
This is a red state turning blue... but independents and democrats would have had to have registered as Republicans at the beginning of December if they intended to participate in caucus. Romney holds a strong lead, and will likely win. Though, word on the ground is that Ron Paul has very strong grass roots in this state, and could come out big in the straw poll. This is a state that is tough to call, though I see Romney and Paul doing well here. That being said, Romney wins CO.
Connecticut (primary)- 30 delegates WTA: McCain (solid)
McCain has risen to leads of around 20%. This is his state. Winner takes all.
Delaware (primary)- 18 delegates WTA: McCain v Romney
Huckabee is not a contender in this New England state. This was a sure Rudy win, but now the state is up for grabs. Much of the state is still undecided, but I see McCain coming out ahead.
Georgia (primary)- 72 delegates: Huckabee v McCain
This is not a WTA state, but Huckabee seems to be getting all the votes. McCain has made strides in the state after South Carolina and Florida, but Huckabee looks good in Georgia. The delegates could split between them, but I see Huckabee winning the state and taking home these Georgia delegates.
Illinois (straw poll)- 70 delegates: McCain v Huckabee v Romney v Paul
Ron Paul has polled well in this state, though he will do nothing more than play a spoiler. To whom? That is left to be seen. With Rudy out, McCain will do well in this state. I see Huckabee finishing a strong second, with Romney close behind at third. This is a tight state that has fluctuated in the polls based on who is leading the national polling. I see it as McCain, Huckabee, Romney - in that order.
Massachusetts (primary)- 43 delegates: Romney v McCain
This is a New England blood match. Romney will come out on top, but he has not been as strong in his home state as Huckabee and McCain have been in theirs. This is very telling. This is a two man race in MA. The winner, Romney.
Minnesota (caucus)- 41 delegates: McCain v Huckabee
This state is a McCain strong hold. They usually are more liberal voters, and McCain appeals to their needs. McCain will win this state, with Huckabee finishing a strong second.
Missouri (primary)- 58 delegates WTA: Huckabee v Romney v McCain
Huck and Mitt both have this state in their must win bags. McCain is strong because of his recent big wins, but the state may be more inclined to follow Huckabee. I see Huckabee and McCain battling it out for the win in this state, with Romney taking third. For now, I give the state to Huckabee.
Montana (caucus)- 25 delegates WTA: Huckabee v Romney v Paul v McCain
This has not been a widely disputed state. The voters tend to be both strongly conservative and independent. Huckabee and Romney should do well in this state. Huckabee may win.
New Jersey (primary)- 52 delegates WTA: McCain v Romney
With Rudy out, McCain will win this state. Winner take's all, so Romney should spend his money elsewhere.
New York (primary)- 101 delegates WTA: McCain v Romney
The state that Rudy could not win, yet it was his home turf. Another WTA state, Romney is going to finish at least 15% back. Again, that is money better spent elsewhere.
North Dakota (caucus)- 26 delegates WTA: Huckabee v Romney v McCain
As another WTA state, Romney and McCain should seek delegates elsewhere. This is Huckabee country.
Oklahoma (primary)- 41 delegates: Huckabee v McCain
These delegates will be split between Huckabee and McCain. I predict a Huckabee win, as he has held up well against McCain despite the momentum of the Mac. Huckabee wins Oklahoma.
Tennessee (primary)- 55 delegates: McCain v Huckabee
Since Fred left this state wide open, Huckabee and McCain have both polled very well amongst voters. McCain will likely win, but not by much. I call this state a virtual tie between the top two contenders.
Utah (primary)- 36 delegates WTA: Romney (solid)
If there was any doubt here, the doubter was in trouble. Romney will take all the Utah delegates.
West Virginia (convention)- 30 delegates WTA: Huckabee v McCain
McCain will likely win this state, as it liked Rudy early on. Huckabee will do well, though he won't likely spend any money here... Romeny will finish third. Unfortunately for Huckabee and Romney, this is a winner take's all state.
My Super Tuesday state count is as follows:
Huckabee: +7 states: AL, AR, GA, MO, MT, ND, OK
McCain: +11 states: AK, AZ, CA, CT, DE, IL, MN, NJ, NY, TN, WV
Romney: +3 states: CO, MA, UT
Paul: +0 states:
There are surely some close races, but this is definately a three contender race! After Super Tuesday, Virginia and Maryland vote on Feb 12th. Both states look good for McCain. A week later Washington and Wisconsin will vote, which will go to McCain and Huckabee respectively (if ST goes the way I predicted). Then comes March 4th, with Texas, Vermont, and Rhode Island. Huckabee and McCain are battling it out for Texas. Huckabee has led Texas for some time, and will likely win if all goes as above. This is a huge state for Huckabee. Vermont and RI are are McCain wins, hands down.
The way that I see it, where Romney and McCain face off, Romney is not doing so well. Romney has a solid base in his home states, but I cannot see him making up in the polls in all of those states. There are many where he is not even close.
The Convention could still be brokered, even though McCain will go in ahead. Should Romney drop after a poor Super Tuesday showing, it will be McCain and Huckabee, and the ticket will likely be set-up in that order. Should Romney upset McCain in a shocking reversal of fortune on Super Tuesday, The convention will be very close, but brokered nonetheless. Should McCain go in ahead, I do not see him picking Romney as a running mate. The only hope for Romney is a full out win.