Voters cast ballots in 10 states on Tuesday with 419 delegates up for grabs in the biggest day of the Republican primary race so far. In this week’s B&C cover story, political directors for the TV news divisions told us what they’d be looking for from Super Tuesday, and how it would affect coverage of the race going forward. Now that the results are in, let’s recap:
POINT TO WATCH: A Win for Gingrich
OUTCOME: Yes (Georgia)
RESULT: All the political directors we talked to last week said Newt Gingrich had to win at least one Super Tuesday contest to justify staying in the race, and Georgia, the state he represented in Congress for 20 years, was his best shot. The victory means Gingrich can keep his promise – for now – to fight on and for coverage purposes, it remains a four-candidate field.
POINT TO WATCH: If Gingrich and Santorum Win More States Than Romney
OUTCOME: Not quite
RESULT: Mitt Romney won six states on Tuesday (Massachusetts, Ohio, Idaho, Vermont, Virginia and Alaska), Rick Santorum won three (North Dakota, Oklahoma and Tennessee) and Gingrich won Georgia. While Romney came out ahead, the four combined wins between Santorum and Gingrich means Romney will have to keep fighting to defend his frontrunner status – and that could mean more TV debates. “If we see a split decision on Super Tuesday, Santorum and Romney still in this, I would expect to see other debates get put on the calendar,” ABC News political director Amy Walter told B&C last week.
POINT TO WATCH: Who Wins Ohio
OUTCOME: Romney, in a very close race
RESULT: Ohio remained too close to call through midnight on Tuesday, though Romney eventually squeaked ahead in the battleground state that always has big implications in the general election. The margin of victory – Romney’s 38% of the vote to Santorum’s 37% — was incredibly close, meaning Romney could face trouble as the primary moves to conservative southern states Kansas, Mississippi and Alabama in the next week.
In that case, the Romney camp, and those covering the race, will begin to focus on accumulating the 1,144 delegates needed to win the GOP nomination (Romney is estimated to have 404 delegates after Tuesday’s contests). “I think we’ll start shifting away from the state story to a delegate story starting next Tuesday, particularly if it’s close,” Chuck Todd, NBC News political director and chief White House correspondent said.