7 March 2012
With the results of the Republican Super Tuesday primary contests set to be announced in mere hours, it's worth keeping in perspective the importance of these results. There's much to be gleaned from some of the immediate details, such as whether Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney will win Ohio, how well Romney can do in Tennessee, or how the delegates will be apportioned in the smaller caucus states. At the same time, however, today is unlikely to radically alter the direction of the race. Mitt Romney remains the front runner; he has the most delegates, endorsements, and campaign funds on hand, and there's a good chance he has, for all intents and purposes, wrapped this race up, and the votes today and over the coming month are just about confirming that.
I'd recommend thinking back to the 2008 campaign, and observing two things. First: although Hillary Clinton looked to have a rather successful Super Tuesday, when observers had enough time to look at the big picture and away from the state-by-state hurly burly, they realised that Barack Obama had done well enough on the day to put himself in an almost unassailable position for the rest of the campaign. It's tempting to look at campaign events on a micro level and disregard larger macro trends, but chances are, day-to-day occurences won't be game changers — even ones on as significant a day as Super Tuesday.
The other lesson from 2008 to keep in mind is that for a long time, Obama had effectively won the contest, but still had to go through the motions of campaigning against Clinton until the last state had voted. Whether you place the point Obama effectively triumphed at Super Tuesday, or the March 4th ballots in Texas and Ohio, or the April 22nd battle in Pennsylvania, it became increasingly apparent that though the primaries were continuing, only Obama could end up the winner. The same thing is likely to happen this year: Romney will move into a position where his victory will be inevitable, even if the opposing campaigns don't yet accept that.